The G20 BMW 3-Series has had many split opinions. The overall handling and body control are as expected- class-leading and still the benchmark for many to follow, but the riding comfort does not satisfy. It has returned to the unnecessarily stiff and a feeling of insufficient damping from the shock absorbers which was a stereotypical trait of BMW of the late 2000s.
Both the 320i Sport and 330i M Sport we reviewed made a lasting impression in which it could be rather unpleasant at majority of the commuting journey due to the relatively harsher ride. One major difference in features that the recently introduced BMW 330e M Sport plug-in hybrid included is the fitment of the adaptive M suspension.
As mentioned in earlier articles, there are literally no differences on the exterior and interior of the PHEV 330e and petrol-powered 330i, both in M Sport treatment. The ‘eDrive’ emblems that were on the previous generation 330e have been removed, making the identification of the PHEV 330e only through the charging port on the left front fender and the model emblem on the bootlid.
However, the driving experience is much more enjoyable in the plug-in hybrid BMW 330e M Sport. Immediately, the adaptive M suspension does an incredible job in sorting out all the uneven road surfaces. It is softer but body control is still present, with the 330e goes over speed humps with an assuring ‘thud’.
Additional soundproofing also isolates the cabin to a higher level, making it far calmer especially compared to competitors.
The driving modes are exclusive to the 330e, starting with Adaptive, Electric, Hybrid and finally Sport. All are self-explanatory, to be honest, and the much talked about XtraBoost is available in Sport mode.
XtraBoost delivers the maximum 292 hp to propel the BMW 330e to triple-digit speeds a lot sooner than you expect, accompanied by a nice feeling of being pinned to the seat. On paper, the century sprint is just 0.1 seconds slower than the 330i, but subjectively felt faster thanks to the abundance of torque from the electric motor from lower engine rpm.
Nothing intangible from the driver’s seat makes one notice the increase in kerb weight of 270 kg. Yes, 270 kg of extra electric motor, wiring and mass from the plug-in hybrid system and it still goes as you expect from a BMW.
Only on the most aggressive series of bends, one would feel the added weight being waved about, but in day-to-day drives, it’s negligible.
Strong regenerative braking (20 kW) is enabled in Adaptive and Electric driving modes, thus one does not even use much of the M Sport brakes to slow the car down, especially while driving in urban areas. This low-pedal usage keeps the rims much cleaner too with little to no discharge of brake dust.
Out on the open road, there is more than enough system output to clear slower traffic in all driving modes. The transition from full electric to hybrid deserves mention too, one could hardly feel the combustion engine igniting and vibrating away.
In the interior, the hybrid-exclusive information displayed on the driver’s screen is the tally of combustion-free kilometres, an energy meter and electric-only range. I find myself using the speed limit function a lot more in the BMW 330e, as I wanted to drive as much as possible with just the electric motor and keeping under 40% of energy usage.
With an increase in public wallbox charging facilities, improving the electric range was convenient too. However, a battery with 100% charge is nowhere near as optimistic as the publicised 56 km range. My highest range available was 36 km, all in air-conditioning comfort which the regulated European fuel consumption standard (NEDC, WLTP) does not activate.
The BMW 330e M Sport is actually the most expensive four-cylinder 3 Series in the Malaysian line-up. But thanks to enormous incentives from the government, it sits between the entry 320i and the 330i. The very pleasurable BMW M340i xDrive with a delightful straight-six engine meanwhile cost over RM100k dearer but it is money well spent.
With the same outlook and straight-line performance, choosing between the BMW 330i and BMW 330e boils down to infrastructure-related questions and driving preference. It only makes plenty of sense and ‘sens’ if a wallbox or at least a charging socket can be fitted at your place of residence.
Left to charge on its own, the 330e doesn’t seem to have significantly better fuel consumption. The quietness and vibration-free movement in fully electric mode of the BMW 330e still hold plenty of novelty given the lack of EVs in Malaysia.
BMW 330e M Sport specifications:
|Engine||1,998cc, four-cylinder turbo, plug-in hybrid|
|Electric Motor; battery energy content||113 hp, 265 Nm; 12 kWh, EV range: 56 km|
|Combined system output, horsepower||292 hp, with XtraBoost|
|Combined system output, torque||420 Nm|
|Transmission||8-speed Steptronic Sport automatic|
|0-100 km/h, top speed||5.9 seconds, 230 km/h|
|Price, OTR (w/o ins, with SST exemptions)||RM264,613.13|