Hybridising the 3 Series makes a great car even greater
BMW is rapidly gaining a reputation in the field of electric motoring. The i8 and i3 remain flagships of two very different kinds, but here’s an example of what the company’s doing to bring its everyday models into the hybrid era.
And a very good example it is too. The 330e iPerformance uses the familiar 2.0-litre turbo engine, but downstream of it is an electric motor. This adds another 87 horses to the mix, and by the time all that has made it past the standard eight-speed auto box you’ve got 249bhp, 310lb/ft and a 6.1-second 0-62 time.
BMW 330e iPerformance Sport
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol, plus 87bhp electric motor
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 140mph
Economy: 148.7mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 44g/km
You’ve also got 25 miles of electric-only travel, which means the Government will bung in £2500 at purchase time and the taxman will levy a paltry 7% BIK take on your earnings.
That’s what an official 148.7mpg and 44g/km will do for you. No wonder Whitehall sees cars like this as paragons of citizenship.
So, in we jumped, off we set and… oh. We’ve only done 14 miles and the battery’s flat. Wonder what the real figures would look like?
That was on a cold winter’s morning, though, which is never the easiest of times in the life of a battery. And of course it’s not a criticism of BMW, but of a testing regime which means the official figures for every such car are similarly ludicrous.
You live the life they let you, anyway. And right now, they let you have one of these while paying less tax than the bloke next door in his diesel-engined Tipo, so let’s enjoy it.
And enjoy it you can. Well, if you can get hold of one, because UK supply is going to be limited by heavy worldwide demand.
It may be a hybrid, but mainly it’s a BMW. It handles with absolute verve, just as a 3 Series should. Ours had optional M Sport suspension, which took complete control of the body and allowed the steering to do its wonderful best – the balance of grip, feel and feedback is well-nigh immaculate.
So too is the drivetrain. With the motor doing its thing in town, you glide around in a muted hush – even with the lowered suspension, you don’t get a constant patter of noise from the wheels. But once you’re giving it some, the engine raises its voice keenly – it sounds up for it, and feels that way too.
It would have been so easy for BMW to neuter the 3 Series by hybridising it. No such thing has happened, though – it doesn’t just feel like you’re driving the car of the future, but the cool car of the future.
In fact, it feels a bit like a classic performance 3 Series that’s been fed through a time warp and emerged all modern and scientific. Smart, but not soulless. At all. Here’s how fuel-saving technology can make cars not just cleaner, but better. The official figures might be miles out, but the 330e iPerformance is spot-on.