2017 BMW 330e iPerformance electrifies Germany's famed sport sedan

BMW's segment-defining 3 Series gets a plug-in model with 14 miles of electric range for $44,695.

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With their engineers still walking around with shoulders slumped and dark sunglasses on following the Volkswagen emissions scandal, German automakers are more eager than ever to find alternative powertrain solutions to help them boost their Corporate Average Fuel Economy scores.

In truth, BMW's new 330e iPerformance was in development long before VW's diesel deceptions came to light, but it nonetheless could be a good time for the plug-in hybrid to surface at dealers. The model could even give BMW an extended-range hedge against Tesla's all-electric Model 3, which is expected to arrive with a lower starting price but escalate quickly with options and longer-range batteries.

The new 3 Series sedan variant supplements the 180-horsepower, 215 pound-feet of torque, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder found in the 320i with an 87-hp electric motor that also brings 184 pound-feet to the party. Total system output of 247 horsepower and 310 pound-feet is funneled to the rear wheels through a standard eight-speed automatic. The new model will grace dealer forecourts this spring wearing a $44,695 price tag, and it will be capable of around 14 miles of electric-only motoring at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour.

BMW says the 330e iPerformance's 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack can be charged in roughly 30 minutes with the company's 240-volt Level II Wallbox (a standard 120-volt outlet will take a 6-7 hours), but depleting the battery is likely to be much more entertaining than filling it: 0-60 mph is reached in a respectable 5.9 seconds and top speed is pegged at 140 mph.

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The 330e iPerformance has 14 miles of pure electric range.

BMW

As you'd expect of a modern BMW, there's a range of available drive modes, including three eDrive-specific programs: Auto eDrive (optimized gas and electric power, 50 mph max EV-only speed), Max eDrive (EV only) and Save Battery (which preserves a 50 percent or fuller battery, or uses the gas engine to recharge the battery to that level). As is with most other BMWs, there are also additional dynamic drive modes available, including Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus.

The new 330e iPerformance shows that BMW isn't shying away from trickling down technologies from its avant-garde i3 and i8 into more mainstream machinery, even in North America, where sales of electrified vehicles have been particularly slow of late.

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