2021 BMW 330e review: A foot in each camp

The grille did not take up the entire front of this BMW … yet.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Like a supermodel with multiple PhDs, plug-in hybrids offer the best of both worlds. They combine the efficiency, refinement and responsiveness of an all-electric powertrain with fast refueling and proven internal combustion performance. Offering decent all-electric range, strong acceleration and admirable efficiency, 2021 BMW 330e is a strong case for himself and, more importantly, for his entire race.

Like it

  • Grid of adequate size
  • Well ordered powertrain
  • Real efficiency

I do not like

  • More electric range, please
  • Nickel and penny options
  • Interior so-so

It could be argued that plug-in hybrids are nothing more than a stepping stone between the old way (burning dinosaur juice) and a much brighter future (fully electric vehicles), and there is merit in that. But until battery technology advances and charging infrastructure expands, electric vehicles are simply not a viable option for many drivers. Plug-in hybrids bridge this chasm, however, and they often do it very well.

With one foot in every field, the 330e offers a quiet, emission-free ride and the ability to take a road trip without having to worry about charging. With a 12 kilowatt-hour (9.1 kWh) lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the rear seat, this BMW offers a decent 22 miles electric-only range. Sure, more would be great, and I wish the 330e offered at least double that amount, but that’s probably enough to get many people working in the morning without burning a drop of gas. And if your employer hasn’t installed vehicle chargers yet, a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine ensures you can go home after the job is done.

On its own, that four-cylinder engine delivers 181 horsepower and 258 Nm of torque, which flows to the rear wheels (or even front, if you opt for all-wheel drive) through an eight-speed automatic transmission. On top of that, a separate electric motor delivers 107 horsepower, 77 lb-ft, and near-silent operation. Add it all in and the 330e comes with 288 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, enough to hit 60 mph in a claimed 5.6 seconds. And the car feels so fast – acceleration is lively and smooth, everything you could really need on the road.

Run the BMW 330e 2021 exclusively on electricity and it should return 75 mpge combined. If you are using this sedan exclusively with the gasoline engine, it should average 28 mpg. In mixed use, taking full advantage of the electric-only range, I average around 48 mpg, which is pretty damn impressive for a reasonably sporty luxury car.

This powertrain combines the efficiency and responsiveness of an electric motor with all-weather versatility and quick refueling of internal combustion.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Level 1 charging (by plugging the car into a standard 120-volt household outlet) can get the battery from zero to full in a languid but completely typical 11.5 hours. A 240-volt Level 2 charger can do this in just 3.5 hours. Unfortunately, DC fast charging is not supported. To fully enjoy the 330e and properly utilize its electric-only capabilities, you really need to install a 240-volt charger in your garage or parking lot.

By allowing you to choose how the 330e performs and manages its energy reserves, different driving modes are offered, including sporty, hybrid, electric and adaptive. Each is accessible via a row of buttons on the center console. Hybrid is the default, which offers a good mix of efficiency and performance. In this mode, the powertrain is well-ordered, smooth and servile, seamlessly, combining internal combustion and electrical power as conditions dictate.

Sport delivers increased speed and boosts car reflexes, while significantly stiffening the shock absorbers if you’ve opted for the $ 1,400 Dynamic Management Package, which includes adaptive M suspension along with swanky blue M Sport brake calipers and sports steering variable. An XtraBoost function is also accessible in sport mode, which makes the car noticeably faster when you press the accelerator, providing an increase of 40hp for up to 10 seconds.

There is nothing special about the interior of this BMW. It’s ok.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

When driven in electric mode, the 330e is, predictably, nearly silent. The engine alone provides decent dizziness and can propel the car to a high 87 mph before the engine engages; if you push the accelerator past the kickdown switch, internal combustion begins to provide additional motivation. Take it easy and it’s a breeze (preferably with ice cream) to run solely on electricity until the battery runs out – the performance is so good.

Moving away from the 330e’s powertrain, the rest of this car’s dynamics is fine, but it’s not magical. If you want an automotive religious experience, you’ll have to look elsewhere as BMW is no longer the standard bearer of driver commitment. This car’s steering and braking are solid, but they don’t force you to dig into corners. The rudder is well-weighted and free from any annoying kickbacks or vibrations and the brakes are easy to modulate without giving passengers whiplashes every time you stop. Likewise, the ride quality is pretty good, compliant but well controlled in normal use and significantly stiffer when switching to sport mode, albeit not starched enough to crash the car into bumps.

If you are familiar with BMW’s G20 generation Series 3, which is a few years old at this point, nothing about the 330e’s cabin will surprise you. The interior is spacious and surprisingly comfortable with supportive front chairs and a surprising amount of back seat space. Getting in and out of the rear, however, is a little annoying due to the wide sills you have to climb over. The high-end cognac-colored Vernasca leather in this example (a $ 1,450 option) looks good and feels even better, although I wish the same could be said of the rest of the interior. No, nothing is blatantly cheap, but many of the materials are so-so, including soft plastics, that it would seem much more at home in a mass market. Honda than they do in this luxury car. The sun visors are also made of a hard polymer that looks and feels rather questionable.

BMW’s iDrive 7 infotainment system is fast and comprehensively comprehensive.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

BMW iDrive 7 The infotainment system is as responsive and quick to start as ever, although in my opinion it’s still not that easy to use, with its drop-down menus and too many features. You can interact with this multimedia array by tapping the standard 10.3-inch center touchscreen or by using the control knob and associated buttons on the center console. The choice is good! This car is also equipped with a standard 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which is fine (if, again, it’s not particularly intuitive). Simplifying things, Apple CarPlay is Android Auto they are standard equipment. Both smartphone mirroring systems connect wirelessly for added convenience.

This 330e comes with the $ 3,800 M Sport trim line, which includes sleek 19-inch wheels, the Shadowline exterior upgrade package, and an M steering wheel.This group of options also bundles navigation, forward collision warning and the lane departure warning. Additionally, my tester introduces the $ 2,600 Executive package, which gives you a crisp and useful head-up display, keyless entry, blind spot monitoring, and a heated steering wheel – features that, at this price, should probably be standard. At least BMW’s implementation of these features is unbeatable. Most advanced assistance technologies work as advertised and greatly build driver confidence. Adaptive cruise control is a perfect example, steering precisely when the road bends, accelerating when traffic clears and warning you with flashing lights if you lose sight of lane lines.

This car has a white paint job, which, together with black, are the only colors for which BMW does not charge additional costs. Other shades, including some much more adventurous, cost an additional $ 550. Fortunately, the 330e didn’t get the same messy nose job as the others BMW to have. The car’s double kidney grille is still beautiful and proportionate in size, a reminder of simpler times and smaller nostrils.

The best part of this sedan is its gasoline electric powertrain.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

A rear-wheel drive 2021 BMW 330e starts at $ 45,545, including a reasonable $ 995 in delivery charges. If you want one of these all-wheel drive plug-in hybrids, it’ll cost you another two thousand dollars. The example evaluated here is pumped with a few options, but nothing strange. As a result, this 330e costs $ 59,645, although it should be eligible for a $ 5,836 federal tax credit, which makes it even better value.

If you want to go electric but still have reservations about making the leap, a plug-in hybrid like this BMW is the perfect solution. Efficient and smooth, easy to drive and pleasantly responsive, the 330e truly is the best of both worlds.

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