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BMW 3 Series


Mercedes-Benz E63

Summary

BMW 3 Series

Is the 330e the best of both worlds?

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), it’s a part-time electric car for the city and a full-time sports sedan for everywhere else.

Sound familiar? BMW’s been down this path before, back with 2012’s ‘ActiveHybrid 3’ and then its first 330e-badged successor four years after.

Both were based on the previous F30 3 Series shape. However, this year’s all-new G20 iteration improves the breed with a bigger boot, up to 50 per cent better range and brawnier performance.  

The thing is, it shares showrooms with the 330i and M340i xDrive, which represent a powerful return-to-form for the 3 Series.

So, the question isn’t so much ‘Is the 330e a good enough PHEV?’ more so than ‘Is the PHEV worthy of the BMW badge?’ Let’s find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeHybrid with Premium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency2.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Mercedes-Benz E63

Feels like lately all the Mercedes-AMG buzz has been at the smaller end of the scale.

Most recently, the screaming GLA 45 S has arrived in Australia, pumping out more kilowatts and newton-metres than any compact SUV has a right to.

But here, we're doubling the cylinder count to eight, arranging them in a vee, and lighting the wick on AMG's powerhouse mid-size sedan, the recently upgraded E 63 S.

While the ferocious twin-turbo V8 and the rest of this beast's powertrain are unchanged, the car has been brought up to speed with some aero-focused styling tweaks, Merc's latest 'Widescreen' digital cockpit, as well as the MBUX multimedia system, and a tricky new multi-function sports steering wheel.

Safety rating
Engine Type4.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency12.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

BMW 3 Series9/10

You know about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, right?

Well, its themes of too little or too much apply for buyers of an eco-focused luxury sports sedan. If a hybrid like the Lexus IS 300h isn’t electrified enough, and a pure EV such as the Tesla Model 3 is going too far, then a PHEV like the 330e plugs the gap just about perfectly.   

Yes, prices are high (and especially so with a few choice options), boot capacity is on the low side for a 4.7-metre long sedan and that lusty four-pot turbo is sonically no match for a turbine-smooth BMW inline six as per the M340i, but the 330e does most of the expected things well and some of the ones you might not exceptionally.

Pay the price and you can have your cake and eat it too.


Mercedes-Benz E638.4/10

The E 63 S fills its niche in AMG's Australian line-up perfectly. More mature than the brand's four-cylinder hatches and SUVs, but not as overbearing as some of its bigger sedan, GT and SUV stablemates. And its ability to seamlessly switch between serene comfort and dynamic performance has nailed the objective for this 2021 update.

Design

BMW 3 Series

Remember when BMW 3 Series were compact three-box sedans that looked like nothing else? Today’s version seems so close in size to a 5 Series that only an anorak can instantly tell them apart. In fact, at a glance, differentiating the current G20 from the old F30 generation isn’t so easy, either.

It’s no surprise, then, to learn that both the 3- and 5 Series share the company’s scalable, light but super-strong ‘Cluster Architecture’. Imbued with a large-car feel, the 330e is elegant in silhouette and handsomely detailed, its imposing stance highlighted by the M Sport lowered suspension (by 10mm) and bi-colour five-prong double-spoke 19-inch alloys and (optional) Laser-light LEDs.

Flying under the radar for an eco-warrior, there is nothing other than two ‘filler’ flaps to give the PHEV game away externally. It’s all business as usual.

The same cool insouciance permeates our 3 Series’ leather-laden and metallic-accented cabin, that is now properly spacious for four adults. It still retains the signature-BMW driver-centric dashboard angle, but the style certainly isn’t retro, with twin large digital displays and a myriad of personalisation and vehicle configuration choices underlining the 330e’s modernity.

Aided by plenty of eco incentives to go PHEV, in Europe, BMW expects the 330e to be the best selling version; that said, given the inherent conservatism of premium medium sedan buyers globally, there is virtually nothing about this model’s overall execution that is too futuristic, intimidating or oddball.


Mercedes-Benz E638/10

The E 63 S has been massaged for 2021 starting with flatter headlights, AMG's now signature 'Panamericana' grille, and a high gloss black flap across the top of the curved 'Jet Wing' section defining the lower part of the nose.

At the same time, the vents on either end of it are larger and feature twin transverse louvers to guide cooling air to wherever it's needed.

It's all about what AMG calls 'optimised aerobalance' but the form is just as appealing as the function. The characteristic 'Power Domes' in the bonnet dial up the muscle, as do the fat wheel arches (+27mm each side), and 20-inch rims with distinctive aero inserts.

This car's optional exterior carbon package consists of a front splitter, side sills, a flash near the fender badges, the exterior mirror covers, the boot lid lip spoiler, as well as the lower apron around the redesigned diffuser and quad tailpipes.

New, intricately styled LED tail-lights are also flatter, but there's even more going on inside.

A new AMG sports steering wheel features three rounded twin-spokes with new switches on the bottom to control the car's dynamic set-up.

It also picks up a new take on the small touch-sensitive controllers used to adjust the instrumentation and manage other functions like phone calls, audio and the cruise control.

Not sure I'm in love with them at this stage. In fact, the words fiddly, imprecise, and frustrating come to mind.

Nappa leather covering the superb AMG sports seats, upper dash, and door beltlines remains standard, but the show-stopper is the 'Widescreen Cockpit' - twin 12.25-inch digital screens for the MBUX multimedia interface on the left and instruments on the right.

The instrument cluster can be set to 'Modern Classic', 'Sport' and 'Supersport' displays, with specific AMG read-outs such as engine data, gear speed indicator, warm-up status, car set-up, as well as a G-meter and 'RaceTimer.'

To borrow an official automotive design term, it looks schmick. Overall, with touches like open-pore black ash wood trim, and brushed metal highlights, the interior looks efficient but classy, with an obvious attention to detail in the layout and its execution.

Practicality

BMW 3 Series

For a swoopy sports sedan, the 330e’s interior is pleasingly practical and – after a little familiarisation – user-friendly. As the biggest-ever 3 Series, four average-sized adults can fit in easily, while a smaller fifth person can crowd in on the rear-centre cushion. For short periods, anyway.

One surprise is the lightness of the doors due to them being partly aluminium, which means while they close with a reassuring thud, they’re might feel flimsy at first.

No such misconceptions await once inside the cocoon-quiet cabin, thanks to solid and lush materials everywhere the eye lands and hands touch. Even the plastics seem expensive.

As the 3 Series is famous for, the 330e’s dash is driver-centric, with ample adjustability of the fat-rimmed wheel and unimpeded reach for most of the important switchgear. Sat low and cosily ensconced between door and bisecting centre console, the mood is definitely grand-touring sports sedan.

For this generation, BMW has honed the once-controversial 'iDrive' controller into an artful yet logical example of on-the-move multimedia interface and data retrieval, with a concerted effort to simplify what is a mountain of available information.

Of course, familiarisation is essential, but even a short tuition will open up a world of configuration and customisation of every single facet of the car – chassis, powertrain, climate control, audio, communication and media being the main platforms. Sounds intimidating but isn’t.

To help relax (or energise), there’s even a ‘Caring Car’ feature in the sub menus with appropriately chilled ambient lighting, audio and climate control.

Indeed, the Germans have made strides in improving the perceived quality and functionality in other areas of the latest 3 Series, such as the gear lever operation, thoughtful storage and effortlessly effective ventilation.

However, the digital instrumentation has ignored decades of classy analogue style for a messy computerised multi-view layout that is just too Space Invaders.

Sure, it’s multi-configurable and includes a less-cluttered basic screen, but where’s the sophistication and beauty here? Notice to carmakers: would you wear a watch this ugly?

Moving to the back seat, the optional sunroof might eat into rear headroom, and really long-legged travellers need to ensure the front-seat occupants are as far forward as comfortably possible, but otherwise it’s the same story of well-sculptured cushions and backrests, set within a business-class style environment.

Twin USB-C ports, a 12V outlet and temperature controls are a bonus, hungry door pockets can take a large drink bottle and the essential cupholders are set within the centre armrest.

The only giveaway that this 3 Series is hauling extra electrification is inside the boot. Somewhat shallower than the regular 480-litre item, a higher floor than usual cuts that by 105L to 375L.

But at least the battery doesn’t intrude to the point where you can’t use the cabin load-through with the tri-sected backrests folded down (via a handy lever if you’re standing behind the vehicle). A through-loading system is part of the standard 40/20/40 split-fold backrest.

The floor itself is stepped half way, but if you require a flat surface, it can be lifted to even out the area. And remember, there is no spare wheel – just tyres that can be driven ‘flat’ as required to drive you to the nearest garage.


Mercedes-Benz E638/10

At just under 5.0m end-to-end the E-Class sits in the upper range of the mid-size luxury spectrum. And almost 3.0m of that is accounted for by the distance between the axles, so there's plenty of space inside.

The driver and front passenger are provided with heaps of room to breathe, and there's a surprising amount of space for those in the back as well.

Sitting behind the driver's seat set for my 183cm (6'0”) position I had more than adequate head and legroom. But access to and from the back is a struggle for full-size adults.

The rear doors open out a long way, but the limiting factor is the size of the aperture, necessitating excessive contortion of the head and limbs to fold in and out of the car.

Connectivity runs to two (power-only) USB-C sockets in the front centre storage bin, as well as another USB-C (for power and multimedia) and 12-volt power outlet in the centre console.

Speaking of the front centre storage bin, it's a decent size and has a padded split lid so it can double as an armrest. There are two cupholders in the front console, a generous glove box, as well as long door compartments with recesses for large bottles provided.

There's a pair of USB-Cs along with another 12-volt socket in the back, sitting under the climate control panel with adjustable vents in the rear of the front centre console. Nice.

The fold down centre armrest incorporates a lidded (and lined) storage box as well as two pop-out cupholders. Again, there are bins in the doors with room for smaller bottles.

The boot offers 540 litres (VDA) of volume, and is able to swallow our three-piece hard suitcase set (124L, 95L, 36L) with room to spare, or the substantial CarsGuide pram, or the largest suitcase and pram combined! There are tie-down hooks to help secure loads, too.

Don't bother looking for a spare of any description, a repair/inflator kit is your only option. And the E 63 S is a no-tow zone.

Price and features

BMW 3 Series

It’s clear that electrification will become the norm in the not-too-distant future, from hybrids combining internal combustion engines (ICE) with electric motors and batteries, to the full battery electric vehicle (EV) and eventually hydrogen EV experience.

Somewhere along that spectrum, and nestled between the 320i (from $68,900) and 330i (from $74,900), is the 330e.

Arriving from Germany in either racy M Sport or dreary Luxury grades from $81,900 (before on-road costs), it features an electric motor and battery pack for up to 60km of pure EV propulsion, before a four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine kicks in for in excess of 1800km between refills, officially. Range anxiety be damned.

Mind you, the similarly-engined 320i but minus the electrification is almost 300kg lighter. Blame all that extra electrification swag like an 83kW synchronous motor, 10.3kWh lithium ion battery and a five-metre 1.8kW charging cable.

Being a PHEV means it needs up to six hours to recharge from a regular 10-amp household plug, down to a minimum of around 3.5 hours from a larger power source.

In contrast, a non-plug-in, series-parallel hybrid like the Lexus IS 300h barely manages 2.0km of sub-40km/h-only EV range, before its ICE takes over to replenish a much-smaller battery pack, and relegate the electric motor to mere performance and/or economy boosters only. That’s why the Lexus is some $20,000 cheaper.

This leaves the Mercedes-Benz C300e and Volvo S60 T8 Hybrid from $82,300 and $84,990 respectively as the BMW’s only true equals, as they’re PHEVs, too.

Though both promise slightly less EV range than the 330e, the former is comfort-biased while the latter is a bit of a Swedish hot-rod, blitzing all for sheer oomph while scoring all-wheel drive into the bargain.

Note, however, that from $75,425 (before tax and on-road costs) will buy you the mouthful Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus RWD (rear-wheel drive). As a pure EV, the Yank has kicked the ICE habit with a silent and furious need for speed. 

Not that our 330e M Sport Package isn’t hot to trot, with its M Sport-enhanced suspension, brakes, aero body kit, 19-inch alloys shod with run-flat tyres (so no spare wheel), steering wheel, Alcantara/Sensonic vinyl upholstery and ‘Shadow Line’ gloss-grey trimmings. Menacing.  

The BMW’s list of goodies is barely good enough for a sedan that’s over $90K drive-away. You’ll find adaptive dampers that switch seamlessly from firm to soft depending on how stiff/supple you want the ride to be, auto entry/start, stop/start, heated/folding/dipping mirrors, two USB and a single 12V ports, tri-zone climate control, electrically adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory, three-year subscription-based in-car emergency and concierge services, Apple CarPlay (but still not Android Auto at the time of publishing), 12.3-inch digital instrumentation with head-up display, a 10.25-inch central screen, satellite navigation, extended Bluetooth connectivity, an unreliable ‘Hey, BMW’ voice-activation system, digital radio, 205W amplifier audio, a 32GB hard drive, wireless smartphone charger and a personalisation function in the key saving all your preferred settings.

On the safety and security front there’s also autonomous emergency braking (AEB), warnings and active assistance/intervention for steering, lane-change, lane-departure and front/rear cross-traffic (with braking) situations, full-auto parking with surround-view 3D cameras and sensors, adaptive cruise control with full stop/go, auto high-beam LED headlights with delay/off, rain-sensing wipers, low-speed EV-mode acoustic warnings for pedestrians and localised recharging info including range radius. Handy.

Still, a sunroof is optional, as are our car’s trick 'Laser-light' active/adaptive LEDs, ambient cabin lighting, motion-sensor electric bootlid, seat and steering wheel heaters, galvanised trim, and other goodies, amounting to over $10,000. All blow out pricing towards $100K. Ouch.

At least you can pre-set the climate control in your 330e via a BMW app. Cool!


Mercedes-Benz E638/10

So, first of all, let's get the price out of the way. At $253,900, before on-road costs, this car's competitive set is a bruising, all-German trio comprising the Audi RS 7 Sportback ($224,000), BMW M5 Competition ($244,900), and Porsche Panamera GTS ($309,500).

And no surprise, it's loaded with all the luxury features you'd expect in this part of the market. Here are the highlights.

On top of the standard performance tech and safety equipment fitted to the E 63 S (covered later in this review), you'll also find: Nappa leather trim (seats, upper dash, upper door cards, and steering wheel), MBUX multimedia (with touchscreen, touchpad, and 'Hey Mercedes' voice control), 20-inch alloys, three-zone climate-control, interior ambient lighting, auto LED headlights (with 'Active High Beam Assist Plus'), eight “energising comfort programs” (with 'Energising Coach'), an 'Active Multicontour' front seat package, the 'Air Balance' package (including ionisation), and keyless entry and start.

Also included are the the 'Widescreen' digital cockpit (twin 12.25-inch digital screens), 13-speaker Burmester audio with digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, augmented reality satellite navigation, 'Parktronic' self-parking, electric front seats, seat cooling and heating front (heated rear), heated front centre armrest, a power-adjustable steering column, auto rain-sensing wipers, a wireless device charger, illuminated door sills, as well Amazon Alexa, etc, etc, etc.

And our test car also featured a couple of tasty options. An exterior carbon package ($7500), and AMG's professional grade ceramic composite brakes ($15,900), for an as-tested price of $277,300.

Engine & trans

BMW 3 Series

BMW’s modular (B48) 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine delivers 135kW of power and 300Nm of torque, and drives the rear wheels via a ZF eight-speed automatic. The latter is regarded as one of the best transmissions of its type in production today.

That transmission also houses the 83kW/105Nm synchronous motor, while the 10.3kWh battery pack is located underneath the back seat. Total outputs are 185kW/420Nm.

Each power source works together to create a smooth and quiet EV experience up to a published 60km, before the 2.0-litre takes over the main driving function, but powering down again when coasting or under very light throttle, to help eke out maximum mileage between refills.

There are three modes to choose from ­– 'Sport', 'Hybrid' and 'Electric' – with the latter allowing for pure EV driving as long as the batteries are juiced up enough; otherwise the default Hybrid setting kicks in, where both propulsion options are used to maximum efficiency.

Back in Electric mode, in Battery Control mode, the driver can pre-select a minimum battery charge level for use later on where conditions are better-suited to EV driving – such as in downtown.    

There’s also a so-called ‘XtraBoost’ function, providing up to 30kW of extra power (topping out at 215kW) for short periods, and is accompanied by a fake/enhanced exhaust note. It’s a bit of a scorcher, actually, revving hungrily to the redline and reeling in the horizon like a proper BMW should.

Don't go searching for an evocative in-line six-cylinder soundtrack, however. Instead, there's simply a zingy metallic snarl as the tacho swings swiftly upwards. S mode loves holding on to each gear ratio, aided by a thoughtfully placed set of paddle shifters.

Overall, the 3 Series PHEV is surprisingly rapid – clearing the 100km/h marker needs just 5.9 seconds – but subjectively actually feels even faster. BMW limits the 330e's EV top speed to 140km/h, or 230km/h in dinosaur-fuel mode.    


Mercedes-Benz E639/10

The E 63 S is powered by the M178 version of the all-alloy 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine used across numerous AMG models from the C-Class up.

Thanks in no small part to direct injection and a pair of twin-scroll turbos (located in the engine's 'hot vee' to optimise throttle response), this all-alloy unit produces 450kW (that's 612hp) from 5750-6500rpm, and 850Nm from 2500-4500rpm.

And as per standard AMG practice for its Vee engines, this car's powerplant was built from scratch by a single engineer in Affalterbach. Thank you Robin Jäger.

AMG calls the nine-speed transmission used in the E 63 S an MCT, which stands for Multi-Clutch Technology. But it's not a dual-clutch, rather a normal auto transmission using a wet clutch as opposed to a conventional torque converter, to connect it to the engine on take-off.

Drive goes to all four wheels via Merc's '4Matic+' AWD system, built around an electromechanically controlled clutch connecting the permanently driven rear axle (with locking diff) variably to the front axle.

Fuel consumption

BMW 3 Series

On the flipside, BMW reckons over 1800km is possible, thanks to the official combined figure of only 2.2 litres per 100km. That’s outstanding range, especially considering the fuel tank is a teeny 40 litres.

Maybe it was the addictive allure of all that XtraBoost oomph, or perhaps it’s the porky 1740kg throwing its weight around, but we could not better 6.3L/100km during our week with the Bavarian wunderkind.  

BMW recommends either premium unleaded (95 RON plus) or E10 ethanol, so no standard stuff, please.

Meanwhile, in EV mode, less than 40km is the real-world range, and that can drop dramatically with amenities running like the AC. The EU electricity consumption figure is 15.4kW/h/100km, which is reasonable for the 330e’s size and weight.


Mercedes-Benz E637/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 12.3L/100km, the E 63 S emitting 280g/km of CO2 in the process.

That's a pretty hefty number, but in line with this car's proportions and performance potential.

And Merc-AMG has gone to great lengths to minimise fuel use. As well as the standard 'Eco' stop-start function, in the 'Comfort' drive program cylinder deactivation becomes active, the system able to drop four cylinders anywhere between 1000 to 3250rpm.

There's no physical hint of half the cylinders leaving the party. The only clue is a blue icon on the dash indicating a temporary shift to V4 operation.

Despite all that effort, however, we saw a dash-indicated 17.9L/100km over a mix of urban trundling, highway cruising, and some spirited dynamic assessment.

Recommended fuel is 98 RON premium unleaded (although it'll run on 95 at a pinch), and you'll need 80 litres of it to fill the tank. That capacity translates to a range of 650km according to the factory claim, and 447km using our real world result.

Driving

BMW 3 Series

The good news is that the 330e is designed for built-up and urban environments, since it benefits from a quiet electric motor to whoosh you along almost silently and always serenely for up to that 60km official range. Acceleration is instant, punchy and remains strong as speeds quickly rise, making the BMW ideal for darting in and out of traffic gaps.

In the real world, with the climate-control switched on and other drains on the car, that drops to under 40km, though that can often be more than enough for most commutes. If there’s access to a normal 10a socket, the BMW will be fully charged to get you back home in fewer than six hours.

Of course, the beauty of a PHEV is that the main form of motivation is a brilliantly muscular and responsive BMW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which really gives the 330e wings as a fast and fluent open-road grand tourer. It just laps the miles up.

Still, running on petrol, the Bavarian is as impressive around town, too, since there’s a hefty lump of low-down torque on tap for prompt throttle responses. The superb eight-speed torque-converter auto provides an almost supernatural ability to select the right ratio at the right time, and in a most harmonious manner too.

Perhaps this is a one-off blip in our test car, but a concerning powertrain jolt was discernible from somewhere in the transmission at step-off, as if the 330e is struggling to reconcile electric and petrol power seamlessly.  

Every aspect of the BMW PHEV’s powertrain and chassis – engine, transmission, steering and suspension – can be altered from a cushy softness to a muscular firmness, according to the mood of the driver (or passengers).

Although never heavy, there is substance to the steering even at slower speeds, and the upshot is an engaging and involving experience. Switching to Sport intensifies everything, for an edgier, more athletic experience.

Great for keener folk seeking the 3 Series’ enthusiast’s machine reputation. That said, the turning circle is tight for easy manoeuvrability, while the auto parking feature helps getting the sedan into tighter spots, and generally works reliably.

Adaptive dampers do a great job in helping to smother out most of the bumps and ruts of suburbia’s roads, though larger speed humps can expose the limits of available suspension travel as well as ground clearance (147mm).

Out on the open road, the steering is a boon, working with the taut chassis for sharp handling and balanced roadholding. Displaying towering levels of roadholding, the 330e simply remains glued to the road, even at speed.

One small observation is that the 330e lacks a mechanical limited slip differential, so there isn’t quite the surgical handling crispness that elevates the latest 330i into the dynamic stratosphere.

That, plus the extra mass of the PHEV, do dull the steering’s sharpness and BMW’s overall agility slightly. Never stodgy, just not supernaturally athletic. That’s the price you pay for parsimony.

Finally, in the sportier settings, with the stability and traction controls’ hold loosened, the tail can be made to swing out, meaning the driver must remain alert and ready to reel it all back into place.

This isn’t as much a flaw as a playful aspect of the 330e’s very broad dynamic bandwidth. There’s something for everyone.


Mercedes-Benz E639/10

AMG's major goal with this upgrade of the E 63 S was to maintain its dynamic response and ferocious performance, but dial in the extra comfort customers had said they wanted.

So, the 4Matic+ AWD system has been fine-tuned for more smoothness as has the Comfort option in the dynamic set-up. But we'll investigate that shortly.

First, that 4.0-litre turbo V8 in the nose is claimed to slingshot this roughly 2.0-tonne sedan from 0-100km/h in just 3.4 seconds, and it feels every bit that fast.

With 850Nm available from 2500-4500rpm and nine gear ratios to help keep you operating in that Goldilocks band, mid-range thrust is monumental. And thanks to the bi-modal sports exhaust it sounds beautifully brutal.

The nine-speed auto's wet clutch, as opposed to a conventional torque converter, is designed to save weight and optimise response. And while some will tell you an auto with one input shaft is never going to be as fast as a dual-clutch with two, shifts are rapid and direct. The wheel-mounted shift paddles are larger and set lower, as well.

The AMG 'Ride Control+' suspension with multi-chamber air suspension and adaptive damping is amazingly good. The underlying set-up is by multi-links front and rear, and despite riding on big 20-inch rims wrapped with low-profile, high-performance Pirelli P Zero rubber (265/35 fr - 295/30 rr) the Comfort setting is incredibly... comfortable.

Slip into 'Sport' or 'Sport+' and the car immediately feels tauter but far less compliant and forgiving. An impression reinforced by the engine, transmission, and steering shifting to a more buttoned-down mode at the same time.

The standard dynamic engine mounts play a big part here. Able to make a soft connection for maximum comfort, but switch to a rigid link when required.

But no matter which mode you're in, the car is well damped and feels beautifully balanced in quick cornering. And the E 63 S's electro-mechanically-assisted variable-rate steering is progressive, feelsome, and accurate.

The 4Matic+ AWD system is built around an electromechanically controlled clutch connecting the permanently driven rear axle (with locking diff) variably to the front axle.

Torque distribution happens imperceptibly, the big V8 putting its power down emphatically, with various electronic systems tieing up the loose ends as you aim up for the next corner.

 There's even a 100 per cent RWD Drift mode available in the Race setting, but without a race circuit at our disposal this time around that'll have to wait for another time.

The optional ceramic brakes feature huge rotors and six-piston front calipers, and stopping power is immense. And the good news is they operate quickly but progressively at normal pottering around town speeds. No warming up required to get them in an optimal temperature zone (as can be the case with other ceramic set-ups).

Safety

BMW 3 Series

As part of the G20 3 Series line-up, the 330e achieved a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating in October, 2019.

There basically isn’t an active or passive safety item left unticked in this grade, meaning AEB (operational from 5km/h to 210km/h), stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, cornering brake control and brake-assist, active lane-change and lane-departure warnings and intervention, front and rear cross-traffic alert with braking and blind-spot monitoring.

Eight airbags are fitted – front and side airbags for driver and front passenger and head airbags for all outboard seat occupants.

There’s also adaptive cruise control with full stop/go functionality, as well as a low-speed EV-mode acoustic warning for pedestrians and cyclists to get out of the way. That’s set to about 20km/h.

BMW fits a pair of ISOFIX points for the outboard back seat positions, as well as top tethers for strap-fastened child seats.


Mercedes-Benz E6310/10

The three-pointed star's white-coated boffins have gone to town on the E 63 S, and the car is as good as it currently gets in terms of active and passive safety technology.

You could argue this car's dynamic ability is its strongest contributor to crash-avoidance. But a broad suite of features, specifically designed to keep you out of trouble includes, forward and reverse AEB (with pedestrian, cyclist, and cross-traffic detection), traffic sign recognition, 'Attention Assist', 'Active Blind Spot Assist', 'Active Distance Assist', 'Active High Beam Assist Plus', 'Active Lane Change Assist', 'Active Lane Keeping Assist', and 'Evasive Steering Assist.' That's a lot of assists.

There's also a tyre pressure monitoring and pressure loss warning system, as well as a brake priming function (monitors release speed on the accelerator pedal, moving pads factionally closer to the discs when required), and brake drying (when the windscreen wipers are active the system periodically applies just enough brake pressure to wipe water off the brake rotors to optimise wet weather efficiency).

But if an impact is unavoidable the 'Pre-Safe Plus' system is able to recognise an imminent rear-end collision and fire up the rear hazard lights (at high frequency) to warn following traffic. It will also firmly apply the brakes once the vehicle is stationary to minimise the risk of whiplash injuries if the car's then hit from behind.

If the potential crash is coming from the side, 'Pre-Safe Impulse' inflates air chambers in the side bolsters of the front seat backrest (within a fraction of a second) moving the occupant to the side towards the centre of the car, away from the impact area. Amazing.

As well as that, there's an active bonnet to minimise pedestrian injuries, an auto emergency call function, 'Crash Response Emergency Lighting', even a first aid kit and hi-vis vests for all occupants.

For the record, the current E-Class received a maximum five-star ANCAP assessment in 2016.

Ownership

BMW 3 Series

BMW’s warranty is one of the worst in the business. Its meagre three years/unlimited kilometres matches Audi’s Scrooge-y efforts but is two-years shy of arch nemesis Mercedes-Benz.

The 330e’s servicing is condition-based, depending on how it’s driven and other factors, with a dash warning appearing to let the driver/owner know when it’s time. In the UK, a two-year/30,000km interval is advised, if that helps.

No capped-price servicing regime is offered, but the 'BMW Service Inclusive Basic' packages cover scheduled servicing from three years/40,000km to five years/80,000km, and start from $1350.


Mercedes-Benz E638/10

All AMG models sold in Australia are covered by Mercedes-Benz's five year/unlimited km warranty, with 24-hour roadside and accident assistance included for the duration.

Recommended service interval is 12 months or 20,000km, with pricing for a three-year (pre-paid) plan set at $4300, a $950 saving overall relative to its three year, pay-as-you-go 'Service Solutions' capped price program.

And if you're happy to fork over a little more up-front, there's a four-year service deal at $6300, and five years coming in at $7050.