The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2011 BMW 328i xDrive Sport Wagon Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

SEE ALSO: BMW Buyers Guide

2011 BMW 328i xDrive Sport Wagon,
The only BMW station wagon for 2011.

Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

2011 BMW 328i xDrive Sport Wagon (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 BMW 328i xDrive Sport Wagon
At about the same time the ’11 BMW 328i Sport Wagon became available at U.S. dealers the all-new 5-series was also. Along with the new 5 came the news that BMW would no longer offer the 5-Sport Wagon model in the U.S., although it is still offered and available in Europe. If BMW’s X3 or X5 Sport Activity Vehicles meet your need, then you are still OK. If you wanted a car with space and versatility, then the 3-sport wagon is it.

I’ve just begun to read “Younger Next Year” by Chris Crowley & Dr. Henry S. Lodge and I’m not plugging the book but it serves as a good reference to the fact that as baby-boomers move into retirement years and become empty nesters they will need to continue an active lifestyle to live out what may be the final one-third of their lives. Yes I’m talking 80 or even 90 years. In my view, the station wagon is the perfect car model that provides a balance of comfort, luxury, versatility and cargo capacity for active-lifestyle folks of any age.

Getting to the 2011 328i xDrive Sport Wagon that I have been living with for about 3 weeks now, I find this car true to BMW design character, fun to drive, stylishly gorgeous, low on fuel consumption and really practical. New this year is a bolder front spoiler/bumper ensemble, larger center air intake and newly shaped headlight clusters. In mixed driving with the 6-speed automatic, a 6-speed manual being also available, I’m averaging 22 mpg and I know from previous 3-series experience that 30 to 32 mpg is attainable on a long highway cruise. Recently I was biking and rendezvoused with my wife for dinner. After, we very easily loaded my bike in the back of the wagon rather than have me pedal home on dark streets.

The interior of the 3-wagon is stylish, comfortable and ergonomically friendly. It comes with two keys that are each programmable for two different drivers. Leather-clad seats with memory power adjustment are firm and supportive yet very comfortable. An on-board computer monitors vehicle parameters, the AM/FM stereo allows for CDs or MP3 player and has an integrated iPod and USB adapter. Bluetooth enabling for mobile phones is easily programmed.

For winter months, the heated steering wheel, heated front seats and headlight washers make for behind-the-wheel comfort. For those bad weather conditions especially winter, in addition to the xDrive all-wheel–drive system, Dynamic Stability, Traction and Brake Control systems enhance the driving experience and overall safety. Let me not forget the Hill Descent Control.

A Navigation System is available for those trips into new urban environments; Satellite Radio will allow you to follow all your favorite radio-jocks wherever you may be; a Convenience Package includes among other items Park-distance Control and Comfort Access; and if you’re still a boy-racer a Sport Package or a M-Sport Package can be chosen. Roof Rails are available if you may need to do some car-top carrying for bikes or a skis…and it’s much easier to put them up than on a tall SUV or crossover.

I find it of interest to compare models within a brand. Perhaps you’ve decided you want a BMW, but which one remains the question. Looking at the X3, BMW’s smaller Sport Activity Vehicle or crossover, pricing starts at $38,850 whereas the Sport Wagon starts at $37,700. Both come with the 3.0L in-line 6 cylinder---which I must comment is a very wonderful engine that I find more pleasing than some equivalent-output Turbo 4-cylinders of other brands---the X3 engine has 30 more HP over the 230 HP of the Sport Wagon, which is needed for its heavier weight. The X3 is a little quicker 0 to 60 mph at 7.1 sec. v 7.3 sec. for the Sport Wagon but there is a fuel economy tradeoff with the Sport Wagon at 17 city mpg and 26 highway mpg and the X3 at 17 city mpg but 24 highway mpg.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Both are 5-passenger. The Sport Wagon holds 25 cu. ft. behind the rear seat and the X3 holds 30 cuft. Fold the rear seat and the Sport Wagon holds 58 cuft and the X3 holds 71 cuft---so the X3 holds about 20-22% more.
PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

On the outside, the Sport Wagon is 1.3 inches shorter and a significant 10.2 inches lower. But, the X3 has 8 inches of ground clearance which is about twice that of the Sport Wagon. If you are driving in really deep snow very often or traveling unpaved, rutty roads or are concerned about frequent street flooding, the X3 has the advantage.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

I don’t do any of these but do need to travel snowy roads and the xDrive on the Sport Wagon does it for me. I can mount four winter tires, which is always a good recommendation to follow, and further improve snow driving.
PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The empty-nester couple will be very comfortable in the Sport Wagon and the 4-doors and rear seat allow for easy accommodation of friends or family. I really like the rear hatch’s separately-opening upper glass that allow you to quickly stow small packages that can be concealed by the cargo cover.

All BMWs have a four-year/50,000 mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty which includes a Maintenance Program that covers at no cost all factory-recommended maintenance and normal wear and tear items such as brake pads, wiper blade inserts and engine drive belts. Oil changes cost nothing and are every 15,000 miles or once per year. Most BMW dealers will provide a BMW loaner if you schedule it in advance…always a quick test drive opportunity.

Final word: I hope the 3-series Sport Wagon stays in the BMW program and doesn’t go the way of the 5-Sport Wagon. The good news is that they are still built for Europe and it wouldn’t be too difficult to revisit this decision.

© Larry Nutson