Now in its second generation, BMW’s 330e plug-in hybrid sport sedan comes to market with measurable improvements in electric-only driving range, fuel efficiency, and a neat trick or two. Long the benchmark of premium compact sport sedans, BMW’s 3 series first presented an ‘e’ variant in 2016, a bit early to capture the growing electrification movement in North America. Fast forward to today, and you’ll note every major and minor car and light truck manufacturer is turning to electrification. And this brings us to a more powerful and fuel efficient 2021 BMW 330e PHEV, a logical step toward total BMW fleet electrification.
Looking to the exterior of BMW’s latest and greatest 3 series variant, one is hard pressed to discern it from its 330i I.C. stable mate. Case in point: A modern plug-in needn’t look Bladerunner-esque to be ‘green,’ nor lack sport performance characteristics and panache. The beauty and marketing genius of the 2021 BMW 330e is the car’s appeal to the sport driver in all of us, without jeopardizing our collective environmental inclinations. Simply, it looks like a BMW.
Torque 4-cylinder goes electric
Seamless electric motor integration juices up an already torque-rich twin-scroll turbocharged, direct injected, variable-timed 2.0-liter DOHC gasoline engine. This results in a combined 288 horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque, an increase of 24 horsepower and 12 lb-ft torque over the first generation offering. New for 2021 is BMW’s Xtra boost function that delivers an additional 40 horsepower for up to 10 seconds, with or without remaining battery reserve.
Torque transfer is delegated to the time-tested ZF 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission, featuring integrated steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, sport and manual shift modes, and ‘launch control.’ BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive is an available option for greater traction and all-weather driving. Performance tuned suspension, selectable variable dynamic drive modes, auto start-stop, regenerative braking, and personalized electric assist steering rounds out the performance package for an exceptional driver-centric commute. There are real performance benefits that come with electrification A non-hybrid base model 330i claims a lesser 255 horsepower and 294 lb-ft torque in the low- to mid rpm range, with no benefits of electrification, fuel efficiency, or electric-only drive capabilities.
The base 2021 330e PHEV retains its rear axle drive, sports performance heritage. Sport drivers will appreciate this compact BMW’s power-to-weight ratio and new-found lower center of gravity, thanks to the under-passenger seat positioning of the 330e’s increased charge capacity, air cooled 12 KWh lithium-ion battery pack. Drivers will enjoy an estimated 20 mile electric-only driving range, combined with an estimated combined fuel efficiency of 71 MPGe that represents a range increase of 8 miles over the earlier 330e. Combined driving range is estimated at 290 to 320 miles on a full charge and 10.6 gallons of premium gasoline.
The 330e cabin environment is pure BMW and shared with the conventional 330i, conservative yet elegant in detail. Appointments include Sensi-Tech fabrics, burnished wood details, and an anthracite grey contrasting headliner. Standard equipment includes the latest in driver assist and active safety technology, a rather intuitive electric drive monitor, range minder, and navigation-controlled chassis efficiency monitoring. Also standard is premium audio, 14-way power adjusted front seats, automatic three-zone climate control, a two-way power glass moonroof, rain sensing windshield wipers, and more.
The BMW 330e is available at an MSRP of $44,550 with the all-wheel drive xDrive version coming in at $46,550. An interesting side note is that when factoring in anticipated Federal and State tax rebate incentives, the 2021 BMW 330e comes to market at less cost than the conventionally-powered 330i, while affording single drivers to HOV lane access and greater fuel efficiency.