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2021 BMW 3 Series plug-in hybrid dials up performance, doubles down on efficiency

The plug-in hybrid models make more power than the standard 3 Series, and return stellar fuel economy in the process.

2020 BMW 330e Sedan
Plugged in for (a bit more) performance.

Electrification, meet the latest BMW 3 Series. On Thursday, BMW revealed the 2021 330e and 330e xDrive plug-in hybrid models, and for those looking for the best of both words, they look like a stellar combination.

The powertrain combines BMW's 2.0-liter turbo-four engine, already found in the 3 Series, with an electric motor. Powering the e-motor is a 12 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack stored under the passenger seat. In total, there's 288 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque available between the two power sources. 107 hp and 77 lb-ft of torque come from the e-motor alone, and all the power routes through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Those are peak figures, however, because BMW bundled what it calls "XtraBoost" into the 330e and 330e xDrive. When drivers flip the car into Sport mode, they'll have access to 40 hp extra for up to 10 seconds. It lets the 330e sprint from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds, while the all-wheel-drive xDrive model takes 5.7 seconds. All the while, the electrified sedans should return 75 and 67 miles per gallon equivalent combined, respectively.

For those who want to silently motor along, the plug-in hybrid powertrain will provide 22 miles of purely electric driving for the 330e, while the 330e xDrive should go 20 miles on electricity alone. These are BMW estimates, so we'll need to wait for the EPA to weigh in for official ratings. Roadshow actually already drove the car in European spec and found it was without any major compromise.

Overall, BMW promises these new plug-in hybrid models will drive like proper sports sedans since the benefit from all the chassis and suspension love the standard car received. That includes a lower center of gravity, increased camber for the front wheels and a stiffer body structure and suspension mountings.

The least expensive way park a plug-in hybrid 3 Series in the garage is $45,545 after a $995 destination charge. Buyers will find the standard equipment roster includes a load of active safety gear, 18-inch wheels, leather surfaces and powered front seats. There's an absolute bevy of optional packages and equipment, including heated seats, an M Sport package and more convenience features. The latter provides smart keyless entry, cornering headlights and other nifty features. Opting for the xDrive model pushes the starting price to $47,545 before other options.

BMW plans to ship the first cars out to dealers this May, though as has been the case recently, it might be a moving target amid the coronavirus outbreak. Nevertheless, look for the plug-in 3 Series soon.

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