BMW hybrids may not be something that most of us who even know it’s a thing give much thought. We’re wired to think BMW when the discussion turns to well-engineered performance cars, but not hybrids. Hybrids? Really? What is this world coming to?
As with most carmakers today, BMW is looking down the road into the future and seeing electric, even as it applies to the ultimate driving machine. It’s either get with the program or get run over. Electric isn’t just coming — its here. BMW has jumped into hybrids in a big way, committing to a plug-in version of its 3 Series, 5 Series and 7 Series sedans, as well as its X5 Crossover and the i8 coupe. Who says hybrids can’t be high performance, anyway? Just get a load of these.
BMW added another choice to its 3 Series with the introduction of the 330e iPerformance plug-in hybrid in the summer of 2016. Its core is the highly praised 180-horsepower twin-turbocharged 2-liter 4-cylinder engine. To this, it adds a 75-hp e-drive electric motor for a combined output of 248 hp and 310 lb-ft of peak torque. A lithium-ion battery below the cargo floor feeds the motor. Engine output heads to the rear wheels via an 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with manual-shift control.
Drivers may choose among three eDrive programs through a button on the center console: Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save Battery. Auto eDrive automatically blends operation of the engine and motor for optimal performance in all situations. Max eDrive is the electric-only mode in which only the electric power propels the vehicle for up to 14 miles with a top speed of 75 miles per hour. Save Battery is just as it sounds: it preserves existing battery power while the gasoline engine does all the work.
With a top speed of 140 mph, the 330e can zip from a standstill to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. Maximum electric-only range is 22 miles. EPA-estimated mileage is 28 miles per gallon city and 34 mpg highway with a 71 MPGe.
Base Price: $46,595
First arriving on the scene in the spring of 2017, the 530e iPerformance provides a plug-in hybrid version of the popular 5 Series. Using basically the same iPerformance hybrid system as the 330e, the 530e delivers the same combined power specs in a larger wrapper. There’s a 2-liter twin-turbo 4-cylinder engine and a somewhat more powerful electric motor for a total pony count of 248 hp with peak torque of 310 lb-ft. A lithium-ion battery rests under the rear seat, providing full use of the trunk area for cargo.
Here too, the 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters hustles output to either the rear wheels or all wheels if equipped with available AWD. It offers the same three driving modes found in the 330e. With the dedicated charging system, fully charging the battery can take as little as three hours. It’s about seven hours using a household outlet.
Capable of sprinting from 0-to-60 in six seconds and even quicker with the optional xDrive AWD, the 530e has a top speed of 130 mph. Government-estimated fuel economy is 27 mpg city/31 mpg hwy for RWD with a 72 MPGe. And, for AWD versions, the estimated mileage is 27 mpg city/31 mpg hwy with a 67 MPGe.
Base Price: $53,645 RWD and $55,945 AWD.
740e xDrive iPerformance
Arriving last year, the 740e iPerformance xDrive uses a similar hybrid system as found in the 330e and 530e. Here, though, the combined output of the 2-liter twin-turbo gasoline engine and a 113-hp electric motor team up to deliver 326 hp and 369 lb-ft of peak torque. The 8-speed driver-shiftable Steptronic automatic tranny ushers engine power to all the wheels in this full-time AWD sedan. AWD is active even in all-electric driving. All three iPerformance driving modes are available with a Max eDrive all-electric top speed of 87 mph.
Located beneath the rear seat, the lithium-ion battery can be fully charged in four hours using a common household outlet or in less than three hours with a BMW iWallbox. All-electric range is 27-30 mi.
Galloping from 0-to-60 in the 740e xDrive requires 5.3 sec with a top speed of over 160 mph. Fuel economy is a government-estimated 25 mpg city and 29 mpg hwy with a 56 MPGe.
Base Price: $91,695
There are actually a couple of hybrid supercars, and the BMW i8 plug-in is one of them. Like nothing else in BMW’s lineup, the futuristic i8 is an impressive amount of power packed under a carbon-fiber skin. Upholding the gasoline-engine end of the hybrid system is a 228-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine. It’s mated with a 129-hp electric motor for a combined output of 357 hp and a whopping 420 lb ft of peak torque. The electric motor turns the front wheels while a 6-speed automatic rushes power from the turbocharged engine to the rear wheels.
In pure EV mode, the i8 can travel up to 15 mi. Getting to 60 mph from a standstill takes 4.2 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph. Mileage is a government-estimated 28 mpg city and 29 mpg hwy with a 76 MPGe.
Base Price: $144,395.
X5 xDrive40e iPerformance
Not to leave crossovers out of the BMW hybrid category completely, the X5 xDrive iPerformance is BMW’s take on a hybrid 3-row crossover. Only, unlike the rest of the X5 family, there is no third row. Instead, there’s an additional 6 cu ft. of cargo space. In this application, the familiar 2-liter twin-turbo 4-cylinder is joined to a 111-hp electric motor. Together, they develop 308 hp and 332 lb-ft of peak torque. Again, the same 8-speed Selectronic automatic transmission distributes output in different combinations to all the wheels all the time. The three driving modes still apply. The range in Max eDrive is 13 miles.
Owners can pocket the money for the barely-faster Level 2 charging station. The X5 xDrive40e charges on a household outlet in just under four hours, only an hour longer than the Level 2 system.
Within the X5 family, only the V8-equipped one is quicker in the 0-to-60 run up from a stop than the xDrive40e at 6.5 sec. Top speed in electric-only mode is 75 mph and 130 mph in full-hybrid mode. Government-estimated mileage is 23 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the hwy with 56 MPGe.
Base Price: $64,745.