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New BMW 3-series plug-in: faster, more efficient 330e hybrid revealed

Published: 15 November 2018

► New BMW 330e follows M340i 3-series
► 138mpg and longer 37-mile EV range
► 249bhp in standard configuration

BMW has revealed another iteration of the new 3-series range, and this time it’s the 330e - a plug-in hybrid version of Munich’s recently released compact saloon. The PHEV comes just days after the range-topping M340i, but unlike the M-line car, the 330e is built around both economy and speed. 

Our guide to all things BMW EV and hybrid

What’s new on the BMW 330e?

On paper, the latest 330e plug-in is a much cleaner PHEV than before. CO2 emissions are down 10% to just 39g/km on the test cycle, while BMW says the 330e now returns 138mpg economy. What’s more, the zero-emissions, EV-only range of the 330e is up by 50% to 37 miles on silent electric mode. Technology moves fast in the EV world.

Under the bonnet, the 330e uses a 181bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, and combines it with a 67bhp electric motor for e-mode. In standard configuration, the 330e’s hybrid powertrain is good for 249bhp along with a peak torque of 310lb ft. 

KERS-style XtraBoost for 3-series

When in Sport mode, a new XtraBoost system will give the 330e an extra 40bhp punch from the battery for short bursts, similar to an F1-style ERS boost, bringing total system power to 289bhp, but obviously draining the cells in the process. 

That means a 0-62mph launch in 6.0 seconds, according to BMW, and a top speed of 143mph. Interestingly, both EV-only range and top speed on electric power are increased; the 330e now tops out at 68mph without the aid of a petrol engine. That’s max speed on a British motorway on silent, electric waft.

The new 2019 BMW 330e will be available in SE, Sport Line and M Sport versions in July next year, with prices to be confirmed. Read on to find out more about the M340i performance version (below) and other members of the new G20 3-series range.

BMW M340i

BMW M340i revealed

If you’re after a new BMW 3-series but don’t want something as extreme as the forthcoming M3, BMW has just revealed the M340i xDrive saloon, a halfway house between the standard 3-series and the forthcoming M3 – making it the fastest 3-series saloon you can buy.

Under the bonnet, the new M340i features a newly developed 3.0-litre straight-six with 369bhp, and a twin-scroll turbo. BMW’s xDrive system ensures it’ll put power down in a controlled manner, there’s an M-specific suspension too, and it uses BMW’s eight-speed auto ‘box.

Inside and out, there are also styling touches that set it apart from the rest of the range. Check out that grille! 


Put it all together, and the M340i should hit 0-62mph in just 4.4 seconds – half a second faster than the previous model.

We’ll get a better look at the new range-topping 3-series when it’s revealed in the metal at the 2018 LA motor show. Stay tuned for our full reports live from Tinseltown.

The regular G20 BMW 3-series range: what you need to know

The new BMW 3-series saloon is codenamed G20. The seventh-generation Three continues the evolutionary design philosophy that’s underlined every new 3-series introduced since the launch of the first one, back in 1975. With more than 15 million sold since, it’s clearly a recipe that’s worked for BMW – and it really needs to work this time around, too.

Read our review of the new 3-series here

The new 2019 G20 BMW 3-series saloon

With the traditional saloon and estate car under attack from the SUV on all scores, the new 3-series will need to maintain huge volumes while maintaining profitability for the company. So, although BMW talks about ‘revised styling, superior driving dynamics, exceptional efficiency and innovative features,’ it’s conservatively-styled, with the cutting-edge technical innovations reserved for under the skin. The 2018 Paris motor show was been our first official sight of the car – and now impressions are still muted, if not solid.

New BMW 3-series: design and engineering 

As you’d expect, with the Bavarians are keen not to upset the design apple cart; it’s instantly identifiable as a 3-series, and although the styling needed to move on, as insiders have repeatedly admitted, it’s pretty much business as usual. 

What helps in this department is the highly flexible new architecture known as CLAR - short for Munich’s ‘Cluster Architecture,’ which now forms the backbone of all future rear-wheel drive BMWs. There have been some notable tweaks to the 3-Series’ dimensions – new car is 85mm longer (4709mm), 16mm wider (1827mm) and all-but identical in terms of height.

The most notable change is that the wheelbase has grown by 41mm (to 2851mm), which should benefit the rear legroom – traditionally a 3-series weakness. These tweaks don’t make a massive difference, but subtly sportify the car’s overall stance.

The new 3-series also gets a widened track front and rear track, while increased body torsional rigidity (up by 25%) and uprated suspension mountings are all bound to improve dynamics. Most importantly, the new 3-series is up to 55kg less than its predecessor. Aerodynamics are massively improved, too, with the drag coefficient falling from 0.26 to a Mercedes-Benz-rivalling 0.23. So, expect tighter handling, a higher maximum speed and more efficient motorway cruising. 

Don't miss our new BMW 3-series video too

Business as usual

Not necessarily. The tweaks include a larger, flatter BMW kidney grille, which is now framed by a single surround, which rather like the new BMW X5, is split by wide bars linking the headlights. There are more prominent feature lines in the front, which strengthen the car’s look.

There’s some clever aero going on up front that's worth talking about – both the front foglights, for instance, have air curtains, which should do a half decent job of keeping them clean in murky weather. BMW hasn’t hailed the return of the NACA duct (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) vociferously enough in our opinion. 

Needless to say, the 3-series retains the ‘Hofmeister kink’ in the rear windows, but the trailing edge of the side window is now integrated into the C-pillar, giving it a smoother, more flush-glazed, appearance.

New BMW 3-series: engines and transmissions

The G20 3-Series is all set to undercut the 100g/km CO2 emission mark by continuing introduction of the three-cylinder engine to the premium segment, as kicked off by the Mercedes-Benz C 200 h. While the new 316i will be powered by the 136bhp 1.5-litre unit we know from the 218i, the 316d shares its 122bhp diesel with the Mini Cooper D. 

One rung up, the modular 2.0-litre fours are going to account for the lion's share of future 3-series sales. These Efficient Dynamics-branded engines will form the cornerstone of the big-selling BMW 330i and the BMW 320d. A new six-speed manual gearbox will be introduced alongside the updated eight-speed Steptronic transmission. As an alternative to rear-wheel drive, the BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive system will also be available for the new BMW 320d at launch.

The TwinPower turbo now includes multi-stage turbocharging, which brings an improved power output of 187bhp and a peak torque of 400Nm for the diesel. Performance figures aren’t too shabby, with BMW claiming that the 320d will get from 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds. The BMW 320d cuts that down to 6.9 seconds. 

BMW says that the 3-Series’ average fuel consumption is as impressive as ever, claiming 64.2mpg for the 320d and 62.8mpg for the 320d xDrive. The 320d’s CO2 emissions are 115g/km while the 320d xDrive’s CO2 emissions are 118g/km. More details will be released nearer the launch date. 

New BMW 3-series: where's the Touring?

The new BMW 3-series Touring is nearly ready to be shown to the world. While the four-door saloon was revealed at the 2018 Paris motor show, the more practical estate car is still hiding its booty under a lightweight disguise.

Our spies noticed this transporter carrying a brace of 2019 3-series Tourings. The red car above is a pre-production model wearing only the lightest of camo around its more boxy rear end. It's plain to see there will be few surprises in store - it looks every inch a shrunken 5-er Touring to these eyes.

Our latest spy pictures follow earlier shots of disguised prototype wagons on public roads testing in Germany (below).

BMW 3-series Touring

It's very much a baby 5-series Touring, right down to the shape of the side glass and the separate, pop-up glass tailgate (letting owners drop small bags of shopping into the luggage compartment without having to lift the boot).

Expect all the latest in waggle-foot-under-bumper-to-open technology and we hear that modular boot/seat combinations are likely to figure too.

Where's the M3? Larger 3-series drivetrains coming soon

Performance masters at Munich aren't going to forego some fruitier 3-series versions. Our crystal ball gazers suggest the following powertrains are under consideration:

  • 3.0-litre sixes Gain approximately 30bhp in power and 30Nm in torque over the current vintage
  • 328i Rated at 260bhp
  • 330d and 340d Remain loyal to the classic straight six
  • M3 and M4 straight six, e-chargers and water injection for 500bhp
  • As far as electromobility goes, we should see at least two plug-in hybrids: a 1.5-litre version with a 60kW e-motor good for a 30-mile range, and a 2.0-litre model with a 90kW e-motor permitting a 50-mile radius.

New BMW 3-series: handling and driving

We’ve already driven the 3-Series in pre-production form, but won’t know how successful BMW has been in maintaining its position as dynamic class leader until we get to try it on UK roads alongside its key rivals.

Read our 3-series prototype review 

M Sport models won’t necessarily be hampered by over-firm suspension. BMW’s Adaptive M suspension, which means selectable damping rates – encompassing Comfort, Sport and Adaptive modes – will be available as an optional extra on the M Sport Plus models. These models also get larger, uprated brakes. 

The M Sport rear differential is available as an option for the BMW 330i and BMW 330d models in M Sport Plus form. Expect this electronically-controlled, fully variable locking diff to be a hit with lead-footed car journalists – but unlikely to be specified by too many fleet managers. Also new are the second-generation active steering and a new torque vectoring system which piggybacks ABS and DSC.

Unlike the Mercedes C-class rival and its latest 5-series big brother, G20 will not be offered with optional air suspension from launch. Also on the cards are adaptive elastokinematics including track and camber modulation, and xDrive AWD with faster torque distribution. The upcoming 420bhp M350i MPA (M Performance Automobiles) model will make best use of XDrive, while M3 and M4 may again stick with two-wheel drive. 

New BMW 3-series interior: improved tech and equipment

The new 3-Series closes the gap with the new class-leaders, the latest Mercedes-Benz C-class, with a new instrument cluster and Control Display. They are formed from a large surfaced screen grouping, which are complemented by additional controls that are arranged in logically-structured function panels.

Displays and buttons for the air conditioning are at the centre of the instrument panel while the light functions are operated via a panel of buttons next to the steering wheel.

The 3-Series range is much simpler than before, with even the entry level SE getting a heavily improved spec list. For your 3-Series gateway, you get included:

  • LED headlights with cornering
  • Ambient Lighting with up to 11 colour settings
  • Reversing camera, with latest-generation reversing assistant
  • Enhanced acoustic glazing
  • BMW Live Cockpit plus, with its 8.8-inch central instrument cluster.

In the Sport, you can add:

  • High-gloss Shadow Line trim
  • High-gloss Black interior trim
  • Sports seats
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • BMW Live Cockpit Professional with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.3-inch central instrument cluster and BMW’s ID7 operating system

We've also already seen new M-peformance parts revealed for the new 3-series, and we'll update this article with the new info shortly.

New BMW 3-series practicality – it’s improved

The cabin is bigger and offers increased comfort. Shoulder room in the front has been increased, and passengers in the rear benefit from more legroom. The distance between the front and rear seats has been extended by 11mm, and all occupants have more headroom.

Boot capacity is a decent 480-litres, which is up from 444. Optional electric boot opening and retractable towbar complete the picture of a car with which BMW’s targeting families.

A new smart key can tell if it’s in your pocket (so always transmitting) or put down (in standby mode). 

Speccing up the new 3-series

A multitude of accessories and specs such as a 3-series M Sport derivative will allow buyers to personalise their saloon; part of the range's appeal is the ability to endlessly tune it to allow for workplace car park posing and hierarchy, after all.

But to close the gap to the competition, BMW must invest in better materials, enhanced specification and higher-quality details such as carpets, rubber seals and sill covers. While G20 will again offer a choice of equipment packs, this time it is safe to expect more content as well as more variety and better value for money. 

Vernasca leather upholstery is new to the 3-Series in Sport and M Sport models, while a restyled leather sports steering wheel with multifunction buttonswill add showroom appeal. A larger electric glass sunroof is offered, too.

New BMW 3-series: M-Performance parts, already! 

The new BMW 3-series has been public for around a day now – but Munich has already rolled out a range of M-Performance parts to spice things up even more. BMW says ten parts are currently availible for the new 3-series, and all aim at increasing aerodynamics – as well as making the car a little more menacing; it helps that they’re all finished in high-closs black or carbon-fibre, of course.

There’s a front splitter and front splitter pro (we’re not sure of the difference either) and there’s a diffuser, rear spoilter and mirror caps on the list, too. BMW says those three things will improve the handling of the car at high-speed, and the mirrors will look, cool.

Alongside M-Performance stickers, you can also get grey-inted tail lights – which we rather like – and even a M-performance camera holder, for  recording your occasional track days. 

Wheel-wise, there's a 18- or 20-inch wheel option availible and a beefed up 18-inch braking setup, with red-painted calipers. 

More tech, easier to use

BMW’s simplified range means combined equipment packages. The Technology pack brings Head-Up Display, wireless charging and gesture control, while the Comfort package adds heated steering wheel, comfort access, automated boot, and storage compartment package. The Premium package adds electric seats with memory, lumbar support and the electric glass sunroof. 

All cars get speed limit information, lane departure warning and collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function along with cruise control with braking function. The Driving Assistant Professional pack adds Active Cruise Control with Stop and Go, steering and lane control assistant, lane-keeping assistant and wrong-way warning systems (really).

The most interesting addition is BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. The system, which rivals Mercedes’ MBUX for voice input is said to be an intelligent, digital character that responds to the prompt ‘Hey BMW’. It will learn favoured settings, and frequently-used navigation destinations, as well as being more human in its understanding of your commands. We’ll see how that works in time.

Finally, BMW Connected Package Plus brigs real-time traffic information to your navigation, additional concierge services and Apple CarPlay integration – the latter is standard across the range.

New BMW 3-series: how much will it cost? 

Full prices are yet to be finalised, but we do know that it goes on sale in the UK on 9 March 2019, priced from £33,610. Expect full UK pricing and spec details to be announced in late 2018 soon after its Paris debut.

First up is the new 3-series saloon, which goes on sale in March 2019, while the Touring estate and other bodystyles (including two-door 4-series coupe) won't be seen until later this decade.

And if you're interested in the high-performance BMW M3 derivative, codenamed G80 and on sale in 2020 – don't miss our separate detailed M3 scoop here. It's designed to bring the fight to the Mercedes-AMG C63 and Audi RS4.

By CAR's road test team

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