DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Same story, different German car, so I'm going to skip to the punch line. Pros: Outstanding diesel powertrain, delightfully controlled ride and handling and the cachet of a German wagon. Cons: Poor value for the money with no navigation and no rearview camera, plus why should heated seats cost an extra $500 on a $45,000 car? $550 for red paint?
Because BMW knows you're going to pay them the money.
“The hell I am,” some of you say. I applaud your attitude -- fight the power! Go check out our reviews of the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen, Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape to find family-friendly rides that actually offer some semblance of value.
For the rest of you, the prospect of a diesel BMW station wagon is apparently worth the stadium-concession-stand option-price shakedown, so let's look at what you get. We checked out the turbo four-cylinder gasoline version a while back and found it to be a great driver hampered a bit by its relatively compact interior dimensions -- the X3 really offers a more usable BMW than the 3-series wagon.
This 2014 BMW 328d Sports Wagon suffers from the same packaging constraints, but adds a honey of a diesel to further complicate the decision-making process. Thanks to its eight-speed automatic, this car stays right in the meat of its torque curve in almost every situation -- 180 hp be damned, there's a shove in the small of the back on tap with a light press of the accelerator at nearly any sane speed. Add the 35 mpg combined and the 328d becomes another one of those, “why isn't everyone building these?” hypotheticals (that conveniently ignore emissions, homologation, higher construction costs and unequal fuel prices).
As I mentioned in my 328i wagon notes, buyers need to be aware that this is a compact vehicle; the wagon configuration is as much for style as convenience, offering little additional room over a sedan and nowhere near the cargo volume of a modern crossover or SUV. For the target DINK couple and their Labradoodle, it'll be perfect. Add two kids and they'll wish it was an X5.
Personally, I couldn't buy one just on principle. No matter how good the vehicle, the idea I'm being shaken down for every last dime would keep me out of a BMW showroom even if I did have the requisite number of dimes to inspire a visit in the first place. I also recognize, as the company's record sales in recent years prove, that I'm in the minority.
Such is the luxury car market. You make your choices and you pay your money. In the case of the 328d xDrive Sports Wagon, at least you get a great diesel station wagon in return.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: So BMW has a pretty hard lock on the driving dynamics part of the equation, which makes even this little diesel wagon fun to drive. But I'll be damned if I'm going to pay nearly $50,000 for the privilege.
It's a cool-looking little car, if not the most exciting thing on the street. They're just so rare. You don't see too many wagons cruising around, even though everyone knows they're better than SUVs and crossovers. And, to those who complain that journalists like to complain, but don't vote with their wallets: Mr. Stoy owned and loved a wagon, in this decade.
Inside is typical BMW fare: Supportive leather seats, easy-to-read gauges and a good radio/entertainment setup. I love the panoramic sunroof; I would definitely check that box. And now that I look at the as-tested options, I'd probably click every one on this car, which would put it at $50K. Normally I like to figure out how to make the price cheaper by un-checking.
So power is great, like Andy said. The eight-speed shifts perfectly and precisely, giving the driver a little kick in the pan
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Stoy hit the proverbial nail on the head as far as I'm concerned. Yes, the powertrain is terrific and the chassis is seriously dialed in. And, yes, BMW is out of its corporate gourd on the value. Mazda CX-5, here I come.
With that said, I doubt people cross-shop this with a CX-5. In fact I doubt BMW owners cross shop much anything else for that matter. BMW people are BMW people. When I suggested to a friend who owned a 3-series that she might want to check out a Cadillac ATS she dismissed me like she stepped in something nasty. “I'm not looking at a Cadillac,” she snarled. Won't even look at it! So yeah, people will pay for the BMW badge.
This is a hell of a good powertrain. Seems like it's always in the torque's sweet spot and the eight-speed is a sweetheart. The horsepower number looks weak on paper (why can't we get BMW's 3.0-liter 255-hp diesel six-cylinder like Europe does?), but there's decent oomph both off the line and for passing. Fiddling with the driving modes (Sport, Sport+, normal, eco, etc) is fun. Sport + firms the ride dramatically and shifts are more pronounced and happen at higher revs. Like Stoy says at 35 mpg one wonders where the rest of the auto industry is on diesel.
The car is a little tight inside and the look is starting to seem a bit dated.
I, too, am in the minority in that I wouldn't pay this sticker for this car. Go on BMW's website, though, and the first thing that jumps off the screen and smacks you in the face is the “BMW sales event!!” wherein BMW offers smokin' lease deals across the board, free maintenance for four years/50K miles and the like. So there's that.
In the overall market this car not a value leader, but it might just be the best 3-series…
SENIOR ROAD TEST EDITOR NATALIE NEFF: The BMW 3-series Sports Wagon package is perfect for my needs. No, there's not as much cargo space or flexibility as in an X3, but I don't need more, at least not on a day-to-day basis. And, yes, with the rear-facing car seat in the center position, fitting in beside it makes for a super-tight squeeze -- and a harder go of getting the seatbelt buckled. But really, the kid is big enough now that he doesn't need mommy or daddy sitting next to him all the time.
Basically, I crave vehicles like this because I shudder at the thought of living with an SUV or crossover or whatever-you-want-to-call-the-breed. I just want a car, something with four passenger doors, that isn't 20-feet long and has some utility. I don't need to have “a commanding view of the road ahead,” as the marketers like to boast of their utes -- and like so many folks like to echo as support for their own choices of behemoth. Besides, the whole high-seating-position is a zero-sum game: When everyone is sitting three feet off the ground, where's the advantage? I'd rather retain the ability to scoot around all that traffic at a notice, trading all that ride height for superior handling. And handling is something the 2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon has in spades.
Unfortunately, it also has a smoldering pile of bull-honky to go with that superb agility. Seriously, the moment I climbed behind the wheel and acclimated to the surrounds, I thought BMW was joking. The interior, particularly the center stack and dash area, is dull, the soporific effect only enhanced by the fact that this car features zero options. No navigation, no backup camera, nothing. For 50 large ones. Granted, that chunk of change does get you a delicious powertrain. The 2.0-liter turbodiesel is wholly at home in this car, the eight-speed perfectly tuned to managing all that luscious torque. But I'm with Andy and the rest of his minority on this one: No way in heck would I fork over this amount of cash for a strippo anything, $500 heated seats be damned. To my mind, this car exists for the sole purpose of shouting to the world, “Hey, I am the type of person who drives a BMW! Yay me!” and I'm totally not that person.
2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon
Base Price: $43,875
As-Tested Price: $49,425
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel I4; AWD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 180 hp @ 4,000 rpm, 280 lb-ft @ 1,750-2,750 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,780 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 31/43/35 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 31.9 mpg
Options: Sport line package including sport leather steering wheel, 19-inch alloy sport wheels, black door mirror caps, sports seats, high gloss black trim, highlight coral trim finishers, anthracite headliner, remove increased top speed 840 ($2,600); dynamic handling package including adaptive M suspension, variable sport steering ($1,000); lighting package including xenon headlights ($900); Melbourne red metallic paint ($550); heated front seats ($500)
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