BMW 330e M Sport

MANY executive car buyers could be forgiven for thinking that hybrids and electric cars detract from what they expect from a sports saloon

You know, a trade off between performance and economy and emissions, with compromised handling.

Well hybrids are now more than proving their worth, particularly the plug-in variety which offer excellent economy and reduced business costs, but with fewer compromises on performance

Take the BMW 330e, a plug in hybrid that without the extra flap for the charging point, could easily be taken for a conventional 3-series.

It retains the the familiar look of the 3 series which has only been tweaked over the last few years because of its runaway success.

The sleek, low profile with muscular arches and the trademark kidney grille make this sports saloon instantly recognisable.

But for those looking to reduce their running costs, this hybrid offers pace, power and economy through a lightweight design, aerodynamic styling and BMW EfficientDynamics technology.

The 182bhp petrol engine is mated with an 88bhp electric motor and and eight speed automatic gearbox. Combined this produces 249bhp and rapid performance.

Electric power comes from a 7.6kWh lithium battery which is recharged using either brake energy recuperation during a journey or when plugged into a domestic power socket, dedicated external charging points or optional BMW i Wallbox.

It is a stylish car and the inside is equally impressive with the famed executive finish of leather trim soft touch trim to dash and door all offset with aluminium inserts and ambient lighting to give a real executive feeling.

Some of the controls differ slightly from its siblings. The fact that electric power is on tap is always apparent through the various displays which can be selected show how economically you are driving.

There are three drive settings - auto drive selects the best combination of petrol and electric, max drive allows for driving at 78mph on electric only and save battery, where the car is powered by the engine alone to retain battery power for urban electric driving.

In addition there is the familiar sport, comfort and eco pro settings which allow the driver to decide if they want economy, an engaging drive, or letting the car decide.

Otherwise the central screen and familiar i-Drive system are the brains of the car. This controls major functions, like phone, wi-fi, and app connectivity together sat nav, and the tailored BMW Online Services.

This allows the driver to purchase additional ConnectedDrive Service subscriptions such as Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI) and online entertainment via the on-board ConnectedDrive store.

Standard specification is extensive and includes sports multi-functional leather steering wheel with gearshift paddles, front and rear parking aides, LED daytime running lights, LED rear lights. and sat nav.

On the road, BMW says the car can travel 25 miles on battery charge alone, which means if you work around 10 miles away, theoretically you can run on electric power only.

However, the charge got gobbled up pretty rapidly with around 18 miles the best I could manage. The claimed combined fuel consumption of 148.7mpg in certain conditions and CO2 emissions of 44g/km which means a nine per charge for benefit in kind taxation.

In reality, economy feels more like a conventional diesel.

The integration of the battery in the compartment under the boot gives a level load compartment floor in the boot, giving a capacity of 370 litres.

On the road, the car delivers in typical BMW fashion. The ride soaks up the worst of our potholed roads with instant response from the weighted steering, which means it feels taut and agile when cornering hard, the only downside was having to really stand on the brakes when braking sharply.

It is quite happy to potter about town on electrical power, but the combination of petrol engine and electric motor delivers rapid acceleration, powering the car to 60mph in just over six seconds.

FAST FACTS

BMW 330e M Sport

Price: £37,040

Mechanical: 184bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine plus 88bhp electric motor driving rear wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 140mph

0-62mph: 6.1 seconds

Combined MPG: 148.7

Insurance Group: 31

C02 emissions: 49g/km

Bik rating: 9%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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