BMW 330e

The new 330e reveals that BMW will continually increase the all-electric range of its capable plug-in hybrids until they reach close to 50 miles. “We are massively behind electrification,” said Wieland Bruch, BMW’s communications manager for electromobility. “But it’s not going to be all of a sudden that the switch gets turned and we all drive electrically. It’s a longer way.” The pure electric BMW i4 is expected in 2022.

Style

The 330e plug-in hybrid features the same contoured lines and lean stance as found throughout the BMW 3-Series. The only noticeable difference is the charging port between the driver-side front wheel and the driver’s door on the outside. Otherwise, expect BMW’s signature twin-kidney grille, wraparound headlights, and the other familiar elements of its enduring popular design.

With the 2020 330e, BMW removed the few visual clues that previously distinguished the plug-in hybrid 3-Series from combustion variants. The special badges and blue accents used in past model-years are gone. Fellow road denizens will have no clue that your Bimmer plugs in to provide about 30 miles’ worth of energy storage—courtesy of the battery pack hidden under the rear seat.

Performance

By the numbers, the 330e produces a total of 292 horsepower, from the combination of its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine and a 113-hp electric motor. (The outgoing 2019 model used a meeker 87-hp motor.) With more available electric power, drivers can put the 330e into Electric mode and remain emissions-free up to 87 miles per hour. If you’re in Hybrid mode, expect the gas engine can kick in at around 68 miles per hour.

The fun of an EV is readily accessible via quick launches from a standstill. The 330e, with a total torque output of 310 pound-feet, will not disappoint. Reaching 60 miles per hour takes less than six seconds. Most reviewers say that BMW’s telltale driving dynamics are not penalized by the extra 440 pounds of extra weight from the 12 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

BMW 330e

Power is delivered to the rear wheels via BMW’s smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission—allowing for the excellent handling and near-perfect front-back weight distribution that you’d expect from a Bimmer. The electric motor is integrated into the Steptronic transmission. All-wheel drive is not available in the 330e.

The 2020 330e features a clever XtraBoost function that adds 40 horsepower when you mash down the accelerator. That unleashes the full 292 horsepower for a period of up to 10 seconds, more than enough time for a burst of fun. Otherwise, the engine and motor dole out 252 ponies. Top speed is 143 miles per hour.

Most trips will start in Hybrid mode, allowing the car’s system to choose gas, electric, or a combination. Electric mode locks the 330e into all-electric driving for up to 87 miles per hour. A Sport mode enables the full 292-horsepower performance in an ongoing manner. And new to the 2020 model, BMW employs geofence technology to recognize urban low-emission zones and then automatically engage all-electric driving.

Efficiency/Range

The best measure of a plug-in hybrid’s merits is how far it can go strictly on electricity. Since its introduction in 2016, the BMW 330e has been behind the curve with only 14 miles of EV range. But the 2020 model is expected to double that distance to around 25 to 30 miles.

The official EPA numbers are not yet available. So we’re making a logical guess based on the jump to a 12 kilowatt-hour pack from the previous 7.2-kWh battery (that had a usable capacity of about 6 kilowatt-hours). BMW estimates that the 2020 330e’s efficiency will be similar to outgoing version’s 71 MPGe while juice remains in the battery pack. When the battery is depleted, the plug-in 3-Series should deliver around 30 miles per gallon.

Even with the bump up in all-electric range, the 330e is less about trying to be an all-electric car. Instead, the idea is to boost overall efficiency, as you would with a traditional hybrid. But the plug-in 3-Series provides a bonus of a couple of dozen miles of grid-supplied electricity.

Charging

BMW 330e

Smaller batteries, like the relatively modest 12-kWh pack in the 330e, provides less EV driving range—but on the flip side, it fully charges in less time. That’s a meaningful consolation considering that you might forgo a 240-volt home charging station, which can replenish the battery in about 2.5 hours. Instead, most drivers could live with a standard 120-volt source that can get the job done in about eight hours.

Passenger/Cargo Room

BMW 330e

The placement of the 330e’s battery pack under the rear seat reduces some cargo capacity. The plug-in 3-Series provides 13.2 cubic feet cargo room, compared to the gas-powered 330i’s 17 cubes.

The only plug-in hybrid luxury compact to compare with the 330e is the Mercedes C-350 Plug-in Hybrid. That model also has diminished cargo space—down to only 11.8 cubic feet. Of course, cargo capacity is not the main selling point for compact, luxury sports models. However, as automakers evolve vehicle platforms for better packaging of EV batteries, these compromises will be eliminated.

Meanwhile, all 3-Series models, including the 330e, have a well-designed and upscale interior with very comfortable seating. Some reviewers complain that BMW has slipped behind Audi and Mercedes in the luxury race, but that’s a matter of taste. Nonetheless, BMW provides many creature comforts and high-tech features, from dual-zone automatic climate control to Bluetooth/ USB support.

Optional features include adaptive cruise control, navigation, satellite radio, moonroof, a rearview camera, side- and top-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, blind-spot monitoring, a head-up display, and lane departure warning.

BMW 330e

Safety

Previous versions of the 330e earned the top safety rating of five stars for nearly every test conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. It got the next highest ranking of four stars on two of those 12 tests—for driver’s front and overall front. The overall score for 330e testing was five stars.

The 330e scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety were similarly excellent with top ratings (“Good”) for almost every test. There were two “Marginal” ratings—one for lower leg and one for overall front, as well as Poor ratings for “structure and safety cage” and “ease of use for child seat anchors.” Still, the predominant rating from the IIHS was “Good.”

Price

BMW 330e

Pricing is not yet available for the 2020 BMW 330e. The outgoing model, which is being phased out, sold for $45,595 includes the $995 destination and handling fee. With the federal tax credit of $4,001, the effective price is reduced to about $42,000 (not including local or state incentives). Compared with its siblings—and including the tax credit in our calculations—the 330e starts at nearly the same price as the base 320i, which is not comparable in terms of performance. The better gas-to-plug-in comparison is with more expensive upper trims and performance packages.

The 330e will be available in Sport Line, Luxury Line or M Sport forms. These packages create steps up in styling. The M Sport trim adds sportier suspension and steering, LED fog lights, and sportier body features.

A Convenience pack brings lane-departure warning and auto braking. The Premium pack adds a head-up display (HUD), LED headlights, keyless entry and a heated steering wheel. The Executive package introduces front and rear heated seats, gesture controls, and automatic high beams.

By adding these expensive packages, you could easily also find yourself close to or above the $50,000 mark with the 330e. If that doesn’t make you hesitate, then perhaps you should consider if it’s time to go all-electric with a Tesla Model 3. The build quality might not be fully up to Bimmer standards—and you’ll become more reliant on charging for longer trips. But nearly every reviewer (and driver) gives a big advantage to the Tesla compact for zippy electric performance, innovative style, cutting-edge technology, and (obviously) zero emissions.

Purchase Process

The 2020 BMW 330e will roll out to dealerships in early 2020. A few remaining 2019 models are likely to be available throughout the country. Historically, the model has sold in low volumes, suggesting that the car will continue to have limited availability. Start the shopping process by visiting a local BMW dealership or submitting your interest via with the official BMW website. Plan weeks or months ahead if you’re looking for a specific package, price, or color.

BMW 330e specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $46000
Est. tax credit: $4000
Technology: Plug-in Hybrid
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 28 miles electric + gasoline
Battery size: 12 kWh
Charging rate: 3.7 kW

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