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Drive Review: BMW 330e (2018) is the new normal

I absolutely hate DVDs. The flimsy plastic, scratch-attracting storage commodities always were a bad idea – but the entire world embraced DVD. An entire wave of commerce infiltrated our lives with new laptops, TVs and DVD players. It wasn’t too long ago, in fact.

Just last month I threw away our last DVD player and had to explain to my six-year old what the word ‘obsolete’ means. I thought it would be a long and painful discussion about how that Frozen DVD in the cupboard was obsolete too but she didn’t give it so much as another thought. She accepts that streaming is the way we do things now.

It was a similar reaction when a BMW 330e pulled into the driveway and was plugged in to charge overnight. “How come this car has a charger, Dad?” I explained that this car has a battery and an engine and that we had to charge the battery so we could drive on electricity, which was silent and cheaper and, ostensibly, better for the environment. “So it’s like you have to charge your phone, right?”  “Exactly,” I mused. The plug-in lifestyle has become a new kind of normal. It is to my six-year old anyhow.

And so for the next four days, the BMW 330e was employed for school-run and office duty. The eighteen kilometre return commute was driven in absolute silence and comfort. We didn’t use a drop of fuel for the entire week.

The BMW 330e is a complex piece of engineering. In addition to the experiential driving modes such as ECO PRO and SPORT, the PHEV also employs three further hybrid modes that vary the use of both the electric motor and petrol engine combination: AUTO eDrive, MAX eDrive and SAVE BATTERY each have performance or efficiency benefits and one might think the whole arrangement is just too complicated. But it isn’t – what won me over was how simple the hybrid concept has been made. A few clicks on the controller or at the push of a button, the car instantaneously and without so much as a whisper flicks between modes. It’s as 3 Series as any 3 Series and that makes it a very good car. For a family like mine, where an entire week can be spent in Max eDrive, it makes a lot of sense.

But what you gain in fuel saving, you lose dismally at the point of signing that Offer to Purchase. At this price, the car carries more than a R150 000 premium over a BMW 320d – which if you plan on travelling longer distances is the more frugal option. But diesels are like DVDs – they’re old school, the result of technological innovations from decades ago and painfully unpopular in Europe and the USA.

Between the two, I’d opt for the hybrid’s charms, intellect and future vision. There’s a premium for this kind of technology much like there was a premium for Smart TVs and streaming services. But in due time, plug-ins will join that ever-increasing list of devices attached to our names and diesels will quite possibly suffer the same plight as DVD players.

SPECIFICATION

  • R789 000
  • 1998cc 4-cyl, turbo petrol hybrid, RWD, 185kW, 420Nm (Combined)
  • 1.9l/100km, 44g/km
  • 0-100km/h 6.1secs, 225km/h
  • 1769kg
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