Used 2016 BMW 3 Series eDrive Review

Edmunds expert review

Buyers looking for a plug-in hybrid luxury sport sedan have a new option: the 2016 BMW 3 Series 330e iPerformance. Unfortunately, it gives up quite a bit in terms of acceleration and steering feel without showing any really impressive gains in fuel economy.




What's new for 2016

The 2016 BMW 330e iPerformance plug-in hybrid sedan is new to the 3 Series lineup, replacing the previous ActiveHybrid 3.

Vehicle overview

The 2016 BMW 330e iPerformance promises hybrid efficiency without sacrificing the impressive driving dynamics and comfortable, quality interior of a gas-powered 3 Series sedan. Undoubtedly, the 330e is an impressive piece of engineering. But lackluster electric range and mileage gains, coupled with the added cost and weight of the hybrid system, leave that promise largely unfulfilled.

BMW has managed to make the battery compact enough to avoid one of the major pitfalls suffered by other hybrid variants on standard sedans: loss of trunk space. The downside is that the battery offers only 14 miles of electric range. Beyond this, electrification has only improved the 330e's fuel economy a meager 3 mpg combined over its gas-powered counterpart, the 330i. The 330e also loses some acceleration, handling and steering feel. While pursuing efficiency is praiseworthy, and some extreme examples have proven that hybrid systems can improve performance, the 330e falls short on both.




Trim levels & features

There's only one trim level for the 2016 330e iPerformance, but BMW offers plenty of packages and stand-alone options to customize the car.

Standard features on the 330e include 17-inch wheels, remote locking and unlocking with push-button start, automatic wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, premium vinyl upholstery, driver-seat memory settings, BMW Assist emergency telematics, and BMW's iDrive infotainment interface with a 6.5-inch display, a nine-speaker sound system and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Premium package adds keyless entry, a sunroof, four-way power lumbar adjustment for the front seats, LED headlights and satellite radio. The Lighting package is a Premium package add-on that includes automatic high-beam control and adaptive steering synchronization for the LED headlights.

The Driver Assistance package adds a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors. This package is a prerequisite if you want Driver Assistance Plus, a suite of safety features including blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, and additional side- and top-view cameras.

Going with the Technology package will get you a navigation system, a bigger 8.8-inch display screen and a head-up display. Navigation is available as a stand-alone option for buyers who don't want the head-up display.

For those who have to cope with inclement weather, the Cold Weather package adds a heated steering wheel and heated front seats and rear seats. You can also just buy the heated front seats on their own if that's all you need.

And, of course, there's the M Sport package, which adds fatter 18-inch wheels and performance tires, a stiffer and lower sport suspension, dynamically adjustable dampers, a sport steering wheel, and a range of M Sport trim pieces. The wheels and tires are available as a stand-alone option without the suspension and trim upgrades.

A number of other stand-alone options are available, but the most notable is the Harman Kardon stereo upgrade.



Performance & mpg

The 330e comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission and a battery-electric drivetrain. The powertrain drives the rear wheels with a total of 248 horsepower, which is the same as the 330i. The added weight (some 350 pounds) and other drivetrain quirks unique to the hybrid system, however, mean the 330e makes the run from zero to 60 mph more than a full second slower than the gasoline-only model. In our testing, the 330e zipped from zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, which is very good for a hybrid but below average for a luxury sport sedan.

Maximum electric range for the 330e is a mere 14 miles, and the EPA estimate for non-electric mileage is only 30 mpg combined. That's not much of a gain over the gas-powered 330i's 27 mpg combined, especially considering the price premium and the performance sacrifices.

Safety

Every 2016 BMW 3 Series comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags.

BMW's stability control system works to improve braking performance by automatically wiping the brake rotors dry when the windshield wipers are in use, and moving the brake pads into position on the rotors when the driver abruptly lifts off the gas. BMW Assist emergency communications is standard and includes automatic crash notification, stolen-vehicle recovery and on-demand roadside assistance.

Options include parking sensors (front and rear), a rearview camera, surround- and side-view cameras, blind-spot monitoring, a lane departure warning system, frontal collision warning and frontal collision mitigation with automatic braking (includes pedestrian detection).

In Edmunds emergency brake testing, the BMW 330e iPerformance stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet. That's a decent distance, but slightly worse than average for the class.

Although there are no specific crash tests for the 330e, the regular 3 Series sedan has received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal protection and five for total side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the sedan the highest possible rating of Good in the moderate-overlap front-impact crash test but a second-worst Marginal in the small-overlap front-impact test. In the remaining tests, the 3 Series received a Good rating in the side-impact, roof strength, and seat and head restraint tests.

Driving

For a hybrid, the 2016 BMW 330e is balanced and agile, and the brakes feel secure. But the 330e lacks the well-defined sense of straight-ahead and communicative feel of the traditional 3 Series. It feels more like an arcade game than a BMW, with little road feel when cruising or effort buildup in corners to let the driver know which way the tires are pointed.

The plug-in hybrid powertrain has plenty of oomph for daily driving, but don't expect a tingle up your spine when you mash the throttle in electric mode. There's much more on tap when the gasoline engine is at work. Around town, the 330e provides a smooth ride that irons out bumps without making the car feel overly disconnected from the road. It's also impressively quiet.

Interior

The 330e shares its interior with the rest of the 3 Series, so there aren't any surprises here. Like the cockpit of any other 3 Series, the 330e's boasts an interesting and complementary mix of rich-looking materials. The 330e adds some exclusive aluminum trim that is particularly handsome. Fit and finish is excellent, and our test car exhibited no unpleasant squeaks or rattles.

The familiar analog gauges provide a historical link with BMWs of previous decades, and materials quality remains exceptional throughout. While the standard 6.5-inch iDrive infotainment system is adequate, you'll want to get the available 8.8-inch screen for a true luxury electronics interface. Overall, iDrive is pretty easy to use, thanks to straightforward menus, crisp graphics and quick processing times. But compared to some rival systems, it typically requires a few more twirls and clicks to get what you want.

If rear seat accommodations are a priority, you won't find a more spacious backseat in this class. Rear legroom is particularly generous. The 330e also has a remarkably large trunk for a plug-in hybrid. The battery is under the floor of the trunk, but that floor is only a couple of inches higher than a regular 3 Series' and the folding rear seatbacks still function. The low liftover height and wide opening make for easy loading.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.