2021 BMW 330e Essentials: Get your groceries with a charge

The 2021 BMW 330e is tuned for 70 fewer peak hp (184) and a few more lb-ft of torque (300).

The 2021 BMW 330e is tuned for 70 fewer peak hp (184) and a few more lb-ft of torque (300).

The 2021 BMW 330e is tuned for 70 fewer peak hp (184) and a few more lb-ft of torque (300).

The 2021 BMW 330e is tuned for 70 fewer peak hp (184) and a few more lb-ft of torque (300).

The 2021 BMW 330e is tuned for 70 fewer peak hp (184) and a few more lb-ft of torque (300).

The 2021 BMW 330e is tuned for 70 fewer peak hp (184) and a few more lb-ft of torque (300).

The 2021 BMW 330e is tuned for 70 fewer peak hp (184) and a few more lb-ft of torque (300).

The 2021 BMW 330e is tuned for 70 fewer peak hp (184) and a few more lb-ft of torque (300).

The 2021 BMW 330e is tuned for 70 fewer peak hp (184) and a few more lb-ft of torque (300).

What is it: The 330e hybrid is the electrified variant of BMW’s new G20 3-Series, with a charge port and something like 28-30 miles of electric range. It’s due in North America next year and should at least double electric range available in the previous, short-lived 3 Series hybrid. Beyond that, you’re supposed to think the 330e is no different from the straight-gasoline 330i — whether or not the standard 330i remains the sport sedan by which others are judged.  

Key Competitors: Cadillac CT6 PHEV, Ford Fusion Energi, Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In, or maybe none

Base Price: $45,750 (est)

Highlights: The 2021 330e starts with a de-tuned variant of the 2-liter turbo-four in the standard 330i, generating 70 fewer peak horsepower (184) and a few more pound-feet of torque (300). Then it adds a synchronous electric motor, packaged in the transmission case in place of a conventional torque converter. The gearbox has eight stepped forward speeds (just like the 330i, which no longer offers a conventional manual). The motor has a running output of 83 hp, 195 lb-ft, and works as a generator under deceleration to dump juice back into the battery.

That high-voltage lithium battery stores 12 kilowatt-hours of electricity under the back seat and charges in two hours, 20 minutes on 220 volts. Throw in some elaborate control electronics, et voila! You have a 330e.

For a deeper dive into 330e technology, click here. It’s worth noting that BMW’s lux-brand competitors — most obviously Audi and Mercedes-Benz — don’t currently offer similar plug-in technology in this slot. BMW intends to roll out the same inline motor/battery tech across its line, including a full-size 745e sedan and the X3 and X5 SUVs built in South Carolina.








































Our Opinion: At speed, the 330e drives pretty much as you’d expect a standard 330i to drive — at least if the 330i is equipped with the standard suspension and the tamest all-season tires. The 330e’s steering is a bit busier, and its ride firmer, than a big 745e with the same hybrid tech test driven at the same time. And this hybrid makes real shifts up and down when you step on it — firmer or smoother, depending on the circumstances — without that dreadfully stretchy CVT drone.

It’s all part of BMW’s plan to basically reassure buyers that a 330e is just your familiar semi-sport sedan with better overall fuel economy and some useful electric range. To sweeten the deal, the 330e adds something BMW calls XtraBoost. Think of it like push-to-pass.

In sport mode, XtraBoost raises peak output from the motor 30 hp (to 113) for up to 10 seconds when you floor it. It works even if the battery is ostensibly depleted because there’s always a reserve of about 20 percent. This raises peak powertrain output to 292 hp and 310 lb-ft, or 38 hp and 16 lb-ft more than the conventional 330i. This car can be quick, and it might shave a hair from the 330i’s published 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds (the 330e is heavier). It also increases top speed from 130 mph to 143, if you care about that.

What about that electric-only range? The 330e has been rated in Europe for 60 kilometers of electric range, and you might think that translates to 37.2 miles of electric only-range in North America. It might not. Under the EPA’s system, the 330e will probably be certified somewhere below 37 miles of electric range, but it should at least double the previous 3 hybrid’s 14-mile electric range, and that should be legitimately useful.

With 28 miles of electric range, the 330e would easily surpass the average U.S. work commute of about 16 miles (but not the average round-trip commute, so daytime charging could be a necessity), with a top electric-only speed of 87 mph. Work-at-homes or house parents whose daily rounds consist of school and grocery runs or post office/coffee/bank jaunts might go days or weeks without burning gasoline.

BMW makes it fairly easy with electric mode, which basically runs the 330e straight electric until the battery is depleted or drained to some driver-set level. Only you’ll learn quickly that it’s not electric-only mode — like when you complete a right turn and are greeted with an empty stretch of road or when you try to beat a light. Give the 330e the full boot and it drops down a gear or two and fires the engine and hauls away with IC power, even though you swear you selected electric mode.

You’ll learn quickly, with the help of some useful dash graphics, how much throttle you can give the 330e without firing the engine, and you can motor as far as the battery allows without using gasoline. You’d think nonetheless that electric mode should be electric mode, without thinking about how hard you step on the accelerator. The 330e isn’t exactly quick when it running pure electric, but it’s not can’t-get-out-of-the-way slow, either. Must be a hedge against personal-injury lawyers.

Base Price: $45,750 (est)

As-Tested Price: NA

Drivetrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, inline synchronous electric motor, eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

Output: 292 hp, 310 lb-ft, max. combined from engine and motor

Curb Weight: 4,150 lb (est)

Fuel Economy (EPA Combined): 30 mpg, 73 MPGe (est)

Pros: Enough electric range to be useful. Nothing to worry about the rest of the time

Cons: There’s still that charge time thing, and don’t floor it if you want to stay on the battery

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