Entry Price: $44,550
Price as Tested: $59,645
This week, we’re behind the wheel of the 2021 BMW 330e, the “e” in 330 relating to BMW’s electrified enhancements. BMW is quick to note that this popular compact model utilizes both plug-in charging capabilities and an electric motor in unison with its powerful combustion engine to attain efficient driving and all of the expected performance a consumer expects when they purchase a BMW. It offers a 22-mile all-electric range to utilize on short trips.
Built in Munich, Germany, and sporting a longer wheelbase, less weight and perhaps the best looks in the history of compact class BMW, this new generation 330 Series debuted in 2019 and has been a popular seller thanks to its attractive entry price. As mentioned in previous columns, the 3-Series BMW line in any dress, hybrid or not, offers a chance to own a quality, excellent handling and great looking BMW for a price that is very attractive for a sport/luxury sedan.
Compared to direct competition like Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, Acura, Lexus, Audi, Cadillac, and Lincoln, the compact class BMW vehicles are some of the best buys out there, especially considering that the compact class vehicles have grow in dimension and consumer popularity the last decade.
Specifically, the current generation 3-Series offers consumers the best of both worlds as the wheelbase is stretched 1.6-inches yet its gas series curb weight is over 100-pounds lighter thanks to the use of lighter yet stronger assembly pieces. This longer wheelbase, versus the last generation 2018 Series, results in a three-inch longer length resulting in more interior and cargo space. Also notable with the new build is a slight width enhancement and a lower center of gravity that makes this compact BMW an excellent handling 3-Series machine. However, due to the weight of the battery, the hybrid versions are about 300 pounds heavier than gas only, yet still respond well in all handling situations.
Under the hood sits the 2.0-liter BMW Twin Power Turbo inline 4-cylinder, a 16-valve 181-hp engine that combines with the eDrive 107-hp electric motor resulting in a total power output of 288 horsepower and 310 lb. ft. of torque. It connects to an 8-speed Sport automatic transmission with sport and manual modes and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. It also offers Driving Dynamics Control with adaptive, sport, hybrid and electric driving selections.
As for performance, this rear-drive BMW hybrid will speed to 60-MPH in about 6.1-seconds and then deliver up to 75e-MPG with electric assist. These are pretty impressive numbers when comparing modern day hybrids and if you’re running 100-percent on the gas engine, the fuel mileage is still delivering 28 MPG the EPA estimate.
Our tester featured a $3,800 M Sport package that adds Shadowline exterior trim, 19-inch M Double-spoke twin-color jet black wheels, enhanced dashboard and an M-sport steering wheel. Years ago, M Sport packages upgraded the suspension, brakes and added a six-speed manual transmission just for starters. Today, other than the outstanding steering upgrade, this M Sport is more an amenity package as most of the previous performance M Sport upgrades are now standard fare.
An Executive Package for $2,600 features heated steering wheel and front seats, comfort access keyless entry, and lumbar support. For another $1,700, an Active Driving Assistant Pro adds icon adaptive LED with Laser light, gesture control, head up display, and active blind spot detection.
Standard safety items like forward collision warning with city speed emergency braking and automatic high beams are standard fare as is lane departure warning. BMW’s Active Protection System detects imminent accidents, then prepares by automatically pre-tensioning safety belts, closing windows and moon roof, and activating post-crash braking. There is also a fatigue and focus alert feature for additional driver assist help.
A highly recommended option is the $1,400 Dynamic Driving Package, featuring BMW’s adaptive M Suspension, high-performance steering and upgraded brakes. This option offers even more driving dynamics as the suspension’s dynamic damper control and air cushioning on the rear axle are tuned to deliver more sporty driving character. The M Sport brake upgrade features larger discs and high-performance brake pads to provide excellent fade resistance and more stopping power. The M logo is displayed on the fixed aluminum blue calipers for a sporty look. The final part of this option is the steering, as it continuously adjusts the ratio and force to suit the changing driving situations. You can enjoy increased agility on winding roads, more safety at higher speeds, and great flexibility when parking. For just $1,400 more, it’s worth every penny.
Ancillary options on out tester include a $250 ambient lighting package and a wireless charging setup for $500. With $995 destination, the final price came in at $59,645 retail.
We took the BMW to Watkins Glen International (The Glen) in New York to cover the Sahlen’s 6-hour endurance race, and agree that this BMW not only “fit in” with the cars in the parking area, it delivered in all areas on the drive up and back from a performance, German built automobile with BMW badges. The brakes deserve extra note, as there was no fade in three 60-MPH to zero tests. Expect a firmer yet comfy ride with the BMW 3-Series and its overall handling is truly superb. (Sahlen’s, by the way, is a meat processor that makes the best hot dogs in the state!)
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 112.2-inches, 4,039-lb. curb weight, 13.2 cu. ft. of cargo space, 37.2-ft. turn diameter, and a 10.6-gallon fuel tank.
In summary, these new 3-Series BMWs in any flavor are cars worthy of the great ratings they receive. We drove it over 200-miles and if you don’t need some of the more expensive options, you can park one in your driveway for under $50K. Notable is an 8-year/80,000-mile warranty on the high voltage battery and hybrid electrical components, which must be noted for those who might shy away from an electric assist vehicle.
Overall, you’re in good hands with BMW.
Likes: Plug-in hybrid, excellent power, great handling
Dislikes: Options push price up, a bit of road noise at 65-mph, not much else.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist.)