2021 BMW 330e: Plug-in Hybrid with AWD, How Nice!

Published on August 13, 2019 in First Drives by Gabriel Gélinas

Munich, Germany—Unlike the previous 330e, which was available with rear-wheel drive only, the plug-in hybrid variant of the seventh-generation BMW 3 Series will be sold in Canada in a single configuration equipped with the company’s xDrive all-wheel drive system when it arrives just in time for next spring.

The Car Guide went to Munich, Germany to get a first contact with this new 330e, which continues to rely on a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and an electric motor housed within the eight-speed automatic transmission. Battery capacity has increased from 9.2 kWh to 12 kWh, allowing the car to cover 50-percent longer distances in pure electric mode—approximately 51-59 kilometres based on the European testing protocol, which is typically more optimistic than the one used in North America.

The 2021 BMW 330e can also reach speeds of up to 140 km/h on battery power, provided it is sufficiently charged. The exact specifications and ratings for Canada have yet to be announced. We will get them closer to the car’s on-sale date.

New XtraBoost Feature
The combined output of both power sources is 248 horsepower, while max torque amounts to 310 pound-feet. However, there’s a new feature called XtraBoost that gives you 40 extra ponies for up to 10 seconds, allowing the 330e to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 5.9 seconds.

On the roads surrounding Munich, we fully took advantage of this system to pass slower traffic even more convincingly. We also appreciated the sound of the turbo engine, even though it is artificially amplified in the cabin with Sport mode activated.

“Intelligent” Hybrid System
The 2021 BMW 330e benefits from a so-called “intelligent” hybrid system. After setting up a route with the help of the GPS, the car will automatically prioritize EV propulsion around town, switch to hybrid driving on highways and go back to using the electric motor only when negotiating traffic jams.

Navigation takes into account the designated EV-only areas in several European cities and adapts to these restrictions. According to BMW, the new 330e's carbon footprint is 20-percent smaller on the old continent, where renewable energy sources are rarer, and 60-percent smaller in places where electricity is produced from renewable sources, like certain parts of Canada.

Same On-road Dynamics
Due to the 12-kWh battery, the 2021 BMW 330e is 250 kilograms heavier than the regular 3 Series sedan, yet it boasts a near-perfect weight distribution of 48/52. The battery is mounted under the rear seats, which means the fuel tank sits above the rear axle, taking away 110 litres of trunk space.

As far as driving dynamics are concerned, the plug-in hybrid variant is not too affected by the extra mass. The new 17-inch wheels are connected to an exceptionally sharp steering system that provides tremendous feedback. The experience behind the wheel is on par with other BMW cars, especially on winding roads where you can tap into the performance potential of the 330e. At highway speeds, the stability displayed by the car is incredible.

Similar Looks
The only distinguishable feature on the 2021 BMW 330e is the small door for charging on the front left fender. That and the “330e” badge on the trunk lid, of course. Everything else is identical to the conventionally powered 3 Series.

Inside, a display tells you about the status of the powertrain and the EV range in real time.

As mentioned earlier, the new BMW 330e xDrive will go on sale in Canada toward the end of next winter as a 2021 model. Pricing remains unspecified. The previous model started at $51,200, so expect to pay a little more than that.

In terms of performance and dynamics, the 330e is a true BMW in spite of the added weight. Sweetening the deal is the reduced fuel consumption that comes with regular charging, not to mention the ability to use carpooling lanes even when you’re alone in the car.

Test drive report
Test model BMW 3 Series
Trim level 330e Sedan
Price range N/A
Price as tested N/A
Warranty (basic) 4 years/80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 4 years/80,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) N/A
Options N/A
Competitive models N/A
Strong points
  • Convincing performance
  • Increased EV range
  • Excellent driving dynamics
  • Ability to use carpooling lanes
Weak points
  • High price
  • Expensive options
  • Heavier than a regular 3 Series
  • Trunk space is reduced by 110 litres
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 4.5/5 Fuel economy depends a lot on how frequently you charge the car.
Comfort 4.0/5 The 330e offers a remarkable level of comfort thanks to its adjustable suspension.
Performance 4.5/5 There is plenty of torque to exploit and the XtraBoost feature gives you 40 extra horsepower for up to 10 seconds.
Infotainment 4.5/5 The iDrive system is user-friendly and the dual displays make for an attractive layout.
Driving 4.5/5 While the plug-in hybrid variant of the 3 Series is a bit heavier and weight distribution is not perfect, driving dynamics are still superb.
Overall 4.0/5 The new 330e delivers convincing performance and increased EV range, though pricing will certainly be higher than that of the outgoing model.
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