BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid – First Drive
BMW Group Malaysia opened its iPerformance plug-in hybrid chapter in the country with the launch of the X5 xDrive40e in June this year. Offered at a ridiculously affordable price of RM388,800 (thanks to the government’s hybrid incentives), response for the SUV has been positive to say the least. To keep the momentum going, the company is ready to welcome its second iPerformance model – the new 330e plug-in hybrid – later this month.
Estimated to be priced around the RM250,000-mark, the 330e is set to ruffle some feathers in the Malaysian market with what it has to offer, which is the highly acclaimed BMW eDrive technology adopted from the BMW i range. You can think of it as a 3 Series with the same essence as that of the i3 and i8 that can be yours at a fraction of the cost.
As far as the appearance is concerned, there is little difference between the 330e and other 3 Series models, except for the ‘330e’ badge on the bootlid, the ‘eDrive’ badge on the C-pillar and the charging flap on the front left fender. Inside, an eDrive button near the gear lever, a drive mode display below the RPM meter and ‘eDrive’ scuff plates draw the line between the 330e and its non-hybrid siblings.
Our test unit that we sampled in Munich kept true to its sporty nature with a myriad of M Sport goodies including steering wheel, bodykit and blue brake calipers. The latter complement the 18-inch wheels well.
No, you don’t get the Carbon Core lightweight construction as the i8 or the 7 Series but the 330e is already based on a very capable sports sedan with some spring in its step. Under the hood, the 330e features the same turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine found in the 320i that churns out 184 hp at 5,000 rpm and 290 Nm from 1,350 rpm.
With the additional 88 hp and 250 Nm of torque from the electric motor, which replaces the conventional torque converter in the eight-speed ZF gearbox, the 330e enjoys a total system output of 248 hp and 420 Nm of torque, putting it in the same ballpark as the 330i. That said, the 330e is a tad slower than its non-hybrid sibling with a zero-to-hundred time of 6.1 seconds and 225km/h top speed.
The electric motor obtains its charge from a refrigerant-cooled, 5.7-kWh lithium-ion battery placed right under the boot, reducing the luggage space from 480 litres to 370 litres in the process. Full charging through a normal power socket using the standard charging cable can be achieved in two to four hours, while the optional BMW iWallbox shortens the charging time to about two hours and 12 minutes.
Much like in the X5 xDrive40e, the 330e’s eDrive comes with three separate modes tailored to put its power to good use. The AUTO eDrive is the default mode where the most efficient combination of combustion and electric power is determined based on the driving speed and charging status. Pure electric driving at up to 80km/h is possible if the battery charge level is anywhere between 12% and 100%.
The MAX eDrive mode allows you to indulge in purely electric driving of up to 120 km/h. Of course, you risk exhausting the battery charge level in a matter of minutes but silently cruising along at 100km/h is truly one-of-a-kind experience. Now that the battery is depleted, the SAVE BATTERY mode will put the combustion engine in charge in order to charge the battery or reserve its energy level for later use.
For an even more efficient driving, you can use the car’s predictive selection by entering your destination into the navigation system. The system will then analyze the route using real-time traffic for the most efficient use of the 330e’s electric energy.
In terms of real world application, the 330e is far from boring despite being a plug-in hybrid. The quietness of the hybrid system and lack of engine grunt is neutralized by the brisk acceleration, which will come handy in Klang Valley’s stop-and-go traffic. The transition between purely electric and combined driving is smooth enough, while the juddering every time the engine kicks in is hardly noticeable.
Though it could be better, the steering provides enough feedback for most daily drivers. The extra 190 kg gained proved to have little effect on the sedan’s handling dynamics, as felt along the picturesque winding roads along the Austrian Alps. After all, despite the plug-in hybrid drivetrain, the 330e is still very much a rear-wheel-drive sport sedan at heart.
After covering more than 300 km driving from Munich to Lake Thiersee and back to Garching, we finished the day with still half a tank of fuel, which is quite impressive considering the brief top speed run on the unrestricted section of the autobahn. The fuel consumption, meanwhile, showed an average of around 6 litres per 100 km.
It is fair to say that the BMW 330e managed to exceed our expectations even in a short period of time. The tried-and-true eDrive technology integrates well with the sedan, which stays true to its fun-to-drive ways despite having to haul more weight than its other compatriots. If the pricing stays within the expected range, the 330e is going to be an interesting offer you don’t want to miss out on.
The BMW 330e will be officially launched at the BMW Innovation Days, which will be happening at Desa ParkCity from 26 till 28 August 2016. Stay tuned as we bring you the full coverage of the local launch.
BMW 330e Specifications
Engine: turbocharged, four-cylinder
Capacity: 1,998 cc
Motor: synchronous electric motor (88 hp/250 Nm)
Total System Output: 248 hp, 420 Nm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 6.1 seconds
Top speed: 225 km/h
Price: RM250,000 (estimated)