Officially known as the 330e iPerformance, this variant of BMW’s 3 Series sedan is a plug-in hybrid model. Introduced for 2016, it’s a successor to the ActiveHybrid3, which had emerged three years earlier.
Along with models like the full-size 740e, the 330e amounts to a significant step toward offering a plug-in hybrid version of almost every BMW model. Anyone seeking a hybrid or plug-in model has plenty to choose from nowadays, but few deliver anything like the BMW 3 Series brand of handling excellence, along with appealing fuel-efficiency figures.
The rear-wheel drive 330e can be driven like a conventional hybrid automobile, or plugged into an electric outlet periodically to bring the battery up to full charge.
What's New for 2017
A brand-new model for 2016, the 330e iPerformance changes little for 2017. Standard equipment now includes blue “kidney” grilles, with white, black, gray or silver body colors. Matte chrome exterior trim is now standard. New “i” and “eDrive” badging has been added. Optional navigation has been updated to BMW’s iDrive 5.0 system. A new wheel option is exclusive to the 330e.
Choosing Your BMW 330e
Under the hood, a 2-liter, direct-injected TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder gasoline engine makes 180 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque. The gas engine works in tandem with an 87-horsepower electric motor and a 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery. Combined system output totals 248 horsepower, along with 310 pound-feet of torque. The lithium-ion battery pack produces 293 volts and is mounted flat, in an especially crash-safe position under the load floor.
Electronic elements stem from BMW eDrive technology, as used in the i3 and i8 models. An electronic boost function is permanently enabled. The electric motor supplements the gas engine with 74 pound-feet of torque; but it can deliver a brief additional boost of up to 184 pound-feet, depending on the position of the accelerator pedal.
BMW claims the 330e iPerformance sedan can accelerate from a standstill to 60 mph in as little as 5.9 seconds. The 330e can operate for about 14 miles in all-electric mode, at speeds up to 75 mph.
BMW’s eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission offers sport and manual gear selection. Driving Dynamics Control uses a console switch to select Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, or Sport+ mode. Drivers may choose from three eDrive-specific programs: Auto eDrive (the default), Max eDrive (electric-only), and Save Battery.
Fuel economy is estimated by the EPA at 31 mpg overall (city/highway) when using the gas engine alone, and 72 MPGe (equivalent) when both elements of the plug-in hybrid system are operating. When plugged into a Level II 240-volt charger, full recharging of a depleted battery takes as little as 2.2 hours. At 120 volts, charging requires 6 to 7 hours.
A Proactive Driving Assistant uses the navigation system to access real-time data, so the system can identify specific segments of the intended route where electric drive would be preferable to use of the gasoline engine. When an uphill stretch lies ahead, the Assistant may prepare to use electric energy, so recuperative braking can be employed on the subsequent downhill section.
Standard equipment is similar to other 3 Series models, including automatic climate control, start/stop function, paddle shifters, auto-dimming interior and driver’s exterior mirrors, power front seats, wood interior trim, nine-speaker audio, LED foglamps, and run-flat tires on 17-inch alloy wheels. Luxury, Premium, and Technology packages are optional.
A rearview camera and front/rear parking sensors make up the optional Driver Assistance package. Active-safety features come in a Driver Assistance Plus package. They include lane-departure and forward collision warnings, city collision mitigation, pedestrian protection, blind-spot detection, side- and top-view cameras, and speed limit information. Options even include an adaptive M suspension and aero body kit, in an M Sport package.
Priced at $44,795 (including destination charge), the 330e falls into a position just above the full-electric BMW i3. Like other plug-in hybrid models, the 330e iPerformance qualifies for incentives from the federal government, as well as from certain state or local agencies. We strongly recommend the active-safety features in the Driver Assistance Plus package.