What is it?
The latest 3 Series Hybrid, basically adding an 83 kW electric motor and a battery to the 135 kW 320i. It can be driven in pure electric mode, pure (?) petrol mode, or both together for 215 kW which exceeds the power of a 330i – hence the 330e rather than 320e model name (there is a 320e in some markets).
What is it for?
The claimed pure electric range of 57 kms would allow most people to complete their journeys on most days without using petrol. Electric cars’ range is usually better around town than on the highway but I achieved 56 kms on a charge on each of 3 predominantly highway trips. Electric running costs about half that of petrol power and, even with 100% brown coal electricity, less pollution. Yet the performance at the top end is that of the thirstier 330i with the “wall of torque” character at the lower, lazier end, of a 320d. Always impressively quiet. What’s not to like?
OK, what is not to like?
It’s 115 kg heavier, but as that is all low down (mostly under the rear seats and the bottom of the boot) I could not tell on the road. The boot is a mere 5 litres smaller. And the petrol tank is 40 litres not 59 litres, but still good for over 600 km, probably nearer 700 kms on the open road, both of which comfortably beat my 1981 E21 323i. It does cost about $15,000 more than a 320i (but has more equipment as standard) and about $7,000 more than a 330i (before taxes and on roads).
Does it work?
Yes, very well indeed. Unlike many electric cars it does not take off like a scalded cat when you as much as look at the accelerator. The drive away (or “tip in from stationary”) is smooth and torque-convertor-auto like. It will even creep like an auto. Except silent, which is always a bit odd the first time. Stop-Start is not a thing here. In electric mode it just stops moving and starts moving, silently and without delay. If the battery is “flat” there is enough kept in reserve to move off under electric power whilst the petrol engine gets going. It will recharge the battery when slowing down or going down hill so magically there always seems to be some battery on hand. The transition from electric to petrol is indiscernible unless one is watching the petrol consumption meter which suddenly springs to life. Give it the beans and the electric motor fills in the torque curve and pushes you down the road and keeps assisting the petrol engine until your licence is melting before your eyes. Turbo lag is not a thing here either. Paddle shift gear changes are instant and the response is, well, electric!
What about all the tech?
It’s got loads of tech toys and they all work faultlessly. The laserlights are phenomenal, active cruise control (an acquired art) is brilliant, lane keep assist (keeps you in the centre of the lane which can give an annoying wriggle like action) can be turned off and stays off, lane departure control (which helps steer you back into a lane if you drift out) works brilliantly but can be turned off, and will auto turn off if you start driving spiritedly on twisty roads, but comes on each start. It defaults to Hybrid mode on start up (I think that’s good) but the selection buttons (for Xtraboost for example) are right by the stop/start button. “Hey BMW” commands worked for me but I did not try gesture control. I did not try adjusting the various camera views to get rid of the, to me, annoying warning marks which I felt only obscured my view of they very thing they were trying to stop me from hitting. But the cameras can be used as a 360 degree dash cam, which is clever. I did not try the “post crash iBrake” or the many crash avoidance features for obvious reasons.
Did you like it?
Very much. So much so, I bought one. Well, ordered it, at least. Could be here in July, computer chip shortages and other possible hold ups permitting.
So, whose car did you drive then?
Matthew Hede from Waverley BMW was kind, and trusting, enough to let me have their demo 330e M Sport model for the weekend. Waverley BMW are club sponsors and offer a 3 years new car service package at no cost to BMWDCM members. As well as lending me the car, Matthew carefully went through the options I had selected to make sure I was getting the best car and the best deal for my needs.
Lawrence Glynn | Member #3
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne