This is BMW’s plug-in hybrid 3 Series saloon – hence the little “e” in the BMW 330e name. BMW has been in the electric game for a few years now, with the i3 EV and i8 PHEV models, but 2020 marks serious electrification across the ranges of most manufacturers: the only question is which cars are full electric and which are plug-in hybrids.
BMW’s electrification programme is advanced and capable, offering serious electric-only range no matter which option you take. While the BMW 3 Series has been with us since 1975, the hybrid version is naturally a little shy of that milestone – it arrived in showrooms om 2019.
Our test car was the 330e M Sport saloon plug-in hybrid, with M Sport styling inside and out. The exterior gets M aerodynamic body styling with a deep front grille and lip, sculpted side sills and muscular haunches.
Inside, there are sports seats, aluminium mesh-effect trim, an M steering wheel (heated) and a BMW drive recorder.
We had a number of options, including the Visibility Package (£1,500) featuring high-beam automatic headlights and BMW laser lights; the Technology Package (£1,900) offering a head-up display, a Harman-Kardon surround sound audio system; enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging; BMW gesture control and wifi hotspot preparation. While wireless smartphone charging is rapidly part of our must-have list these days, we’ll give gesture control a miss until the tech progresses a bit – it’s not as accurate as simply turning a dial, and you look a little strange… We also had the Premium Package (£1,700), with an electric sun roof, electric front seats and lumbar support.
BMW’s pure electric range in its plug-in hybrids is impressive. You can travel up to 50 miles without the engine kicking in, and at motorway speeds – we tested it at 70mph and it stayed on the 12kW battery’s power only.
If you press and hold Sport mode, you get another 45 horsepower and a more sporty sound is piped into the cabin. The anticipatory hybrid system switches between power sources according to the topography and traffic conditions
The batteries are mounted behind the rear seats so there’s little impact on boot space, and it takes 2.5 hours to charge the battery via a 7kW wall box.
Electrification increasingly feels right for premium, dynamic models. In electric mode the silence gives the car a luxury vibe, and the combination of battery plus engine under a pressured throttle pedal gives you nippy acceleration off the line that suits a car bearing a 330 badge. As the average UK commute is 26 miles, however, you could happily exist in silent mode for most of your week.
This feels like the right application of technology, at the right time. Suddenly hybrids are starting to make genuine sense, instead of being an eco-push no one really wants to spend a lot of money on. Take a test drive.