By on March 27, 2020


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.

[Images: BMW]

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15 Comments on “2021 BMW 3 Series Plug-in: Today’s Word Is Incrementalism...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    BMW moved about 700 330e’s last year in the US market.

    The Model 3 AWD Long Range starts at $49k. I get the appeal of the BMW, but there is a reason the Model 3 outsold the entire 3-Series by 3:1 last year, and it’s not that 100k more people were brainwashed by Elon Musk.

  • avatar

    Assuming a $5800 federal tax credit (and various state incentives), that would actually make it less expensive than the standard 330i.

    So what’s the downside? Have anyone had any experience with the current 330e or 530e?

    • 0 avatar
      Michael S6

      Test drove the 530e last year and didn’t think that the powertrain was all that smooth around city driving. very quite while driving in parking lot speeds on battery power only and has a nice highway ride. Will definitely test drive the new 330e. The big question is why not take the next step and go full electric with Tesla.
      Problem is that I am not enamored with the Tesla 3 looks and refinement as far as noise and ride.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you for your impressions! Is the issue in the transition between the gas and electricity, or something else? I’ll definitely try it out once the car comes out.

        I’m personally not yet convinced yet of full electric cars in terms of environmental and practical terms (at least the way I use my car), so a standard gas or a hybrid/plug-in will be in my near future.

        • 0 avatar
          Michael S6

          A year later I can’t recall the exact issue, but It was not a bad powertrain . Unfortunately I was comparing it to my current car and it’s not fair to compare a four cylinder hybrid powertrain to a biturbo V8. The new 330e is lighter and has a bigger battery pack than 530e ,so I will test drive it if the stock market ever recover.

  • avatar

    Sigh. Seems like it’s getting harder, not easier, to post on the right thread.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    Using 12 kWHrs to only go 20 or 22 miles is not very good.
    From a battery that size, I would expect about 30-35 miles.
    Perhaps BMW is only using the middle half of the battery’s capacity to go easy on it.

  • avatar

    Hybrid are old tech already. BMW is too late to the party, who cares?

  • avatar

    330e was not eligible for HOV sticker in California, while 530e was. Perhaps that will change with the new model, but there would have been many more sales in California had it been eligible.

    I looked at the 530e and a good friend bought one and is very happy. I ended up with a Volvo XC 60 T8. When my sticker expires on the Volvo and I have about 24 months left of sticker eligibility, may lease one of these if eligible for the HOV. That’s assuming Covid-19 does not render the need for HOV stickers obsolete.

  • avatar

    I’m a fan although I’m sure with the handling package and a non-white color the price will be $50K.

    It’s RWD, 22 miles covers most of my weekday driving, I think it looks better than the Model 3 and I have way too much range anxiety to go for a BEV anyway.

    Stated acceleration figures are maybe a touch slower than I’d like but I’m hoping it’s faster in “real world” tests.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I do a 40 mile round trip commute in a BEV rated for 124 miles range, and I only fill it to 80% every day. No range anxiety here.

      If a 300 mile range BEV can’t cure you of range anxiety with a ~22 mile commute, I don’t know what can.

      • 0 avatar

        “I don’t know what can.”

        Large infrastructure build out.
        I’m not worried about the daily commute, it’s the longer trips I take that scare me too much. I just couldn’t spend $55K on something I’m nervous about getting me places.
        Although if I’m concerned about being stranded maybe a BMW isn’t the best option either.

  • avatar

    If replacing the hybrid components on a plebeian Toyota has the potential to be jaw-dropping, I can’t imagine what that same stuff would cost on this!

    Not to mention that most of that stuff will probably die the instant the warranty expires!

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