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BMW 330e 2016 review

Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the BMW 330e with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.

BMW fans now have an alternative to the oddball box-shaped i3 plug-in car with the release of a petrol-electric 3 Series sedan.

The BMW 330e costs $71,900 — almost twice the price of a Toyota Prius.

The big difference, apart from luxury, is the BMW can be driven up to 30km on battery power alone whereas the Prius has a petrol-free driving range of just 1km in ideal conditions as it charges itself on the move.

The BMW can be charged from a domestic power point in about 3 hours and 15 minutes (or in about 2 hours with the optional fast charger, $1700 plus fitting) before the petrol engine takes you a further 600km.

If you want to clear your conscience, BMW's first plug-in hybrid sedan may be for you

And the BMW has a hi-tech lithium-ion battery pack whereas the Prius has an old school nickel-metal hydride unit.

Translated: the BMW battery can hold more of a charge and for longer.

BMW says the 330e is $2000 dearer than a petrol-only 330i with similar performance (0 to 100kmh in 6.1 seconds versus 11.5 seconds for the Prius).

But the BMW is also $17,000 dearer than the most fuel-efficient 3 Series sedan.

If it's about saving money, go and buy the turbo three-cylinder 3 Series for $54,900, because it would take a lifetime to reclaim $17,000 savings in petrol between the two models.

But if you want to clear your conscience, BMW's first plug-in hybrid sedan may be for you.

Just be careful which power point you use.

If your grid is fed by Victoria's brown coal (among the dirtiest in the world) or black coal found in the rest of the Australia (also not the cleanest choice of energy) then your conscience may end up feeling a little guilty rather than cleansed.

But if you can afford to pay extra and source your electricity from renewable energy -- such as wind, wave or solar power -- then you can afford to be a little pious.

The BMW 330e plug-in hybrid is among the first of new generation of cars heading our way while the automotive world struggles to meet strict new European emissions standards due in 2020.

Every big brand will have a car with technology like this on offer -- a battery that will get you some or all of the way to work, depending on your commute -- to help it limbo under these emissions targets.

Claims about petrol-free driving range vary. BMW's EU test results show the 330e can travel 37km on battery alone.

But at the launch of the vehicle in Australia this week BMW representatives said 28km to 32km was more likely in "real world" conditions.

That's likely still enough for most Australians. According to a study by the National Transport Commission, the average daily commute is a total of 31km -- almost enough to get to work and back if you eke out the electric miles, or top-up at work.

Predictably, the 330e drives just like a BMW, even though it is 165kg heavier than the standard model due to the battery pack and electric motor.

Although there is only a 2.0-litre turbo engine under the bonnet, it has substantially more oomph thanks to the instant boost from the electric motor.

The transition from electric power to petrol (which occurs at 80kmh unless you floor the throttle) is seamless and the brake pedal doesn't have the abrupt bite of some electric cars.

Downsides? The boot is a bit smaller (370 litres versus the standard car's 480 litres) but at least the back seat split folds 40:20:40 to swallow big items.

The price is a touch high (if this car is about saving money) and you need to be careful where you source electricity (if this car is about saving the planet).


Regardless, get used to seeing cars like this one, with two fuel doors in the very near future: one for petrol and another for electric power.

Click here for more BMW 3-series pricing and spec info.

Does the idea of a fuel-less commute tempt you over to the hybrid 3 Series? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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