Saturday, September 1, 2018

Devon test drives the Activehybird3 replacement (Updated)

BMW wanted to prove a point when they created the Activehybrid3. They wanted to create the sportiest hybrid you can buy. But it didn't really live up to the hype that BMW hoped it would, so the 330e iPerformance is here to fix that. It's a plug-in hybrid, but does this mean that it loses BMW Core Values?

Performance: The 330e iPerformance comes with a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder instead of the 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder from the previous Activehybrid3. It also pumps out even less horsepower at 248hp and 310lb-ft torque. Flexibility is actually not as bad as you would think since there is diesel like torque at low revs. We really do however miss the powerband that the old Activehybrid3 had. It felt more special than this and wasn't so focused on running costs with the electric only mode and plug-in feature. We understand hybrids and electric cars are the future but the Activehybrid3 was special in its own right and this just doesn't feel that special.

On the road: The 330e we had as a tester car only came with the adaptive M sport suspension which really does improve handling and steering feel. Even with the combined M-sport package with larger alloys we still found the ride comfortable and much more refined than the C-class with AMG package. In the cabin road and wind noise are all well suppressed with a premium feel.

Behind the wheel: There’s plenty of space for the driver and front passenger to get comfortable. Passengers in the rear seat will also find comfort as well. The infotainment system and iDrive are a paradigm of clarity. Everything is easy to use thanks to the redesign of the iDrive system and of course BMW’s minimalistic approach to dashboard layout. The boot is of decent size too even though it is smaller than the standard 3-series.

Equipment: The 330e iPerformance comes standard with LED fog-lights, power-folding/heated exterior mirrors and HiFi 7-speaker sound system. You'll have to pay extra for LED headlights, leather seats and rear-view parking camera. There are cheaper hybrids out there that offer more value for the money, which is one of the many reasons we loved the Activehybrid3, it really didn't have any competition. Even if it was completely and utterly pointless as a hybrid.

Buying & owning: The only reason we really see the 330e making sense is if you are looking for green cred or if you really want a 340 but can’t afford the running costs. It may not have the blistering performance of  the 340 but it is much cheaper to buy and run. Resale value however will be outstanding thanks to the badge.

Quality & Safety: The 330e interior feels classy and well put together. Many of the materials used feel sturdy and long lasting. BMW reliability record has been good but we do however question the long term reliability of the complex hybrid system. When it comes to safety the 330e comes with everything you’d expect a BMW to come with in terms of safety. But for those who may not know, stability control is standard as well as a host of braking technology to help you avoid a collision.

The 330e is one of those cars that only make sense if you are looking for green cred or trying to find a way to reduce your fuel bills without giving up the performance that you crave. It’s a great car to drive but you’ll have to add on the options to make it drive better. Plus it’s close to the entry-level 5-series sedan. If you really want a performance hybrid this is your only option otherwise we highly suggest looking at the 328d or 320i which are both cheaper and just as fuel efficient.

Likes: The most potent hybrid we have ever driven. With the right options it will drive like a dream.

Dislikes: The Activehybrid3 was more charming. The electric-only range is nothing to brag about and neither is the fact that it's sparsely equipped with a price tag near $50k. The 320i and 328d trims still make more sense if you are looking at running costs.

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