I am now certain the 330e isn’t exactly an athletic car. it was wishful thinking that with the benefit of an 80+ hp electric motor paired with decent sportiness of the F30, would turn the e-quivalent into a bionic 330i.
In truth the 330e is more like a 320i loaded with BMW’s famed plug-in e drive system but with a colossal 200kg extra, and a surplus that weighs as much as a human family. So, at 1,735kg, this car is never going to be as nimble as the regular F30.
Yet, the 330e is out of this world impressive. It’s even pushed some of my buttons I didn’t know existed. For starters, just the act of driving in full electric drive in this BMW alone blew me away. It’s actually pretty bizzare to drive without the engine, and they’ve managed to make it feel commendably natural to drive. If you’re looking at buying the 330e, this aspect will seal the deal.
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder TwinPower Turbo
Power: 248hp at 5,000rpm
Zerotohundred: 6.1 seconds
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with Steptronic
Dimensions: 4,633mm (L), 1,811mm (W), 1,429mm (H)
Weight from: 1,776kg
The 330e is largely powered via a 2 litre turbo 4 cylinder that churns out 184hp. Then, coupled with a 87hp electric motor, produces up to 252hp, enabling the 330e to sprint from Zerotohundred in 6.1 secs.
Throttle feel is superb, there is no learning curve. Just prod the pedal like you would and the 330e floats off the line effortlessly. It goes like it weighs nothing. There’s no vibration, no sound. It’s unreal. If you’ve only driven fossil fuel engines, then the 330e will wow you right from the first drive onwards.
That’s not all, this special e-quipped 330e you see here is in fact cheaper than the outgoing full petrol 320i at RM248,800. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the generous tax exemptions, it would have cost over RM360K. It’s big value we’re talking here, and trust me, this BMW just blows the more expensive c-ompetition away in the hybrid e-xperience.
Life in the 330e starts out in eerie electric mode. Pressing the conventional start button doesn’t ignite anything, there’s no movement, it just turns on. The only tell tale signs are the fuel indicator needle sweeping into position and lit indicators on the instrument cluster.
Engage D, release the brakes and the 330e crawls forward nonchalantly. Prod the throttle and it lurches ahead with ever ready urgency, all in full electric drive. By default, the 330e is hardcoded to drive perpetually on electric without any prior mode input from its driver. This is brilliant because with the petrol engine completely off, I was able commute for kms and kms all while pushing decent acceleration and highway cruising speeds. I’ve tried 120+ km/h on full-e at the MEX highway as well. Although the claimed 40km distance on e-drive is more like 30 ish km in reality here in KL.
It’s hard to explain the exact sensation from the silence and silkiness of the e-propulsion, but it’s kinda like operating your own personal bullet train. Drive is supremely seamless, including the 8 speed transmission. The serenity in e-mode is akin to driving a magic carpet.
Until you realise the trade off with hybrids and regenerative braking. When full throttling the 330e’s combined 252hp, this surge of acceleration is dependant on the current available e-charge level. The fuller the charge, the longer the assistance. So if you’re left with less than optimal charge, this electric boost will diminish quicker. The good news is, in most situations, there’s bound to be some charge left and the 330e is never left unassisted and definitely drives better than a base 320i.
There’s artificial assistance from the brakes, as kinetic energy is converted into E juice. This will require some getting used to. it feels like an over assisted brake pedal, that when merely touched, would initiate regenerative braking. It’s not the most inspiring, but it is consistent in behaviour and hardly an issue. I can’t say the same about other plug-in hybrids since my experience in the C 350 e which was surprisingly unpolished in this area.
There is also considerable amounts of drag while coasting. Say when being off-throttle in D at cruising speeds, the 330e’s regenerative motor will always try to add resistance in an effort to charge the batteries. So the theory is, as long as the 330e is not generating pace, it will try to generate energy. It feels weird at first, but you know it’s doing something good, recharging the batteries for later use.
Even when battery charge is low, the 330e will standby in e-mode at standstill to keep the basic necessities running, such as the air con and lights. So every time you need to go, the Start/stop activation is also super quick here so it never bogs you down from a traffic light start or get in the way in any occasion.
Suspension and Handling
In most driving situations be it urban commute or highway cruise, the 330e’s suspension is supple and well sorted. Somehow, the immense 1,735kg weight, equivalent to the 2016 G11 7-series contributed to the calmness of this electric F30. But with its factory specced suspension, the extent of the 330e’s talent is limited.
Try exploring anything more than an enthusiastic cruise, the 330e will disappoint. Its fixed mechanical suspension copes well with most situations and cruises superbly. But this being a heavy car, the rather light-duty suspension and brakes here just ruin the possibility of it becoming an all round plug in hybrid with performance in mind.
On less than perfect surfaces, the car tramlines quite a bit. But it is at the twisties and high speed instances that the 330e lack talent. It is fairly easy to surpass the suspension’s ideal zone, such as negotiating huge dips or bumps, that’s when it things start collapse. Brakes are also absolutely fine for 90% of the time, but can get weak for a car like that when the going gets rough. Thats what an extra 200kg in dead weight does to a car.
There’s 3 ways to harvest its bionic energy. So whether you need extra boost for the office rush, or just all round smart driving, it’s at the press of the throttle. Want more, press more. Use less, save more.
But if you like, and this is easily achievable without the need for button pressing or mode changes, you can even start your journey from home, arrrive the office and back without consuming a wiff of petrol. All in access of 120kmh (tested 122kmh) and up to 40km (claimed) on full charge.
Then there’s the edrive button that allows full driver control how he/she prefer their e juice delivered. Auto, Max e or Save for later. Save for later is useful in instances where you want to reserve every drop of electric punch say while driving to a drag meet for example. Where you’ll then have 100% e juice at your disposal.
Charging the E
To charge the 330e at a charge station, just make sure the car is turned off. Then simply retrieve the blue charging cable from the boot, open the the charging flap located at the front passenger fender and insert into pre determined sockets. It’s dummy proof so you can’t go wrong.
Next, tap your charge card on the chargeEV point and that’s it. All there is left is to lock the 330e via key fob and the charging will commence. Right when the car locks, the charge point sets off a click presumably from its magnetic switch, indicator lights turn from green to blue and the car starts charging.
It’s quite a ceremony to be honest, plus you get “priority parking” every time and the action no harder than pumping petrol. It’ll take about 2 hours to get the car fully charged. If you’ve ever wondered if someone might just steal your expensive charge cable, fear not as the sockets lock in place when the car locks, so the cable can never be unplugged without your key fob.
At home with a regular 3 pin wall point, this process is similar, although it is more of an overnight process where a full charge could take anywhere from 4 to 5 hours. Just remember to plug into the mains and not an extension cable.
The recent time spent with the 330e gave me more than a glimpse into the sensational world of plug in hybrids. Driving the 330e is like driving in the future. It’s crazy how they’ve managed to mix fuel and electric so seamlessly to not just accentuate driving pleasure but greatly amplifying available performance.
I am genuinely impressed by its hybrid drive. BMW has somehow managed to demonstrate every little gimmick of their e drive prowess at every km traveled, right from the start of the journey. There’s really no need to touch anything to start enjoying this car.
It is a driving experience that is natural, thoroughly inspiring and in fact, beats petrol engines in immediacy and smoothness. The sensation of being propelled by an electric motor is in fact quite surreal. There’s really no replacing this piece of awesome tech, and I would like to think BMW is right up there leading the e bandwagon with how they’ve managed to actually enhance the all-round experience of a plug-in hybrid.
Having sampled Merc’s latest C 350 e, the direct contender of the 330e, I can safely say not all plug in hybrids are the same and with the tech being new, there’s bound to be major differing aspects that separate these cars. Between the 2, you’d want to look at the 330e if driving pleasure is what you seek. BMW’s e drive is a new experience, and one you really, really need to try.