We test the first model in BMW’s performance range - the 330e packs some hybrid punch while retaining its 3-Series drive characteristics
Photos Joel Tam
BMW’s new range of iPerformance cars are a fresh lineup of Bavarian models that feature plug-in hybrid technology. Think Toyota Prius but with an external rechargeable point and lower electrified drive times. Launched elsewhere late last year, the models have made their way here to our island. The first model we’re sampling is the 330e. From the outside, the only tell-tale signs are the "i" badges, a bluish hue on the grilles and a blue ring round the wheel caps. Otherwise, it's business as usual design wise.
Powered mainly by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine, that on its own, pushes out a decent 181 bhp and 290 Nm of torque. But coupled with the huge battery that sits under the rear boot, the combined power output is a rather heady 252 bhp and a cumulative torque figure of 420 Nm. This enables the hybrid 3-Series to hit 100 km/h from standstill in 6.1 seconds and propels it to a 225 km/h top speed.
With some lessons learned from their i3 and i8 models have managed to combined performance and low consumption into these new models. Claimed fuel consumption figures are at a crazy low 2.1 litres per 100km, with a CO2 emissions number of only 49 g/km. This allows it to enjoy some CEVS rebates. In the case of the larger 530e, this means a savings of $2,000 compared to its closely specced 530i.
You might think that driving a hybrid car with all the advanced technology is a complicated affair, but that could not be further from the truth. Most hybrids don’t drive any differently from normally powered cars. In the case of the 330e, it’s just get-it-and-drive as per normal.
The only thing you’d need to get used to is the extremely quiet drive. Yes, it’s so quite you might not even think it’s turned on. Starting the car is like turning on your computer, press the ignition button and done - it’s on. Don’t expect anything to roar into life.
To start enjoying the silent drive, simply put the gear level into D (as you would normally do) and go! You’ll notice that the gear housing has a eDrive button. This is set into the default mode (Auto eDrive) that allows the car to decide for you when it should be in petrol mode and when it should be solely on electric power.
Press it once and you’ll engage the Max eDrive mode which keeps it in electric mode till about 80 km/h. The third choice available through the eDrive button is a Save Battery mode which uses the combustion engine to save the battery power.
Like all 3 Series models, the 330e handles nicely and feels nimble around corners. Powered by the rear wheels, the ‘eco-sports’ sedan is happy zooming down straight highways as it is negotiating sweeping bends. The additional weight from the battery and extra tech is evident (the 330e weighs in at 1,660 kg) but does not affect the driving experience much. Transition between electric and petrol power occurs very smoothly and is nearly unnoticeable.
The 330e is a keen performer too. 0-100 km/h comes in 6.1 seconds and the combined torque figure of 420 Nm punches in almost instantly, making it one fun car to drive fast.
Of course, the main draw of BMW’s new iPerformance range is that it also very easy on your wallet fuel consumption wise. There are currently three locations islandwide that have the new type 2 charging plugs. Use them, or the one installed at your home (BMW will install one for you) and you’re likely not going to need to use much fuel. Leisurely drives will allow you a distance of up to 50 km on electric power alone.
So with the new BMW 330e iPerformance, you can now be environmentally responsible and have a car that’s enjoyable to drive (plus, get to park in priority green lots too). I say why not!