2021 BMW 3 Series Plug-in Hybrid Preview

Jack R. Nerad | Mar 26, 2020
  • Plug-in hybrid powertrain that offers about 20 miles of pure electric driving
  • Available in rear-drive (330e) and all-wheel-drive (330e xDrive) configurations
  • Standard 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine plus an electric motor
  • 288 total system horsepower
  • XtraBoost acceleration mode that adds 40 horsepower for up to 10 seconds
  • Back-up Assistant helps the driver exit tight parking spots
  • On sale in May 2020


BMW is adding two plug-in hybrids to the 2021 3 Series model line, the 330e and 330e xDrive sedans. The automaker promises that the two iterations — one rear-drive and the other all-wheel-drive — will continue to exemplify BMW's performance promise. At the same time, the new 2021 BMW 3 Series plug-in hybrid models will deliver lowered emissions and provide about 20 miles-per-charge of pure electric driving.

For the past four decades, the BMW 3 Series has carried the brand's "Ultimate Driving Machine" advertising tagline to new heights of technology. Now the pair of plug-ins is set to take the model to new levels of technology as well. The 330e and 330e xDrive sedans will offer BMW's latest eDrive technology, some leading-edge driver assistance features that border on autonomous driving, and advanced safety and infotainment systems.

2021 BMW 3 Series Plug-in Hybrid

The rear-drive BMW 330e is the less expensive of the two plug-in hybrids, at $44,550, while the 330e xDrive will command about a $2,000 premium largely to pay for the all-wheel-drive system. Both should go on sale in the U.S. in May.

Exterior Features

The main difference between the new 2021 BMW 330e and 330e xDrive compared to the current edition of the 3 Series is a charging port on the front left fender. Otherwise, the new 3 Series plug-in hybrid employs the same modern design found on its siblings, from the twin-kidney grille to the dramatic trapezoidal taillights wrapping around the body sides.

New 18-inch alloy wheels are standard with 19-inch alloys optional. Both new wheel choices are attractively subdued and give no hint that the sedans are electrified, something other brands try to telegraph with exaggerated "aero" wheels.

Interior Features

Dynamic and purposeful, the 330e’s interior incorporates conventional elements like the console-mounted stick-type gear selector and more modern touches like the stylized design of the tachometer and speedometer. Above the twin-outlet vents that echo the trademark kidney grille, a wide touchscreen infotainment display is easily accessible, but it doesn't go to the extreme width found in some other recent luxury sedans.

The power-operated front sport seats are dramatically shaped but in standard trim they aren't heated. That's an optional extra. The rear bench seat is segmented in a 40/20/40 manner that increases the car’s utility.

Featuring a thick-section rim, the classically styled three-spoke steering wheel is studded with various controls. A heated version of the wheel is a standalone option. Standard interior trim is gray-brown-finished ash wood, but brushed aluminum and soft surfaces predominate. Other interior finishes and trims are optionally available.

Optional Features

Helpful for ordering's sake, the BMW 330e and 330e xDrive feature a number of optional packages that typically contain both comfort-and-convenience and safety-and-driver assistance features. For instance, the Convenience Package includes keyless entry and lumbar support, plus parking assistance sensors, LED headlights with cornering lights, Active Driving Assistant or Driving Assistance Professional advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), and active blind-spot warning and assistance.

The Premium Package features a heated steering wheel, keyless entry, lumbar support, heated front seats or heated front and rear seats, Park Distance Control, LED headlights with cornering lights, Active Driving Assistant or Driving Assistance Professional, a head-up display, and active blind-spot warning and assistance. The Executive Package offers virtually all of the Premium Package's features plus adaptive LED headlights, and gesture control for the infotainment system.

Those who seek a plug-in hybrid sport sedan will find it with the M Sport Package. It includes 19-inch wheels with all-season run-flat or performance run-flat tires, a simulated leather dashboard covering, aluminum or wood interior trim, LED fog lights, a steering wheel with an M logo, an exterior aerodynamic kit, and Shadowline dark exterior trim. Other specialty option packages are the Dynamic Handling Package, Driving Assistance Package, and Driving Assistant Package Professional Package. The last of these includes Extended Traffic Jam Assistant for semi-autonomous driving on limited-access highways and an active cruise control system with stop and go capability.

Among the stand-alone options are a heated steering wheel, variable sport steering, ambient lighting, a Harman Kardon surround sound system, and wireless device charging.

Under the Hood

As you might expect, the 2021 BMW 330e and 330e xDrive sedans share the same powertrain. It’s comprised of a turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine supplemented by an electric motor that draws its power from a high-voltage battery pack.

The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 181 horsepower from 3,800 rpm to 6,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque between 1,450 rpm and 3,600 rpm. The electric motor produces 107 horsepower at 3,170 rpm and 77 lb-ft of torque from 0 rpm to 3,140 rpm. The powertrain's combined power output is a hearty 288 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque with XtraBoost.

What is BMW XtraBoost? In the new 2021 BMW 3 Series plug-in hybrid, it's essentially the fun button. When you aggressively depress the accelerator pedal, it conjures up 40 bonus horsepower for up to 10 exhilarating seconds.

Both of BMW’s new plug-in hybrid sedans are equipped with an 8-speed Sport Steptronic transmission, which is one more aspect of the twins that exemplifies performance thinking. We've heard a great deal about "intelligent" automatics, but this one really walks the talk. It can adapt its shift strategy according to the route and driving situation. It uses data from the navigation system and from the optional active cruise control's radar sensor to anticipate upcoming road conditions. This makes it possible for the transmission to avoid unnecessary gear changes and to shift to a lower gear early in order to use engine braking to scrub off speed.

A high-voltage 34 Ah/12 kWh lithium-ion battery module located underneath the rear seats provides energy storage for the electric motor. It does take up some trunk space, dropping cargo volume to 13.2 cu.-ft. from 17 cu.-ft.

Electric driving range estimates for the BMW 3 Series plug-in hybrid measure an EPA-estimated 22 miles for the BMW 330e sedan, and 20 miles for the 330e xDrive. The estimated MPGe rating for the 330e sedan is 75. It's 67 for the 330e xDrive.


The new 3 Series plug-in hybrid models offer numerous safety technologies. Among the systems that deliver peace of mind are the Active Driving Assistant, which equips the car with forward collision warning with low-speed automatic emergency braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection, and lane departure warning. Active Driving Assistant Pro enhances the 3 Series with evasive steering assistance, emergency stopping assistance, lane keeping assistance, and traffic jam assistance.

The optional Driving Assistance Package includes an active blind-spot warning system that operates in a broad range from 12 mph to the car's top speed. If necessary it will help the driver guide the car back onto the correct path with steering input. This upgrade also includes rear cross-traffic warning with rear automatic braking.

One of the 330e's most useful safety and convenience options is the Driving Assistance Professional Package. It includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go capability as well as a more comprehensive traffic jam assistance system for use on limited-access highways at speeds up to 40 mph. Up to that speed, the technology offers semi-autonomous steering assist to make commuting in traffic easier.

The adaptive cruise control system makes life easier on crowded freeways or long-distance journeys, automatically accelerating and decelerating to maintain the speed set by the driver or imported directly from the optional traffic sign recognition system. Operational from 0-100 mph, the system will resume acceleration without driver input if the pause is less than 30 seconds. In order to determine the ideal moment to pull away, the system's sensors now register not only the vehicle immediately ahead, but also the one two vehicles front.


Both BMW 330e and 330e xDrive are equipped with a full complement of the expected infotainment features. The widescreen display features standard navigation, ConnectedDrive services, and a backup camera. Hands-free Bluetooth and USB audio connections are standard, as is a one-year all-access subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio. The system is Apple CarPlay compatible as well.

The two cars also feature a robust array of standard and optional parking aids. The standard Park Distance Control utilizes front and rear sensors to trigger visual and acoustic signals to alert the driver to obstacles located to the side or rear of the vehicle. The optional active parking assistance system selects an appropriate parallel or perpendicular space and then maneuvers the car into it. Unlike previous systems that required the driver to accelerate and brake, the new technology steers, accelerates, brakes, and shifts gears. What it won't do is go into Starbucks to get your coffee.

The innovative Back-Up Assistant helps the driver exit parking spots when space is limited. To do this, the system stores the steering movements the car took in order to get into a space, and then automatically reverses the car on the identical path for distances of up to 50 yards. All the driver has to do is operate the accelerator and brake pedals and pay some attention.

BMW is the source of the information in this article. It was accurate as of March 26, 2020, but specifications may have changed since that date.

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