2021 BMW 3 Series Plug-in: Today’s Word Is Incrementalism
Steady change. Minus a few models incapable of adapting to the times, the auto industry’s relentless march forward delivers new efficiencies every year. No newly revamped model can sip more fuel than the one that came before it, and that was certainly true of the enlarged 3 Series that bowed (in 330i form) for the 2019 model year. With 2.0-liter under hood, BMW’s go-to sports sedan boasted added economy in its latest iteration.
You might recall that there was already a 3 Series plug-in hybrid (330e). Well, the marque has seen fit to return it to the lineup for 2021 with an updated body, dropping it on dealers come May. The differences between old and new may not be drastic, but they’re likely big enough to be appreciated.
Yes, it’s a slow roll-out for the new-generation 3 Series, but the PHEV variant is nearly upon us (BMW first teased it in late 2018). We should note that word incrementalism — and indeed expansionism — pertains to the brand’s grille, too.
Whereas the last 330e was pretty limited in its all-electric abilities, BMW has enhanced the model’s green cred. First off, the powertrain stays pretty much the same, at least on paper: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder mated to an electric motor, governed by an eight-speed automatic, and sending power to the rear wheels in standard guise, or all four in xDrive.
Combined power amounts to 248 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque under normal driving conditions, or 288 hp when in Sport mode. There, an XtraBoost function, when goosed into operation by a significant throttle jab, harnesses the electric motor’s ponies for added acceleration. Maybe there is a replacement for displacement…
While electric assist is nice, it’s the model’s all-electric capability that gets the real boost. The battery pack grows from a paltry 7.6 kWh to 12 kWH, providing a larger box of juice for the thirsty motor. Capable of running up to 87 mph in EV mode (up 12 mph from before), the 330e can manage 22 miles of emissions-free driving before reverting back to a conventional hybrid. That’s a range increase of 8 miles. Not groundbreaking, but enough to bring the car’s emissions-free radius closer to that of most American commutes.
All-wheel drive models, with their extra weight and energy-sapping driveline, are said to return 20 miles. All told, the efficiency of the 2021 330e sedans top that of their predecessors. The old model earned an EPA rating of 71 MPGe combined; the ’21 rear-driver returns 75 MPGe. The xDrive sees a 67 MPGe rating.
Elsewhere, everything is pure 3 Series. Buyers can select a Dynamic Handling Package, bringing aboard brakes and suspension massaged by Bimmer’s M performance division, should they choose, while standard Digital Key and available Intelligent Personal Assistant ups the convenience factor.
Prices start at $45,545 (after destination) for the 330e and $47,545 for the 330e xDrive.