2017 BMW 3 Series
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Review of: 2017 BMW 3 Series 4dr Sdn 330e Plug-In Hybrid RWD
2017 BMW 330e: A rear-drive plug-in sedan under $100,000
By G. R. Whale
Nov. 8, 2016
There are hybrids, plug-in hybrids and plug-in hybrids that are fun to drive, this 330e a fine example of the last. It pairs 3 Series lux and dynamics with enough green credibility for 20-km rides to any government office. Finding a charger there and paying for the 330e mightn’t be as easy.
Pros & Cons
- + Efficient performance
- + Practicality
- + Usable technology
- - Trunk space
- - Heavy
- - No climate sync button
Dressed in M sport trim, the e version is standard 3 Series fare—proper stance, good proportions, uncompromised roofline and a look not confused with any other brand or most other BMWs. Only some badges and the “fuel door” adjacent the driver’s reveal its plug-in status…dark colors help hide it.
While the plug’s up front, the battery is beneath the trunk floor—at 370 litres, it’s smaller by 110 but with the same access, 40/20/40 folding rear seats and quite usable.
Critics call the cabin austere, proponents prefer the no-nonsense function; the former can be fixed with multiple colors of leather, trim highlights and materials. Although clearly arranged for the driver, passengers aren’t left out as in some virtual cockpit cars.
Football colored sport seats are widely adjustable and provide excellent support, rear seat comfort and volume perhaps slightly inferior to an A4. Wheel, shifter and proper handbrake are well-placed, controls superbly grouped and the crisp-graphics screen and head-up display look far less tacked on than some.
Now offering Apple CarPlay, the touchpad/controller infotainment system is very good, rarely more than three motions to the deepest menu I wanted. Scroll out the map and there’s so much traffic data roads are barely discernable.
With plug-in power comes climate control by app or program: Done right, a cozy cabin when you leave the garage, done evil, full-tilt AC when it’s freezing outside. If your power’s like Ottawa’s, charging at night minimizes your electricity cost-per-km, too.
Enter a destination and the car uses internal data, traffic, speed limits and terrain to determine the best use of electricity and gasoline to arrive battery-pack depleted. Or use “save” mode to keep the battery at 50 per cent for later use when you know more than the nav system.
No false alarms from blind spot, lane departure, forward collision or any other warnings, though they’re easy to disable.
While a 330e is the heaviest 3 by 150-250 kg, it still drives like a 3 Series: Quiet, solid, superb body control and adept on any road. Steering builds some heft with cornering effort and is smoothly precise if not full of feedback, merely lifting off the gas pedal induces mild regeneration retarding and lightly loading the front tires for turn-in, and brake feel and transitions from regeneration to full-effort stop are excellent. Lusty torque, regardless of origin, propels you out of a bend effortlessly.
Replacing the torque converter with an electric motor lets it shift even running on battery, not otherworldly yet the feel of strong acceleration through the gears with no noise. With three electric and four engine modes there’s an option for almost everything, and letting the car sort it out is usually most efficient. All the system interplay is very polished, though gas engine startup at very low speeds, as with a depleted battery pack, brings the occasional shudder.
Mat the pedal and 330e will reach 100 km/h in the low 6s and top 225km, the joyous sound approaching 7,000 rpm unavailable in most cars, let alone hybrids. It cruises in silence and feels almost diesel like scurrying about town at low revs.
In eight- to 30-degree C temps cruising around town (avg speed low 30s) strictly battery I averaged 5 km/kWh, better than rated. Worst-case scenario running gasoline carting around a depleted battery was 8.1 l/100 km, my driving mix yielding 6.0 l/100 km over 600 km. Been a while since I had that much fun and speed on hand at 6 litres. On my grid it’s cheaper to go electric in town, gas/hybrid on the road.
330e at $51,900 to start parallels the 340i (9.9 litres) and rings $63,850 as is. A like optioned C 300 4MATIC or slower diesel AWD 328d is $60,000. Only computations of km driven, fuel/electricity costs and any incentives will pick your best powertrain. If you need only 130km range add i3 ($52,500) to the spreadsheet. The only other rear-drive plug-ins are the Panamera 4-E (from $114K) and Tesla S75D (from $112k).
The 330e is good fun to drive, fun to hypermile, quiet, comfortable, ready for congestion taxes and looks like a regular car. It’s like buying a $60,000 sporty sedan and getting good consumption for free.