What is this?
Basically, the powertrain of the plug-in hybrid BMW 320e is identical to that of the 330e: both combine an electric motor of 83 kW/113 hp with the well-known 2 liter turbo petrol. Only that four-cylinder in the case of the 330e is the full 184 hp, while for the 320e it is only 163 hp. In addition, the interplay of the two engines was also electronically intervened, so that the cumulative power and torque in this BMW 320e is only 204 hp and 350 Nm, compared to 292 hp and 420 Nm for the 330e. The electric motor is powered by the same 12 kWh (gross) lithium-ion battery and the gearbox is the same eight-speed automatic.
The BMW 320e officially sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds – which is just under 2 seconds less than the 330e – and the stated top speed is 225 km/h. There’s also a Sport mode, which affects the power steering, throttle response and steering of the automatic transmission, but frankly we don’t see the importance of that. That dynamic setting drives the petrol engine into revs, a place where the four-cylinder engine only moves with audible reluctance. Moreover, that sporty calibration makes the BMW 320e hardly any faster.
Just like the 330e, you can order the BMW 320e as a saloon and as a Touring. As a four-door, it loses 105 liters of cargo volume compared to the 320i (from 480 to 375 liters), space occupied by the electrical peripherals of the plug-in hybrid powertrain. The battery pack also has a negative impact on the mass of this 3 Series, which weighs 1,961 kilograms. That makes the BMW 320e more than 250 kilograms heavier than a 320i. The estate version also loses trunk space: from 500 to 1,510 liters for the 3 Series Touring to 410 and 1,420 liters for the BMW 320th Touring.
What is changing?
Well, a PHEV like the BMW 320e serves other interests. The main reason for existence of these types of models is the tax legislation and the 100% deductibility for professionals. The standard consumption of 1.5 liters per 100 kilometers is therefore of secondary importance to the very theoretical CO2 emissions of 34 grams per kilometer. During our test week, we noted an average consumption of 4.7 liters and on top of that 7.8 kWh of electricity per 100 kilometres, whereby we charged the battery whenever possible.
With an empty battery, the consumption easily increases to 8 to 9 l/100 km. And while BMW specifies an electric driving range of 48 to 57 kilometers (also according to WLTP), with us it was rather 30 to 35 kilometers. As always, the relevance of this PHEV will mainly depend on the frequency with which you charge. The power of the internal charger in this 320e is limited to 3.7 kW, but due to the fairly modest capacity of the battery, charging times are limited.
The BMW 320e remains a 3 Series, with a talented chassis that reconciles the necessary comfort with driving dynamics sharpness. But in comparison with a 320i, you will still be hungry, because the higher weight and the unenthusiastic drive unit destroy the driving pleasure on which the Bavarian manufacturer once seemed to have a patent. This is a model version that relies on its strong image and its fiscally interesting concept.
The BMW 320e costs 3,000 euros less than the 330e, but remains an expensive boy. This plug version costs at least 49,405 euros, for the Touring you already lay 53,350 euros. And then we are talking about bare basic versions, with some nice options, the purchase price quickly increases. That is a lot more than what Munich asks for the 258 hp strong 330i, which performs a lot better and drives significantly better. A 320i or a 320d cost 10,000 euros less, as a private individual you never earn back the additional cost of a BMW 320e. While you have to make a lot of sacrifices, because in addition to the reduced driving pleasure, you also have to sacrifice trunk volume.