In just a year’s time, a quarter of a century will have passed since I bought an E36-series BMW 318iS. It came onto my radar because overseas motoring titles were near-unanimous that the new “Three” was the best compact sporting saloon on the planet, at least in terms of pure driving experience. The multivalve four cylinder 1.8 in this model was no ball of fire but by the standards of the time, it was pretty brisk. All this waffle has brought me to an unexpected but very interesting Beemer that has just graced my driveway, the hybrid 330e.
First off, the hybrid 330e offers three distinct driving modes which are commanded by an eDrive button positioned in the vicinity of the shift lever. In Auto mode, the electric and petrol motors work together with the electrics taking care of moving away. An extended throttle movement wakes up the turbo four but you’d hardly know it, so seamless is the integration. For those undertaking a single journey of not more than 35km, all-electric power can be accessed in MAX eDrive mode. Power output is pegged at 65kW and the torque peak is 250Nm. Complete silence is the order of the day along with zero emissions and for those who regularly undertake short journeys, this has to be a godsend. Incredibly, BMW claims that fuel consumption as low as 1.9l/100km can be achieved with CO2 emissions below 50g/km.
Should the battery pack be running down on the move, a SAVE BATTERY mode can be deployed which allows the petrol motor to initiate charging or maintain the existing level in the battery pack. Further, a PREDICTIVE selection can sort out efficient battery management according to the route pre-selected on the in-car nav unit!
BMW provides a charger unit complete with three pin connector to plug into a regular power socket which should see all energy replenished in around four hours – maybe more depending on the power source. Externally, the only give-away that this is not a regular 3 is the flap for the charging port positioned just behind the nearside front wheel – and just a bit of discreet badging. Open the boot though and you’ll find volume reduced to 370l from 480l which is a trade-off for the underfloor battery pack.
Sure, with the throttle buried, the engine’s four cylinders do make themselves heard but not to an unpleasant degree such that overall refinement remains a strong suit. By the way, 0-100 can be achieved in a scant 6.1s and the everyday, overall fuel consumption worked out at 7.2l/100km. ZF’s 8-speed auto transfers power to the back and does so discreetly and with alacrity, all of which adds to the restful environment which can be woken in an instant with a sharp stab on the gas pedal.
This report is more about the hybrid side of the 3 than anything else and I have to say that the integration of all the new tech has been accomplished with absolute aplomb. Unlike the very focused i3 and i8 models, there’s little the owner of a 330e has to adjust to in order to benefit from reduced fuel usage and lower emissions. It’s an especially appealing package for those who do regular short runs and who can then operate in all-electric mode, but it’s also an appealing contender for those who’d make more use of the two power sources as they combine so seamlessly.