2021 BMW 3 Series Plug-in: Today's Word Is Incrementalism

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
2021 bmw 3 series plug in todays 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.

[Images: BMW]

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4 of 15 comments
  • Ajla Ajla on Mar 28, 2020

    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.

    • See 1 previous
    • Ajla Ajla on Mar 28, 2020

      @SCE to AUX "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.

  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Mar 31, 2020

    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!

  • FreedMike I'll welcome as many cars like this as I can, but I think Acura's "right move" was to put the Accord Sport's 2.0T in the base model and sell it for thirty-five or so. That's a pretty compelling performance / value proposition.
  • Wjtinfwb I'll certainly admit to a bit of nostalgia that drives my appreciation for these 70's yachts, but there's more to it than that. It was an era that the Big 3 ruled the luxury market with the German's and British nothing but a beer fart in the marketplace. That changed drastically as the early '80s crept in but in 1977, a Mark V or Seville was where it was at. No rose colored glasses, they were not great cars, what they were was a great living room that you could ride to the office in. I grew up on a diet of Cadillac's, Lincoln and one big Chrysler before dad made the move to a 280SE in about '77. Impeccably built and very road worthy, dad initially didn't like the firm seats, clunky automatic transmission and very weak A/C. The exorbitant maintenance costs didn't help. But he enjoyed the driving characteristics enough to get another Benz, then a 733i, an Audi 5000S and a Jag XJ6. Compare these to today's Cadillac's (non- V) and Lincoln's that with the exception of the Escalade and Navigator, are boring and probably even more pedestrian than the Eldorado, Seville and Mark's were.
  • FreedMike I was lucky enough to grow up in a household with the two best German luxury sedans of the time - a manual '81 733i, and a '75 Mercedes 450SE. The BMW was a joy on back roads, and the Benz was a superb highway car. Good times. And both were dramatically better than the junkheap American luxury cars Dad had before.
  • Wjtinfwb A Celebrity Diesel... that is a unicorn. Those early A-bodies were much maligned and I'm sure the diesel didn't help that, but they developed into very decent and reliable transportation. Hopefully this oil-burner Chevy can do the same, it's worth keeping.
  • Wjtinfwb After S-classes crested the 40k mark in the early '80s, my dad moved from M-B to a BMW 733i Automatic. Anthracite gray over red leather, it was a spectacular driving car and insanely comfortable and reassuring on long interstate hauls. My mom, not really a car person, used the BMW to shuttle her elderly Mom back home to Pennsylvania from Miami. Mom and grandma both gushed with praise for the big BMW, stating she could have driven straight through the car was so comfortable and confidence inspiring. A truly great car that improved through the E38 generation, at which point the drugs apparently took hold of BMW styling and engineering and they went completely off the rails. The newest 7 series is a 100k abomination.