2014 BMW 328d X-Drive Sports Wagon review by Carey Russ


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sport Wagon

The BMW 328d is Ultimate High-Fuel Economy Driving Machine

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

        • SEE ALSO: BMW Buyers Guide


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sport Wagon

Didn't I recently drive and review a 2014 BMW 3-Series wagon, and 328 at that? Why, yes I did, back in December. And I've just driven another one this past week. Summer rerun time?

Not even. This example of BMW's small wagon had a diesel under its hood. The last time I drove a diesel-powered 3er was a 2009 335d. That had a 3.0-liter six under its hood, good for 265 horsepower and a walloping 425 lb-ft of monster torque and a 6.0-second 0-60 time. And good if not exceptional fuel economy, mid-20s around town and high 30s on the highway.

So I had hopes of a repeat. Ummmmm, not quite. The emphasis with the 328d is fuel economy more than performance. The engine is a four-cylinder, two liters displacement. It peaks at 181 horsepower, with 280 lb-ft of torque at an eminently-useful 1750 rpm. The 2.0-liter turbo gasoline engine in the current 328i wagon makes 241 hp and 258 lb-ft, so the torque monster was not going to make an appearance. On the other hand, there is a minimal ten-pound weight gain with the diesel engine, and while acceleration takes a hit, with the gas-powered 6.0 seconds increasing to 7.6 with the diesel, the diesel is still quick enough to never have trouble in traffic. And then there's fuel economy. The EPA says 31mpg city, 43 highway. I saw low- to mid-30s around town and with some short highway jaunts. Longer highway drives saw high 40s, and at one point just over 50 mpg. At real freeway speeds, which if not quite at open Autobahn level are far above the EPA simulation. Factor in a 15-gallon fuel tank, and there is potential for quite a bit of distance between fillups.

        • SEE ALSO: Carey's Review of the BMW 328i

To emphasize its sport wagon status, my test car was equipped with the M Sport and Dynamic Handling option packages. Exactly the same as the earlier 328i wagon, actually. Which made it a fine machine for serious driving, with no gizmos, gadgets, or nannies. No flashing lights to warn me that a tree by the side of the road might be a hazard. No attempt to take control from me if the computer decides that I'm having too much fun. No 5000 channels of unwanted infotainment. No parking aids. Just an excellent drivetrain and suspension, for sports sedan handling and braking abilities. Plus good, if not exotic-great, acceleration. And fuel economy that rivals many similarly-sized hybrid sedans plus the versatility of a small wagon. More sport than a crossover, and just as much utility.

APPEARANCE: It's grown larger in nearly all dimensions, but the BMW 3-Series is still readily recognizable as such. And the simpler lines of the latest edition lend themselves to the wagon body very well. The taillights are now LEDs, but real BMWs have round headlights, four of them, thank you very much. The M-Sport front lower fascia has functional air intakes for the intercooler, brakes, and underbody air management. It looks low, but the short front overhang makes it reasonably safe from damage by rolled curbs and steep driveways.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sport Wagon

COMFORT: As always in a BMW, the driver is the focus, evidenced by the cockpit layout. The 328d wagon's driver's seat is a great place from which to conduct the business of serious driving, especially with the M Sport packages more-bolstered sports seats. Yes, here they were upholstered in leatherette, but power-adjustable and with two memory positions for the driver's seat. Support and comfort are as expected, excellent. You could drive far enough to drain the fuel tank without stopping. The main instruments are front and center, with audio and climate controls in the center stack tilted ever so slightly toward the driver but still well within reach of the front passenger. The interior design is evolutionary, clean and simple and very functional. The steering wheel adjusts manually for tilt and reach, and has audio and cruise controls. Rear passengers get more legroom than ever in a 3-Series. The rear seatback folds 40/20/40 for maximum versatility. There is some storage under the cargo area, but no spare tire or flat kit. I'm hoping the tires are run-flats…

SAFETY: The BMW 3-Series helps protect its passengers with a Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system that includes Brake Fade Compensation, Start-off Assistant, Brake Drying, Brake Stand-by, and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC). That all operated through four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with antilock, Dynamic Brake Control, and Cornering Brake Control systems. And of course there are the usual airbags and safety structures.

RIDE AND HANDLING: What did I say about the 328i wagon? "Can a wagon handle like a sports sedan? Compared to the sedan, the wagon has a bit more weight to the rear, but not enough to make any real difference. The solid unibody structure supports a typically-BMW fully-independent suspension, double-pivot struts in front and a multilink system at the rear. It's not M-car stiff, and so much better for everyday and long distance use but still eminently capable on the road. And should also be fun at a club track day, should you desire to do such. Damping and steering assistance change a bit with different settings of the Driving Dynamics Control systems, but it's always closer to the sport side of the spectrum than soft luxury. The xDrive all-wheel drive system seamlessly transfers torque from front to rear as needed, and also, with help from the stability electronics, from side to side for optimum traction and response." Since the diesel engine and associated hardware add all of ten (10) pounds, there is no difference. If you understand that performance means more than acceleration, and that the ability to quickly and safely traverse a tricky road beats a top-speed run down miles and miles of boring Interstate, you will understand this car.

PERFORMANCE: It may not have the thrust of the late 335d, but the 328d is no slouch, especially if you measure performance as more than mere acceleration. Engine architecture is standard contemporary BMW, dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and aluminum alloy for both the engine block and head. A twin-scroll turbocharger and variable exhaust geometry ensure maximum power with minimal lag, and only when attempting a drag-race start from a standstill is there any hint of hesitation. The engine is a lightweight by diesel standards, and only adds ten pounds compared to the gasoline engine in the 328i. Like its spark-ignition cousin, the diesel is a four-cylinder. Torque is what you feel, and the torque peak, 280 lb-ft worth, is at 1750 rpm -- right where the engine will spend most of its operating life, courtesy of the eight-speed automatic transmission. Maximum horsepower is 181, at 4000 rpm. There is some noticeable diesel sound, inside and out. It's a diesel, why be ashamed of that? Use of the standard "Driving Dynamics Control" system allows both spirited performance and exceptional fuel economy, in different contexts. Comfort is the default, with moderate throttle sensitivity and steering. Sport sharpens both noticeably, all the better when playing. Sport+ further sharpens responses, and dials back the stability and traction control assistance. EcoPro lessens throttle response, softens the steering, and reduces air conditioning and other energy-demanding systems. It improves economy, and was what I used in slow surface-street traffic and while cruising on the highway. On one highway drive, with hills and curves and little level ground, and at realistic highway speeds, circa 70 mph, I saw just over 50 mpg. Which dropped to 49 as I got off the highway and made it home to take a quick phone-camera photo. YMMV as they say, but this diesel offers a far more pleasurable driving experience than any roadgoing hybrid.

CONCLUSIONS: Is BMW's 328d The Ultimate High-Fuel Economy Driving Machine? It gets my vote.

SPECIFICATIONS

2014 BMW 328d X-Drive Sport Wagon

Base Price $ 42,950

Price As Tested $ 49,275

Engine Type aluminum alloy DOHC 16-valve turbocharged diesel with common-rail direct injection

Engine Size 2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.

Horsepower 181 @ 4000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 280 @ 1750 rpm

Transmission 8-speed automatic with manual-shift mode

Wheelbase / Length 110.6 in. / 182.2 in.

Curb Weight 3790 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 21

Fuel Capacity 15.0 gal.

Fuel Requirement ultra-low sulfur diesel

Tires 225/45R18 91V Pirelli Cinturato P7 all-season

Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, DBC, CBC standard

Suspension, front/rear independent double-pivot strut / independent multilink

Drivetrain inline front engine, all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon

city / highway / observed 31 / 43 / 35

0 to 60 mph 7.6 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Estoril Blue paint $ 550 M Sport Package -- includes: 18" wheels with all-season tires, sport seats, headlight trim finishers, aluminum hexagon interior trim, M steering wheel, aerodynamic kit, shadowline exterior trim, anthracite headliner, remove top speed limiter $ 3,850

Dynamic Handling Package -- includes: Adaptive M suspension, variable sport steering $ 1,000

Destination Charge $ 925


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