Auto123 puts the 2022 BMW 330e Touring to the test! Today, the second of two parts of our European journey.
See also: 2022 BMW 330e Review: 3,200 km in a 3 Series hybrid, Touring Version, Part 1
One advantage of having a plug-in hybrid vehicle is that you can use it just like a hybrid vehicle without stressing about charging it. During our travels, we had tried several times to test the French charging stations without ever succeeding in plugging in. Not because of a lack of stations, but simply because the number of electric vehicles is so much higher in Europe that finding an available station can be a challenge.
On several occasions we thus found ourselves in front of charging stations that were already taken or out of order. It didn’t help that these terminals could not charge two vehicles at the same time. No choice but to wait, and sometimes we didn’t have that luxury.
Fortunately, we could rely on the gas in our tank to keep going. So that became our pattern: get lucky and find a station, which meant driving around town in full electric mode; use up the available charge, and then go straight hybrid, letting the internal combustion engine take over, along with energy recovered from braking, all managed automatically by the onboard system. No fuss no muss.
On a typical day, we might drive 80 km mainly in the city, and then the on-board computer energy indicator hovered around 3.2L/100 km; otherwise, taking into account the higher speed limits in France, our consumption was slightly above 8.0L/100 km on average. Which isn’t bad for a 300-hp four-wheel drive vehicle with four people on board.
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Another feature of the 330e that we really appreciated was the adaptive laser headlight system included with our vehicle. We’d already experienced it in other BMWs in Canada, but we used it more extensively in France. Before, it was something we’d noted but no more; now we could really appreciate its effectiveness.
The reason it made itself more apparent came because of where we were, with the sun setting very early, around 4:30 pm. Which meant we used our lights much more often in sometimes very poorly lit stretches of road between towns. According to BMW, these laser headlights have a light beam ten times more intense than LED or Xenon lights for a range of 530 metres. Combined with Dynamic light spot technology, an infrared camera can detect a pedestrian, animal or object on the road up to 100 metres away and point a laser beam to illuminate it. Basically, it shines a valuable light on the dangers that can pop up on the road.
This technology is also backed up by the Selective Beam system, which detects vehicles coming in front of you and adjust the lighting so as not to dazzle them. As a result, we drove the entire time with high beams activated and the system made sure we never blinded other motorists. We could clearly see the shadow zone that was formed on the vehicle that was coming in front of us, while lighting the other zones in full headlight. This technology, which costs $1,500 in Canada, is well worth the money in our view.
It’s a common assumption that German luxury vehicles are cheaper in Europe. But in fact, with this BMW 330e, it's the opposite. Our European model came fully equipped at 76,000 Euros, or about $102,000 CAD. There were many options included, but not all. For example, it lacked a panoramic sunroof (which is very common in Canada as standard equipment), ventilated seats and a few other small options often offered in our market.
By configuring the same vehicle with the same equipment in Canada, we arrive at $76,441 CAD, including taxes and delivery fees. Yes, it's expensive, but it’s cheaper than in Europe by a good margin. That assumption that German vehicles are cheaper in Europe? Busted.
We wanted to repeat the exercise and configured a 530e xDrive, making sure to select the same options in both configurations. Once again, in Canada, the price of a 530e xDrive came to $78,881 including taxes and delivery, while in France, the vehicle costs 68,000 Euros, or about $93,000 CAD. So, for an equivalent model, it is more advantageous to buy a BMW here than in Europe.
We played the same game with entry-level models here and in France, for example. If I want to get my hands on a 3 Series in Canada, I’ll be spending $55,121 CAD for a 330 base model with rear-wheel drive. In France, the smallest 3 Series is the 156-hp 318i. If I completely ignore the option book, it will cost me 40,100 Euros, or just over $55,400 CAD.
During our family vacation, we drove more than 3,000 km between Alsace and Brittany. The drive in this 330e Touring went off without a hitch. Even the long drive to Saint-Malo (900 km in almost 10 hours) was not enough to exhaust the occupants. The car with its continental Wintercontact tires was extremely stable on slick and damp surfaces and even on wet dirt roads.
The suspension was a bit stiff on bumpy roads, but made for a very comfortable ride when the road was smooth, which was most of the time. It is a real pleasure to drive a German car on highways, main roads and secondary roads that are in top condition.
In that situation, the car is at one with the asphalt and if for some reason emergency braking is needed, the car, even if you’re at 130 km/h, stops in a straight line as if you were driving at 70 km/h. In short, we really liked this little 3 Series. Even if at the beginning of our trip, we thought we might suffer with four people in this little Beemer on longer stretches, we quickly saw that the two teenagers, one 6' and the second 5'10, enjoyed plenty of space. We did find the access a little difficult because the car sits low to the ground, but once we were in, either in front or in back, no one complained.