Greater range, more power: The new BMW 3 Series gets revised PHEV option

BMW's seventh-generation 3 Series, codenamed the G20, has gained a PHEV version and while the saloon version is already available, from mid-2020 it will also be on offer in touring guise. Alongside a vast array of other evolutionary refinements in tech, equipment and engines, the PHEV variant will offer drivers a range of 37 miles and a top speed of 68mph on electric power only.

Since we ran this story in June 2019, BMW has released more information about the 330e Touring, and also announced that both the saloon and Touring will be made available in xDrive form. Skip to the bottom of the article for the update.

BMW 330e plug-in hybrid

Compared to the previous generation, CO2 emissions for the BMW 330e are down by ten per cent to just 39g/km on the saloon version, and provisionally 42-52g/km on the 330e Touring. This equates to 138mpg on the test cycle. That 34-37 mile range is also a significant improvement on the outgoing model, representing a 50 per cent improvement in battery-only range. In electric-only mode, the 330e is good for up to 87mph.

The 330e in all guises has a 12kWh lithium-ion battery which, using a BMW i Wallbox, can be charged to 80 per cent in 2.4 hours, or full in 3.4. Using a conventional plug socket and the numbers increase to 4.2 and 5.7 hours respectively.

The drivetrain combines a 67bhp electric motor with BMW's turbocharged 2.0-litre, four cylinder unit which produces 181bhp. Total continuous power is a pretty beefy 249bhp and 310lb-ft of torque, which is sent to the rear wheels via the eight-speed Steptronic transmission (no X-Drive option here), though the XtraBoost function draws an additional 39bhp for up to ten seconds. This F1 KERS-esq system can be deployed on the move, or used to enable the 330e to clear 0-62mph in 6 seconds or 6.1 for the Touring.

These impressive performance stats are achieved despite a weight penalty of around 160kg, accounted for by the hybrid gubbins which is packaged underneath the rear seats. This has necessitated relocation of the 40 litre fuel tank to under the boot floor; however there is only a slight reduction in luggage space of around 100 litres compared to straight ICE variants.

Chassis dynamics

Don't expect the 330e saloon and touring to give up anything in terms of dynamics, despite their extra bulk. M Sport Plus options throw in Adaptive M suspension over the standard damper technology and offer buyers the sportiness of M Sport suspension with a greater level of comfort.

Variable sports steering, the Steptronic transmission and the adaptive suspension work in harmony to provide the optimal driving experience (or should that be the 'Ultimate Driving' experience?) for any given situation. Moreover, they can take information from the car's navigation system to adapt the car to an up-coming corner or junction.

The exterior dimensions are, as you’d expect, larger than the last-generation car. The new car is 85 millimetres longer than its predecessor (at 4709mm) and 16 millimetres wider (1827mm). Added to that, its wheelbase has been extended by 41 millimetres to 2851mm, as has its track widths (front: by 43mm, and rear by 21mm).

Technology and equipment

BMW has taken the logical step of simplifying the trim levels available on the G20 3 Series to just three: SE, Sport and M Sport. As you'd expect, though, the range of standard and option equipment is extensive.

The SE gets LED headlights with cornering, Ambient Lighting with up to 11 colour settings, reversing camera with reversing assistant, enhanced acoustic glazing and BMW Live Cockpit plus, with its 8.8 inch central instrument cluster. Sport trim adds high-gloss trim, sports seats, 18 inch alloys and BMW Live Cockpit professional which brings with it enlarged digital instrument and central clusters.

An additional mercy for buyers is the fact that as well as trim levels, BMW has bundled up the packages that drivers can choose from. The Technology pack brings a head-up display, wireless charging and gesture control, while the Comfort pack adds a heated steering wheel, comfort access, automated boot and enhanced storage. A further Premium package adds electric seats with memory, lumbar support and the electric glass sunroof.

By way of driver aids, as standard comes DSC and ABS, speed limit information, lane departure warning, pedestrian warning with city braking function and cruise control with braking function. The 330e will also get parking assistant and remote pre-conditioning for the cabin. Add the Driving Assistant Professional package and you'll also get active cruise with stop and go, lane keep assist, steering and lane control assistant and wrong-way warning for those moments when you forget to drive on the correct side of the road.

Finally, BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant will be an option, which you can basically think of as a mobile Alexa, there to adjust settings to a driver's whims. For example, voice commands will allow owners to check their emails and messages, turn the lights on and operate a variety of other functions – such as navigation – without the need to use the touch screen interface.

Cost and availability

The BMW 330e saloon is available now with prices from £37,875 on the road. Its touring stablemate will arrive in showrooms this summer with pricing across the range to be confirmed.

February 2020 update

Since we first reported on the 330e, not only have we driven and reviewed the saloon, BMW has also given more details of the Touring and xDrive versions. The powertrain remains common for all cars, the details of which are above, with the differences coming in performance and green credentials.

In Touring form the 330e gets a decent amount of storage at up to 1420 litres with the 40:20 split rear bench folded. Like the saloon, this is slightly less room than the regular 330e. It'll hit 62mph in 6.1 seconds and top out at 137mph, and comes close to the saloon on the green front, registering emissions of 39g/km and 176mpg. It does three miles less on electric power, however, covering 34 miles before the petrol motor needs to step in.

The xDrive four-wheel drive system is really a pay your money, take your choice kind of option. It's well-known for still retaining BMW's dynamic prowess that has long come from the brand's loyalty to rear drive, but offers additional traction through torque vectoring when needed. That being said it doesn't add any towing capacity, which is 1500kg across the model range.

In saloon form the 330e xDrive sheds a second from its 0-62mph time taking it down to 5.8 seconds, but also loses 4mph from its top speed which stands at 139mph. CO2 emissions stand at 42g/km whilst fuel efficiency is 166mpg – which corresponds to a slight drop in electric-only range of 36 miles.

As you'd expect, the 330e xDrive Touring suffers a bit more still in the numbers game. Zero to 62 takes 6.2 seconds and top speed is 133mph. CO2 stands at 46g/km and fuel consumption is 156mpg on the WLTP cycle. It does manage the same mileage on electric power as the standard Touring at up to 34 miles.

BMW hasn't revealed the price for the Touring or xDrive versions, so we may well have to update this article again soon – watch this space!

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