- What’s Best: The 330e gives all the benefits of a PHEV, but doesn’t sacrifice any of the ride and handling qualities of a BMW.
- What’s Worst: Because the battery pack is stored under the cargo floor, luggage space is limited to 370 litres as opposed to 100 litres more in the standard 3 Series sedan.
- What’s Interesting: The 330e can cruise along at up to 120 km/h (75 mph) on electricity alone.
PALM SPRINGS, CA: The 3 Series is arguably the car which brought BMW the success it enjoys today.
Debuting in 1975, the 3 Series replaced the 02 series, which was okay for the time — with 2002 Tii being, in my opinion, the first true European sports sedan.
What the 3 Series did was distill BMW DNA into a nifty-looking little two-door sedan that was a blast to drive, as long as the lightly loaded rear axle didn’t start to swing out on you.
I owned two of the first generation 3 series, including a “S” with 14-speaker custom installed Blaupunkt stereo system that sounded great and it always stood out in any parking lot.
Now some six generations later, the 3 Series is part of the BMW Group that offers dozens of cars, including eight 3 Series models.
But BMW is also a leader in the movement towards electrification, including the 330e, a plug-in hybrid version of the 3 Series.
The 330e is one of BMW’s first vehicles to adopt the eDrive technology used in the i3 and i8 all-electric cars.
It combines with BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology for internal combustion engines to create the brand’s EfficientDynamics strategy for the reduction of CO2 and fuel consumption levels.
The 330e is a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) with the engine and motor/battery working to provide the most efficient propulsion, depending on road conditions and driver input.
BMW says it places the electric motor “upstream” from the eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. Therefore its ratios can also be used in the all-electric mode with the benefit of doing away with the weight and need for a torque converter.
Pressing the eDrive button on the shifter bezel makes EV (electric vehicle) functions available, such as MAX eDrive where the 330e can travel at up to 120 km/h (75 mph) on electricity alone. In Save Battery mode the electric power is held in reserve until it is needed later in the journey.
In addition, BMW’s drive modes (Eco, Pro, Comfort and Sport) are always available to increase the level of driver satisfaction.
The 7.6 kW lithium-ion battery is fed by a 2.0-litre direct injection single turbo engine producing 180 hp and 215 lb/ft of torque with the electric motor adding another 87 hp and 174 lb/ft for a combined 248 hp and 310 lb/ft, which is enough to give it a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 210 km/h.
In the trunk there is a dedicated charge cord that fits into a 110-volt grounded outlet. It’s bulky, but the chord is about 25 ft long, so it reaches from most wall sockets.
If you run the battery flat, expect it to take overnight to charge on 110-volts.
So the 330e is swift enough, which one expects in a BMW, along with the legendary ride and handling which is not lacking.
All-wheel-drive is not available on the 330e, which is a rear-driver.
In the inside, it is pure BMW with two large dials in the centre of the main instrument cluster for tach and speedo and two smaller ones for fuel and temperature levels.
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Anyone who ever owned a BMW will find the location of the stalks and controls familiar and within a hand’s reach —which is a BMW strength.
The iDrive interface knob is on the centre console, and, once you get the hang of it, makes accessing the infotainment system second nature.
My co-driver and I used the 330e to get to and from BMW’s “Test Fest” held earlier this year outside of Palm Springs where BMW Group made all its latest models available, including MINIs and even a Rolls-Royce Phantom.
The route was city streets and freeways where we drove normally, using eDrive and regenerative braking, as most people probably will do.
When it came to joining the freeway, the combined torque of the engine and motor made merging swift despite the added weight of the battery pack.
The electric-only range is about 20-22 km (BMW says 40 km is possible) is meager, but it’s enough to get you around town for errands.
But tooling around town is not what a BMW is all about.
It’s about the joy of driving.
We all know electrification is coming, but it doesn’t have to be boring and that certainly sums up the 2018 BMW 330e.
2018 BMW 330e
BODY STYLE: Compact plug-in hybrid sedan
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, rear-drive, eight-speed manual transmission with paddle shifters
ENGINE: 2.0-litre single turbo direct injection inline four-cylinder (180 hp, 215 lb/ft); synchronous electric motor (87 hp, 174 lb/ft); combined (248 hp, 310 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium) 8.5/6.9/7.8L/100 km city/highway/combined
CARGO VOLUME: 370 litres
TOW RATING: Not recommended
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