There are best sellers, and there are true best sellers. And for BMW, you have to count the 3-series as a long time favorite. BMW made their reputation in the States on small sporting sedans, and today the 3 sedan is the rightful heir to the crown.
Which is not to say there’s no competition for the throne – everyone from Audi and Mercedes to Lexus and Genesis are gunning for that spot. So, is the 2023 BMW 330e still top of the pops? Let’s take a look.
Still a Looker
On the outside, the 2023 model gets a fresh new look. But first of all, let’s just say we’re thankful that the 3 hasn’t gotten the huge grille that so many of the new models like the 4-series are getting.
Up front along with the reasonably-sized grille, the full LED headlights are now slimmed down, with a cool signature L-shaped daytime driving lights that add some real presence, while a new double-bar grille gives a little added bling. Things are made more exciting with our tester’s M Sport package, which puts some chrome on the grille, and adds deep hexagonal contours and a honeycomb pattern on the lower intake – it all adds up to a predatory look that’s unique and stunning.
The profile is pure BMW sport sedan, with nice bulgy fenders, a deep contour line across the bottom of the doors, and short overhangs front and rear – there’s not an ounce of flab here. Bringing that home, the M Sport models ride on gorgeous 19-inch alloy wheels, all with a refreshing bright finish. Frankly, we were getting a little bored with all the vehicles with blacked-out rims.
The rear continues the crisp, tight lines, with slender horizontal LED taillights, and nice cut-in on the trunk lid. Here the M Sport package again pays handsome dividends, with dual vertical reflectors at the corners that give added visual width, while a unique rear apron with a blacked-out lower fascia and two nice, fat exhaust pipes poking out underneath make this clearly a driver’s car.
The perfect finishing touch was our tester’s Brooklyn Grey metallic – a soft pastel–cement blend that’s eye-catching and upscale. We got loads of thumbs ups and double takes on our sport sedan.
Welcome to the Digital Age
Inside, the 2023 gets a major upgrade with the new BMW Curved Display, a combination of a 12.3-inch screen that handles the gauges, plus a 14.9-inch color touch screen for info-tainment. But unlike some vehicles like the Lexus RX500 we tested, on the 330e the screens perfectly merge together to create one gorgeous, seamless wide screen experience.
Being an M Sport gives you a special set of gauges and depending on the driving mode, you’ll get either a tachometer or power display that’s more appropriate for Hybrid or EV driving modes. We will say that counter-clockwise tach motion still feels counter-intuitive – but maybe we’re just old school.
We’re not old-school when it comes to the infotainment system, and we love the vertical “tiles” that you can call up for things like entertainment, navigation and other settings. We also like the always-on Climate Controls display that means you don’t have to go hunting to cool things down or warm things up. Nice. Another nice thing – BMW gives you the basic audio features like a volume knob and a rotary knob on the center console that makes scrolling through screens super easy and intuitive. YAY!
There’s also a richness to the interior materials, and with M Sport you’ll be trading woodsy traditional stuff for the new Aluminum Rhombical Anthracite and a fat, grippy M leather steering wheel.
While we love that wheel, we’re so-so on the new toggle lever control for the transmission. You do get used to it, and you can do a fingertip-quick nudge to get Sport mode, but for any other kind of shifting fun, you’ll be using the paddle-mounted shifters. Some drivers (us included) still like using a shift lever. It’s a personal thing, to be sure.
You’ll also find the front sport seats are super supportive, and power lumbar and heated front seats mean they’re an easy place to spend time. The rear seats are comfortable for adults, but like most cars in this class, best for shorter trips or shorter friends. You probably don’t buy a sedan for cargo carrying ability, but we found the trunk to be spacious – opting for the e does lose a couple cubic feet due to packaging – but with flat-folding rear seats, you can still bring along a surprising amount of gear.
You’ll Get a Boost Out of Driving It
It’s still the Ultimate Driving Machine, right? You bet! Under the hood is BWM’s 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder, packing 181 horse and 221 lb.-ft of torque. Add in the e to the 330 and you get an electric motor that churns out 111 horsepower and 196 lb. ft.
Combined, this gives you an exemplary 288 hp and 310 lb. -ft of torque. Those are strong numbers, and for added giggles, BMW kicks in a little bonus with Xtraboost that can give you 40 additional horsepower for up to 10 seconds in Sport mode – pretty cool.
It all adds up to strong acceleration off the line, thanks in part to the excellent 8-speed automatic and stellar passing. We enjoyed the rapid downshifts from the paddle shifters adding to the fun. In some ways, this impressive go power may challenge the M340i we tested, except nothing sounds as sweet as a BMW 6. Even with some extra sound that’s pumped into the cabin in Sport mode, the 330e’s 4-cylinder feels more refined than raucous – maybe a little too hushed for its own good.
While it may not have the 6-cylinder’s singing voice, the EV powertrain does give you some cool party tricks, including up to 22 miles range in pure EV mode, and the ability to run up to 87 mph without using the gas engine.
Our tester was beautifully outfitted for hitting the twisties, with the 330e’s standard Adaptive M Suspension, and optional M Sport Package (including 19-inch wheels), and Dynamic Handling Package (variable sport suspension, M Sport Brakes). They combine to give excellent feel through the steering, a supple ride in Comfort mode that makes for an excellent commute and loads of communication and quick response in Sport mode. You live for those on ramps!
The only downside on our tester was a bit of jerkiness in the braking system as we came to a full stop – noticeable mostly in Sport mode, we haven’t noticed this in other applications of BMW’s hybrid system, so we’ll chalk it up to a tester that may have had a tough life.
How much for a Bavarian Thrill Ride?
A nice surprise, we found the 330e to be an affordable sport sedan. Your most basic 330i sedan start at $43,800 and the 330e comes in about $1,000 more. You’re not paying much for that hybrid tech – and it could pay itself off very quickly, especially if your commute is short, and you have access to inexpensive charging.
Our tester was tastefully optioned out, with Brooklyn Grey paint ($650), Driving Assistance package ($700), Dynamic Handling ($1,400), Driving Assistance Pro Package ($1,700), M Sport Package ($2,550), Premium Package ($1,350), Harmon Kardon Surround Sound ($875) and Destination ($995) ringing the bell at $53,440.
Competition would include the Volvo S60 Recharge at $57,995, We tricked out an Audi A4 – no it’s not a hybrid – and it came in at $54,290, so we’re seeing very little penalty in getting the e model of the 330, and you may qualify for tax credits and carpool stickers as well! See your dealer on that stuff – the new laws have us scratching our heads.
A great drive, a nice upgrade in tech, and even strong value, the 2023 BMW 330e remains the king of sport sedans!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.