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Saturday Road Test
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD. – There were no shotguns at this wedding.
BMW engineers brought together in perfect matrimonial harmony gas engines, electronic motors, and an eight speed transmission. Dissenting relatives were not to be found.
Start with nearly silent running in pure electric mode to help save the planet. Yet a flick of an ankle away was a lovely low pitched rumbling sound that accompanies a needed burst of acceleration. For those with a gold and platinum bank card, well, prepare for a long and happy honeymoon.
What makes it go?
Up front and covered over is a “twin power turbo” four with 180 horsepower and 215 lb-ft of torque. An electric motor kicks in 87 horsepower with a maximum peak torque of 184 lb-ft. The power electronics are derived directly from the i3 and i8 models, and that’s not a bad place to start.
The motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery located under the trunk floor. That slightly reduces cargo capacity from 17 cubic feet to 13 cubes. The fuel tank is under the rear seat.
Add it all together and the power producers serve up 248 horsepower and peak torque of 310 lb-ft allowing a 0-60 in 5.9 seconds. Pure electric driving is possible at speeds of up to 75 mph but that reduces driving range of course.
In gas only mode look for 31 mpg. In gas and electric, 72MPGe is claimed. In all electric range, look for a 14 mile range. Combine the two and look for 350 miles without a stop.
There are three e-Drive programs – AUTO eDrive, MAX eDRIVE and SAVE BATTERY – all via the eDrive button in the center console.
AUTO eDRIVE: This setting ensures the engine and electric motor work to optimize all driving situations and is the default setting activated each time the car is started. They work together as smoothly as the best trio you’ve ever heard performing acappella.
MAX eDRIVE: In this mode the BMW 330e uses electric power only with zero emissions. In so doing, it draws on the electric drive system’s full power output. The combustion engine can activate at any time if the accelerator is pushed beyond its kick down position. I ran a bunch of errands around town in electric mode and it was eerily quiet inside. But it made the errand run fun.
SAVE BATTERY: This mode contains two operating settings. If the battery’s charge is below 50 percent, the battery is charged to 50 percent by the combustion engine. If over 50 percent, the charge level is “frozen”, so that the remaining electric energy can be used for part of an upcoming journey.
On top of all that there are four available drive modes: ECO PRO, COMFORT, SPORT and available SPORT+ modes. COMFORT offers a balance of comfort and efficiency and the electric motor only kicks in to maximize power delivery.
In SPORT and SPORT+ modes the engine and motor are both permanently active. This allows the drive system to react instantaneously to every movement of the accelerator. (And it does!) I used Sport a lot!
In ECO PRO mode, the electric motor and engine work together with the greatest possible overall efficiency. Energy management carefully regulates the use of electrically operated functions such as the climate control system, seat heating and exterior mirror heating to maximize the car’s range.
An empty battery can be fully recharged with an available 240-volt system in two and a half hours. That steps up to six to seven hours on common household current. An empty battery can be brought up to at least 50 percent of full charge while on the move by activating SAVE BATTERY using the eDrive button. You can forget range anxiety with this car.
In the default modes, when just a touch of added acceleration was needed, the turbo four would kick in so smoothly I had to check the tach to see if it had engaged.
The interior of the test car was beautifully trimmed, in that it was not all black, controls were easy to reach, and the $875 optional Harman Kardon audio system cranked out some awesome notes, even on the 50’s oldies channel, not known for its audio range. Audio and ventilation controls were easy to figure out from the get go.
Two adults were max capacity to the rear for maximum comfort with head and leg room more than adequate if a 6 footer was operating up front. Knee room was okay. Materials used in the front visors were not in keeping with the rest of the interior.
The 10-way adjustable driver’s seat was well above average keeping one’s bod in place in robust cornering. It was also very comfortable on longer journeys. BMW says total range is 350 miles.
Interior glitches. There are a number of routine operations that are different in a BMW starting with the center console mounted shift lever. Intermittent wiper operation was another, as was opening the hood. All can easily be mastered but it was frustrating at first.
Handling was good with little feedback through the leather covered steering wheel. There was little body roll and the suspension handled winter time bumps with aplomb.
Options? More than a few on this BMW. They raised the price from a base of $43,700 to $60,245 including $995 for delivery. There is only one trim level.
In closing, let me say this was by far the best hybrid I have driven. Impressive was the ability of the 330e to get up and boogie when the driver told it to. Entering interstates and carving out turns on rural roads was entertaining. Then you could head out to your favorite foodie restaurant in full electric mode.
One caveat. Keep a close eye on the head up display. It was very easy to exceed the speed limit allowed by state troopers on interstates. Not that I had any close calls but…
10-way power front sport seats; includes 2-way power-adjustable side bolsters, 2-way manual headrests and thigh support; driver memory for exterior mirror and seat positions
40/20/40 split fold-down through-load rear seats
8-year/80,000-mile High-Voltage Battery Warranty
4-year/50,000-mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty
4-year Unlimited Mileage Roadside Assistance Program
Ground clearance 5.5 in.
Length 182.8 in.
Wheel base 110.6 in.
Width 71.3 in.
Final Assembly: Munich Germany