It’s all relative 2020 BMW 330E G20 – A seriously sorted hybrid. But be careful what you jump into it from…
It’s possible I would have liked this 2020 BMW G20 3-series plug-in hybrid more if I hadn’t just driven the 330d Touring G21. But where the big diesel simply feels like a lavishly engineered answer to hauling practical ass, this 2.0-litre petrol and electric saloon is just a little too much like a rolling science experiment.
It is clever. Electric-only range is up to 41 miles (50 per cent more than before), and it will swiftly hit its 87mph e-power limiter if you disengage the dinosaur juice – although not for long, as sustaining such speed sucks the life out of the battery like a vampire with a drinking problem. The top end is 143mph, and you can choose a preferred battery percentage to maintain while driving should you want to save the electrons for later; or if you’ve got the sat-nav guidance set, just use the automatic mode and the 330e G20 will examine the route to deploy the batteries to best effect by itself.
Meanwhile, integrating the e-motor into the eight-speed gearbox delivers mightier brake re-gen in a casing that’s only 15mm longer than the standard automatic – suggesting BMW could easily roll out the tech to other models. What’s more, in addition to the usual Sport and Sport Plus settings, there’s now XtraBoost, which takes total system output from 249bhp to 289bhp for 10 seconds at a time. Give it death, and the 330e G20 builds speed faster than the 330d G20 when you’re demonstrating your superiority to other traffic on the autobahn, but it doesn’t sound especially pleased about it. Even with the supposedly enhanced engine acoustics of the sportier settings, the four-cylinder petrol makes a noise more akin to a straining goat than a performance car.
While it’s certainly quick, the 330e doesn’t do engaging or emotional. The steering feels too light and synthetic, and although the car grips hard there’s a weird lateral stutter when the suspension is loaded, as if it’s struggling to handle the added weight of the batteries, which have forced the fuel tank over the back axle.
Ignoring the eyebrow-raising 138mpg claim, there’s plenty to be impressed with here if you like pressing buttons and playing eco-warrior
THE FIRST HOUR
Charge port has a flap with a built-in weather cap. Neat. Batteries are under the back seat so the fuel tank eats some boot space
XtraBoost can be engaged manually, or kicks in automatically with 40bhp for 10 seconds if you floor it with the ’box in S or M
Electric mode easily accelerates up to its 87mph limiter
Struggling to form an emotional connection. It’s as if the electricity takes up the space that normally holds the soul
PLUS + More electrified than before, and available as a Touring this time
MINUS – Remembering to charge it every night; driving experience doesn’t sparkle
PRICE £37,875 (SE model)
POWERTRAIN 1998cc 16v turbo four-cyl plus 110bhp e-motor, eight-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
MAX POWER 249bhp (289bhp with XtraBoost),
MAX TORQUE 310lb ft,
MAX SPEED 143mph
ON SALE Now