BMW has updated its 3 Series rechargeable hybrid, now more powerful and economical and with lots more staying power. The petrol engine delivers 184 hp (135 kW), and the electric engine 113 hp (83 kW). This pairing delivers maximum torque of 420 Nm, sent to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission.
To give the most eco-friendly model in the 3 Series stable the signature BMW sporty feel, the 330e is now able to flex its muscles for a short interval. The “Xtraboost” function is seen here for the first time in a BMW production vehicle, increasing power by 40 hp (30 kW). Although limited to 10 seconds, this is plenty to make quick work of overtaking or merging through traffic onto a motorway. The steady delivery of 252 hp (185 kW) by the turbo petrol engine paired with the electric engine is impressive enough on its own, doing the business in most everyday situations. And the temporary boost makes the 330e a proper athlete, taking just 5.3 seconds for the standard sprint and hitting a top speed of 230 km/h.
As with all rechargeable hybrids, the 330e will be particularly popular with commuters. Compared to its predecessor, range is around 50% further, taking it up to 66 km. Fuel consumption for the first 100 kilometres is 1.9 litres, with combined electric consumption between 15.4 and 14.8 kWh. This leaves the high-voltage battery empty and, like its stable mates, the 330e is powered by a two-litre, 4-cyclinder combustion engine. This guzzles around 7 litres over the standard distance, so no fuel economy there.
Trunk space is limited by the 354 volt battery though the 3 Series hybrid, which weighs 1,740 kg unladen, holds up to 375 litres of luggage and has a payload of 525 kg. Battery capacity is 12 kWh. On the road, it’s charged by the petrol engine or deceleration energy recovery. To make this happen, the electric motor (located in the automatic gear box to save space) reverses polarity, sending up to 20 kW to the battery. When stationary, the battery can be charged via 230 V and 16 A domestic power only, taking 2.4 hours for an 80% charge.
Vehicle response changes with different driving modes. It’s possible to hit 110 km/h under electric power in hybrid mode, rising to 140 km/h in electric mode only. But the thrill is brief, as the 66 km range goes out the window. The electric 3 Series will only deliver this if you drive slowly with a close eye on economy.
The two drive types work together in prefect harmony. Regardless of which one takes over when you need a bit of extra zip – the transition is always smooth and fluid. That’s what the 330e likes best: being taken out on a nice relaxed spin