It has only been two months since BMW Malaysia launched its first locally assembled plug-in hybrid – the X5 xDrive40e, but the brand has already taken things to the next level by launching its second CKD plug-in hybrid; the 330e earlier today at the ongoing BMW Innovation Days 2016 at Desa Parkcity, Kuala Lumpur.
Fortunately, there was a brief test drive session for members of the press after the launch where we got to drive the 330e and get a first-hand experience on how it performs on the road, and see how it differs from other variants.
Our test drive route comprised mainly town roads around Desa Parkcity and Bandar Menjalara, Kepong, which was a good thing as we could see how the car’s engine and hybrid system worked hand-in-hand to offer the best performance and fuel economy.
Price: RM248,888 (OTR without insurance)Engine: B48 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinderMotor: 88hp/250 Nm synchronous electric motorTraction battery: 5.7 kWh (net), lithium-ionMax Power: 252 hp at 5,000 rpmTorque: 420 Nm from 0 – 2,500 rpmTransmission: 8-speed automaticSafety: six airbags, electronic stability and traction control, ISOFIX, tyre pressure monitor, blind spot monitor, lane keeping assistClaimed Fuel consumption: 1.9- to 2.1-litre/100 km (NEDC combined cycle)
Origin: Assembled in Kulim, Kedah
Built on the existing F30 3 Series platform, the 330e is powered by a 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged petrol engine and an electric motor which is housed in the car’s ZF-sourced 8HP 8-speed automatic transmission. Although this setup is similar to the one in the X5 xDrive40e, it is not identical as both vehicles are using different engines.
Here to take on the recently previewed Mercedes-Benz C350e plug-in hybrid, the 330e is officially priced at RM248,800, placing it just below the 320i in terms of pricing. However, if we are to compare the variants in terms of equipment and specifications, the 330e is the arguably most-equipped in the lot.
Being a locally-assembled energy efficient vehicle, the 330e enjoys exemption of duties of RM120,000, without which the car would otherwise have been priced at RM368,800.
According to BMW, the 330e doesn't need to be charged everyday. However, it is best that the car is charged to optimum level to ensure that performance is not reduced. The 330e's 5.7 kWh battery can be charged via a conventional domestic power socket in five hours or via BMW’s Wallbox Pro setup in only 3.5 hours.
Although the 330e does not come with the M Sport package like the 330i, it comes with all other fittings as found in the range-topping petrol model. Additionally, the 330e also comes exclusively fitted with reverse camera, heads-up display, and an electric glass roof.
How does it drive?
‘Quiet’ and ‘efffortless’ are probably the two words that best describe how the 330e drives. When the car is running on battery and the motor, it is unbelievably silent, with only tyre noise and the faint whine of the battery being audible.
Being able to run on pure electric mode for close to 40km, the 330’s engine only kicked in when we switched to “Sports” mode, and when we pressed the accelerator asking for more power during instances like overtaking and driving uphill.
Regardless of where the power was coming from, there was more than enough ‘juice’ at any given time. And even though the 330e weighs close to 200kg more than the 330i due to the additional components, we could not feel any difference in the car’s performance at all.
It was just moving effortlessly throughout our short stint with it.
Overall, the 330e drives and behaves just like a regular 3-series – agile, powerful, and responsive. Even though the car doesn’t come with any M Sport goodies and the brand’s adaptive suspension, it still tolerated bumps and lumps decently, handled very well, delivered power seamlessly at all times and offered a very engaging and enjoyable driving experience while saving fuel and the planet.
What we love most about the car is how well the engine, the battery and the electric motor work together so well. Unless you’re paying attention, you can’t really notice if the car is running on the engine or in electric mode.
That is how smooth and quiet the 330e is. There is no knocking sensation when the engine starts, no signs of air-conditioning going warm when the car is on electric mode, or any of the setbacks hybrid cars are known to have.
Here to take on the new Mercedes-Benz C350e and the upcoming Audi A4 B9, the 330e is probably the most competitively priced car in the lot.
What makes it a very interesting product is that it performs nearly as well as a 330i M Sport, but at a much cheaper cost.
So, based on what we have seen and experienced so far, there is no denying that 330e is a steal for what it asks for.
Want to know more about the BMW 330e? Read our colleague's review here.