A few weeks ago, BMWBlog ran a brief story covering the EPA’s fuel economy numbers for the 2021 BMW 330e. The report, which uses figures from FuelEconomy.gov, states that the 2021 BMW 330e, which now uses the G20 3 Series platform as its basis, actually achieves worse overall fuel economy than its predecessor, the previous 330e which was based on the F30 3 Series. The observation piqued our interest, so we decided to dive into the EPA’s ratings to see what was really going on and to help answer the question, which G20 3 Series should you buy?
First off, it should be noted that we’re not disagreeing with BMWBlog’s deductions. One look at the side-by-side comparison of the 2021 330e and the 2018 330e reveals exactly what they were referring to, which we will dissect shortly.
Both the F30 330e and the current G20 330e rely on fundamentally similar drivetrains. Not only do both employ the B48 turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but they actually use the same B20A version of the F30 and G20 320i. This engine develops 181 horsepower from 5,000 to 6,500 rpm, and 214 pound-feet of torque from 1,300 to 4,300. The 2021 330e boasts improvements across the board in terms of purely-electric speed, range, and emissions, and this is largely thanks to two factors. The first is the lighter, sleeker G20 body, and the second is a more powerful eDrive motor which benefits from some of BMW’s latest electric technology.
And according to the EPA’s estimates, it all ads up to electric range that has grown from just 14 miles for the F30 330e to 22 miles for the G20 2021 330e. Fuel economy, more specifically MPGe, is also improved from a combined city and highway rating of 71 to 75. Over the course of five years, the EPA estimates the difference will save you approximately $250 based on 15,000 miles of annual driving with a 44–55 split between highway and city driving compared to the F30 330e.
Unfortunately, digging into the details a bit more reveals that the 2021 330e actually achieves poorer gasoline-only fuel economy. More specifically, the the G20 330e has a combined (city and highway) fuel economy rating of 28 mpg, while the previous F30 330e was rated at 30 mpg. This adversely affects total range in a substantial way; the 2018 330e was rated with 350 miles of total range, while the 2021 330e will need to refuel after 320 miles. Looking at the larger picture, the G20 330e has a 10.6-gallon fuel tank, while its predecessor had a 10.8 gallon capacity, but we’re still looking at a 30 mile differential between the two cars.
Live somewhere with seasons that might necessitate xDrive? The 2021 330e is available with it, but it comes at a price. Fuel economy drops across the board, with EPA ratings of 67 MPGe, 25 mpg combined, 20 miles of electric range, and 290 miles of total range. Over the course of five years, the EPA estimates a 2021 330e xDrive will cost the same to operate as a 2020 BMW 330i.
So which one should you buy? If you’re cross shopping the current G20 330e with the 330i, which one is the optimal choice? The answer, of course, depends. Is your commute shorter than 22 miles each way? Can you charge the car in the office parking lot for an emissions-free drive home? Does your home have solar, and enough capacity to support charging your EV(s) in the garage? If you’ve answered yes to the majority of these questions, the G20 330e is a safe bet that will probably work out better for you and your bottom line in the long run.
But what if you’re not one of us coastal city-dwellers with all of the infrastructure already in existence around us? What if your commute is longer, and you want to use the car on some longer road trips? What if you’re concerned with resale value, repairability, and the inevitable obsolescence of technology? For the vast majority of society, the G20 330i is a far better choice. Although performance is nearly identical between the two, with the 330i coming in slightly faster with more total horsepower but less torque (thank the eDrive motor in the 330e), efficiency and range are where the 330i sets itself apart as being truly impressive. The G20 330i is rated at 30 mpg combined, and a staggering 468 miles of total range.
And it gets better, because the G20 330i actually exceeded the EPA’s estimates in Car and Driver’s instrumented test. Not only is the G20 330i capable of returning 42 mpg at 75 mph, but testing also claims a total highway range of 650 miles on a single tank of premium fuel. Mind you, this was an M Sport car, with M Sport bumpers, and wide, sticky Michelin summer tires. Nonetheless, it was still enough to best two other hybrids on Car and Driver’s list (one being the 530e). We imagine a conventional 330i might be even more efficient, and at the end of the day, we struggle to find a better choice, in any metric, than the current 330i. Bring price into the equation, and the 330i makes even more sense.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG, FuelEconomy.gov]