Super-saloons such as the Tesla Model S have served as a vivid demonstration of the torque-rich potential of electric motors.

A word of warning, though: because the 330e’s electric motor is of only modest muscle and operates through the same transmission as the engine (rather than as a stand-alone power unit attached to an axle), you’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting firecracker pace.

Richard Lane

Road tester
When traction is finally established, direction changes are pleasingly crisp, even under acceleration

Nevertheless, the car’s power sources are so expertly integrated that it never feels less than surprisingly rapid, largely because of the effortless way speed is accumulated.

The top portion of pedal travel is dedicated to the electric motor and thus offers unusually sharp response.

Squeeze the throttle harder and you get the meat of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an additional 110lb ft from the electric motor for brief bursts.

It’s a discreet, flexible and refined powertrain that gives the driver plenty to be getting on with and makes very light work of overtaking, as illustrated by its impressive in-gear acceleration times: 50-70mph in fourth is roughly a second quicker than for the Passat GTE, for instance.

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Although the engine doesn’t spin with quite the same enthusiasm as the traditional straight-six that, BMW claims, this dual-source set-up emulates, there’s still satisfaction to be had in holding on for a 6500rpm upshift. 

Get to those heady heights and BMW’s paddle-shift-operated Steptronic eight-speed gearbox punctuates the power delivery only momentarily and without drama – for the most part.

Occasionally, you’ll experience an unexpectedly rough or delayed shift, which is presumably a consequence of the complexities involved in shuffling two sources of torque through the same ratios.

Our car’s recorded 0-60mph time of 6.3sec didn’t quite match the 6.1sec 0-62mph time claimed by BMW, but it’s comfortably ahead of the 7.6sec laid down by the Passat GTE we’ve tested and just about a match for today’s crop of front-wheel-drive super-hatches.

The four-cylinder 330i, meanwhile, will get the job done in a fraction under 6.0sec. By comparison, the 330e’s numbers are impressive for an eco-minded saloon with at least half an eye on luxury. 

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