A beast of both worlds: Sam Wallace tests BMW's hybrid 330e
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Great fuel economy
On paper, the BMW 330e doesn’t work. But don’t stop reading just yet, because it’s brilliant.
The 330e is an electrified 3 Series; when I first learned that the battery range was a mere 50km, I LOL’d. On learning that while running in battery mode it makes less power than a Suzuki Swift (83kW) I turned my nose up at even having to drive to Mt Wellington to collect it.
But the 330e is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), so the battery is paired with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. When you bury your boot, old and new pair up like old chums and fire you to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds. Which is impressive when considering the size and comfort levels of the car you’re in.
But here’s the thing: it wasn’t the combustion engine that impressed me the most.
The thing that I loved was the electrification. It turns out BMW has done its research; the onboard batteries work brilliantly. BMW learned that 90 per cent of the time, people only travel 15km. Think about it: 15km to drop the kids off at school, 15km to get to work. So after the return journey, you still have 20km to flap about.
And look, this might not work for your life. But it did for mine. I had the car for five days and I used the petrol engine for 7km. That’s it. And that was only because I didn’t charge it one night when I got home from work: my hands were full and I couldn’t be bothered putting my gym and work bags down. But that minor inconvenience beats being asked if I remembered my fuel points card and if I would like a chocolate bar, while standing next to people who don’t respect social distancing. The regenerative braking soaks energy back into the battery and can buy you extra kilometres. You can’t feel the car switch between the two systems— it’s so smooth.
This is a car I thought I would hate, but I loved it. It’s one of the most sensible solutions to the battery-versus-combustion debate: have both. For the majority of the time you will run on the battery. But you are not handicapped if you want to travel further afield.
At $93,900 it’s not cheap . . . but neither should it be. Because it’s brilliant.