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Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo-Diesel 2.0L I4
Power:
180 HP / 280 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
7.7 Seconds
Top Speed:
138 MPH
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,790 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
53.0 CU-FT
MPG:
31 City / 43 HWY
Base Price:
$42,950
As Tested Price:
$49,425
There's a running joke among auto writers that the perfect car would be a diesel-powered, rear-drive wagon with manual transmission and no power accessories whatsoever. It would only be available in brown and would somehow be as fun to drive as a Mazda MX-5 Miata. Makes total sense, right?

Realistically, no manufacturer is ever going to completely fulfill our wishes, no matter how much we beg, plead, kick and scream about our dream car that most of us would actually never buy. The best we can do is hope for a vehicle that mixes some aspects of this ideal journalist's car. And in today's world, that vehicle just might be the BMW 328d xDrive Sport Wagon.

No, it's not available with a manual gearbox, and power can only be sent through an xDrive all-wheel-drive system. It's also not available in brown (although both Mojave Metallic and Sparkling Bronze Metallic are acceptable stand-ins), but it ticks the two main boxes of being a diesel-powered wagon, one of only a couple such models in the United States.

To properly put its versatility and fuel economy through its paces, senior editor Steven Ewing and I used the 328d shown above as our chariot to the 2014 Chicago Auto Show (inclement weather kept us from shooting the darn thing, so that's why you're just now seeing this writeup) – covering some 600 miles on our jaunt from Detroit to the Windy City and back.

Driving Notes
  • As this is our first time driving the 328d packing BMW's 2.0-liter, turbodiesel four-cylinder, let's get the essentials out of the way. 180 horsepower is paired up with 280 pound-feet of torque, available from 1,750 rpm to 2,750 rpm, allowing our oil-burning longroof to hit 60 miles per hour in a leisurely 7.7 seconds before conking out at 130 mph. In short, this is not the 3 Series for those who demand quickness.
  • In the real world, though, the 328d's acceleration is perfectly adequate. Dip into the throttle at freeway speeds, and you'll surf along on a wave of torque that makes passing a painless affair, although some planning is still required. As is the case with most passenger diesels, the sound isn't terribly evocative when ran hard, but at cruising revs, our tester proved luxuriously quiet.
  • My leg of the journey was from downtown Detroit, on Interstate 94, to I-69 and onto the I-80 turnpike. Along this route, I had the cruise control pegged at 80 miles per hour, while returning 42 miles per gallon. Yep, it's that good.
  • Ewing, having a bit of a lead foot, quickly did his best to ruin my decent fuel economy when he took over on the turnpike. However, a nasty winter storm meant that most of our I-80 travels were spent cruising below 50 mph, meaning we arrived in Chicago averaging just over 41 mpg. The trip home, which was highlighted by crisp, clear and dry weather that allowed us to zip along at 80 mph, saw our overall economy dip to just under 41 mpg. Considering our higher-than-average speed, there's little doubt in my mind that the 328d could meet and exceed its 43-mpg highway estimate.
  • The fuel economy owes some of its success to BMW's suite of fuel-sipping features. Besides the routinely excellent ZF 8HP eight-speed automatic, a standard stop-start system and BMW's Eco Pro mode make conserving fuel an easy task. Eco Pro is particularly handy in urban settings, where its more relaxed throttle response and shorter shifts make hypermiling easier. To keep drivers engaged, the instrument cluster shows how many extra miles of fuel are being saved while in Eco Pro.
  • We'd be lying if we said choosing the 328d for this trip was only because of its fuel economy. While the 3 Series has grown a bit softer over the years, the upside is that it's more tolerable on long hauls. With the 328d, the suspension has a just-right balance between sportiness and comfort. We had no issues with it along the smoother freeways, while the pockmarked sections of Chicago's surface streets were easy enough to dodge thanks to the 3's agility.
  • Not surprisingly, this is not a cheap vehicle. Prices for the 328d xDrive Sport Wagon start at $42,950. Our tester, meanwhile, was optioned out to $49,425. Those that have read my Quick Spin of the 320i should see where this is going.
  • I might not have made too much of the 328d's price had I not picked up our long-term Mazda6 on our return trip. That $31,765 front-drive sedan is obviously not a direct competitor for the BMW – in fact, it's not even the same bodystyle. However, it did give me reason for pause, as it was loaded with navigation, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, leather seats and a rear-view camera – things not found on this 328d. It had all of these features and a larger cabin, yet it could return 38 mpg while running on cheaper gasoline, for less than two-thirds the price of our tester. Different cars, different classes – apples and oranges, maybe, but it did get me thinking anew about the pricing of not just BMW, but all prestige brands.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 96 Comments
      mawhalen53
      • 1 Year Ago
      $50k 3-series? BMW has lost its way
        jonnybimmer
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mawhalen53
        I agree it's a lot, and even the 5 series can hit six digits without including the M5. I'd be hard-pressed to say it's "worth" that money. But this is a day and age when a Civic goes to 30k, a F150 (non-Raptor) goes to 55+k, and an S class nears 200k. So when taking all cars into perspective, the price is not all that crazy.
        KaiserWilhelm
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mawhalen53
        Um, Inflation?
        rsxvue
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mawhalen53
        Not to sound rude but have you been under a rock recently? I would say the avg price of a 3 series has been close to 50k for at least 10 years now. Some easily topping 60k.
      Someone
      • 1 Year Ago
      Had one. It was the best and worst car I've ever owned. Best: Great interior Fun to drive Smooth as silk for long drives Great in snow AMAZING GAS MILAGE Worst: Seat was uncomfortable (solved with a seat cushion) Had constant problems.
        thedriveatfive
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Someone
        I had a X5 35d, and it too had constant problems, finally got tired after >10 times to the dealer unscheduled in the first year and lemon lawed it. I really wanted it to work but it just had too many issues with the engine.
          Jason Fisher
          • 1 Year Ago
          @thedriveatfive
          I should've lemon lawed my BMW too. I bought a brand-new 2002 325xi, and it had so many problems. The steering wheel was actually installed crooked - or maybe it was just bent...like, one side of the wheel was closer to the dash than the other. Within the first few months the engine computer control module developed a problem in which the car wouldn't start after fueling. It would take about 15 minutes of sitting at a gas station trying to start it before it would start. So embarrassing. The A/C could barely keep up during a road-trip to Nevada, and the fan was ridiculously loud. The sunshade broke. The clutch was nearly impossible to engage smoothly from a stop. I've always owned manuals, and I've driven other BMW manuals - and they are always very smooth and easy to engage, but this one was awful: literally every person that drove it would kill the engine upon launch. Every. Person. I don't know... I actually drove the car off the showroom floor - which was exciting - but, maybe all the people sitting in it damaged some things. I have no idea... But, I was young and naive and didn't want to deal with an ******* dealer...so I never did anything about it and just made excuses. Then traded it in after two years! Sorry...just needed to vent...
      brgtlm
      • 1 Year Ago
      Not a particularly compelling value proposition if you're ignoring the brand/badge. I guess that is the price of buying into BMW prestige. That said, I think the BMW 3 Series wagon is a sharp car and would be a much better choice over the new awful 3 GT. If I wanted a turbodiesel German wagon, the upcoming new Jetta TD wagon seems like it'd be just as good for less money.
        SloopJohnB
        • 1 Year Ago
        @brgtlm
        Notwithstanding all the above comments I made, the car is fast enough for urban commuting, gets great diesel fuel mileage, and looks sharp. It's just slow compared to what it USED to be.
      Winnie Jenkems
      • 1 Year Ago
      If they would make this available with a manual, I'd buy it. In other news, apparently Volkswagen is in fact bringing an AWD diesel manual wagon to the US. No joke. God bless VW.
        Winnie Jenkems
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Winnie Jenkems
        Also, why the hell do I have to shell out $45K++ for a 335i if I want AWD and a manual transmission together?
        over9000
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Winnie Jenkems
        No you won't you can't afford it.
        psarquis
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Winnie Jenkems
        That's really great news from VW! I'd seriously consider a manual AWD diesel VW wagon. My girlfriend has owned 2 Golf TDIs in the past and she has loved them. BMW's diesels are slightly more refined than VWs, of course, but there's a serious price premium for that refinement. Suffice it to say, I was happy when I saw the post about the TDI gold wagon.
      Hello, Brian
      • 1 Year Ago
      Frugal? Since when is $49K frugal?
        Matt
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Hello, Brian
        A $50k BMW leases for ~$500/month. Just ignore the MSRP on BMWs, because something like 80% of their customers lease, and BMW massively subsidizes their leases.
          PiCASSO
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          But it's okay in Illinois (and Texas). The state government will want a check for 100% of the value of the car, aka $50,000 x 7.25% (Cook County) = $3,625 in addition to your normal $2,500-$3,000 down-payment to cover the cost of the vehicle. True lease taxes should be applied on the depreciated value of the vehicle. So if this BMW depreciated 45% after 3-years, you would only pay $50,000 x 45% x 7.25% = $1,631. But the corrupt Illinois wants the balance $1,994 to line their retirement pockets.
          Matt
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          Sloop, BMW doesn't want you to buy out the lease, they want you to return it to the dealer, who then certifies it and sells it CPO for a decent profit again. Picasso, in most states that requires sales tax on 100% of the price, you aren't liability for property tax on the vehicle, so the overall tax comes out about the same as if you only paid sales tax on the depreciation.
          Matt
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          To further expound on the math behind my assertion: you can buy a $20k car every 5 years, then sell/trade it when you are done and get ~$7k back. After 20 years, all you have is an asset worth $7k. OR you can invest $13k every 5 years, and lease a $20k car for ~$200/month. If you earned 8% returns on your investments (historical average), after 20 years you'd have an asset worth $53k. Leasing is the smarter move IF you invest the money you would have spent on buying new cars. It also requires that your investments perform well, but that is a historical likelihood, whereas your car actually appreciating is very unlikely.
          CarNutMike
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          The offer on a $46k 328d is actually $399/mo but all the caveats from SloopJohnB apply. 10k miles, $2750 down + $725 "aquisition fee" (not a down payment, uh huh). Residual value is 63% (29k), which seems high to me but the miles will be super low and they'll re-sell it as a CPO car.
          Matt
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          Mike, ignore those "offers", dealers will do MUCH better when you negotiate. Most buyers get near invoice price, get additional incentives from BMWCCA or USAA, do Multiple Security Deposits to buy down the rate, and pay zero down.
          SloopJohnB
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          Well, yes, they do, but at artificially low annual mileages, like 10K miles plus 2-5K$ capital cost reduction. They're not about to leave the residual value so high that the local market in 36 months is below the residual value and customers walk away rather than buy out the lease. I don't know if this 2.0T will be any less prone to carbon buildup in the combustion chamber…a fault with the six-cylinder diesel that generally required a new cylinder head when covered under warranty. If it's YOUR car after the warranty runs out, it's BOHICA time. This is a poor diesel engine for customers that expect 500,000 trouble free miles.
          PTC DAWG
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          I will NEVER rent a car for 500 a month long term...count me out.
      Jeff
      • 1 Year Ago
      I really love the 3 wagon, but the offering price makes it hard to digest. The premium over the sedan is tough to stomach (don't need AWD) and there's the X1 which is a slightly taller previous gen 3-series with similar proportions and function for about $10K less. From a value perspective the TSX wagon is a much better alternative, it's just has aging powertrain (5AT, limited power and adequate MPG), while lacking come some now common tech features besides being FWD only.
        ERICS
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jeff
        Jeff, have you driven an X1 back to back with a 3 series? I thought the same thing and then got in the X1 after driving the 320i and the X1 drove terribly in comparison. It was rough, wandered, and had subpar steering. The X1 is not a good comparison for a 3 series unless the one I was driving had problems with alignment. It just didn't feel very good at all.
      Hello, Brian
      • 1 Year Ago
      This article has some of the worst usage of the English language that I have seen in a "professional" piece, but the conclusion is right on the money.
      CarCrazy24
      • 1 Year Ago
      About 5 months ago I was in the market for a new daily driver. I was definitely in the camp of enthusiasts who wanted a diesel/AWD/manual/wagon, essentially a non-existent vehicle in the U.S, so when I heard about the BMW 328d wagon I was ecstatic! It ticked off nearly every box on my list, and it should drive fairly well despite being the newer F30 platform. After one test drive, I walked away and never looked back. You see, the car looks very appealing, and if it was $10k less in price, it would be far more appealing. But it STARTS at $43k with nearly nothing standard in a luxury car of such a price. In fact, when optioned "moderately" with basics like heated seats, leather, and navigation, the price jumped to well over $50k! For a 3 series! In fact, my perfect 3 series wagon was nearly $60k with most of the options available added... the only 3 series that should be priced that high is the M3, and even that is pushing it. Perhaps worst of all beyond the price, is that the car felt like a $30k car behind the wheel, not a $40-60k car like it's priced. The F30 platform is their weakest yet, soft and marshmallow like in base form, all the way to overly stiff with no feel in the higher M-platform levels. There is no sweet spot middle ground like the excellent E46 or E36 models. And the diesel...I have been such a huge defender of it, but this one was tinny and cheap sounding, and it penetrated the cabin at all times. It in no way is worth the price of entry. I ended up getting an E250 Bluetec and couldn't be happier. No, it's not a wagon, but it is an AWD mid size luxury sedan with proper luxury items, space, quiet interior, and gets over 50mpg on the highway! Total cost was $59k very well loaded too, a far better deal than the overpriced BMW.
      Spartanator
      • 1 Year Ago
      Terrible buy for $49k, decent lease if you're into this sorta car.
      SloopJohnB
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is the Ultimate Slug Machine. BMW seriously messed up when they dropped the six pot oil burner and put in this crappy 2.0L.
      danfred311
      • 1 Year Ago
      stop posting this filthy garbage on ABG. this is a stupid fossil fuel burner. how is that hard to understand.
        jonnybimmer
        • 1 Year Ago
        @danfred311
        It's not Autoblog "Electric", it's "Green" as in news related towards lowering the overall emissions cars produce. Like it or not, a AWD mid-sized wagon that officially gets 40+mpg (and technically meets SULEV emission standards) available in the States is actually something noteworthy.
        prince_david
        • 1 Year Ago
        @danfred311
        LOL almost everything they post burns fossil fuels. Even your electric cars will need fossil fuel power plants to keep them going. Get used to it bro
        EVnerdGene
        • 1 Year Ago
        @danfred311
        WTF? I agree with Dan.
        Matt
        • 1 Year Ago
        @danfred311
        It has less particulate emissions than any electric vehicle, once you consider that 40% of the US power generation comes from coal (the #1 source of particulate emissions). There is a strong case for particulates to be the worst emission of all, and modern diesels all have particulate filters.
          wxman
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          Agree. The National Academy of Sciences issued a report in 2009 ("Hidden Cost of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use.") in which diesels which met 2007 U.S. emission regulations had the LOWEST full life-cycle environmental and public health "damages" of any other vehicle technology considered in the report (roughly tied with CNG), which included EV, HEV, PHEV, conventional gasoline, GDI, E85, and hydrogen fuel cells.
          Rotation
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          Matt: Coal plants have particulate filters too. Coal does produce a lot of particulates, but that's partially because there is so much of it being burned. The relatively small amount of power needed to run an EV doesn't produce that much particulate emissions. wxman: There are no 2007 figures on that chart. It also doesn't talk about GDI. It has figures for 2005 cars and for 2030 cars. For 2005 vehicles, Diesel is only better than E85 (Wet Corn) and Electric. For 2030 vehicles, Diesel does better. Although it's pretty hard to argue 2030 is representative of 2008. I find those charts baffling because it says the damages of electric batteries per car will double between 2005 and 2030. That doesn't seem likely.
          EVnerdGene
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          Matt, Do you really think regen (high-temp burning) of a clogged filter only produces CO2 ? How about CO ? (high temps = incomplete combustion) And all the particulates magically disappear ? regen is just moving the particulates down the road thank you for thinking you have a right to fart in my face
          Matt
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          Gene, the vehicle initiates a regen cycle and burns off the particulates into CO2.
      ERICS
      • 1 Year Ago
      I want to really like the 3 series. Their entire line is fantastic. They drive well, are nicely finished, and come in a lot of engines and body styles. I really want to buy one. My ideal would be a rwd 335i wagon with automatic but I'd take the 328i wagon or even a 320i sedan is very nice. I'm surprised by how tractable that little engine is. But then I go to price out the car that I want with the options that I would like, and the price quickly climbs over $50k. Even with the 320i sedan I'm at just about 50k because I won't sit in plastic seats, I want the sport suspension, and I want Bluetooth streaming capability. I don't feel like I'm asking for that many features. I don't even need Xenons. But the price is ridiculous. Then I go and drive the V6 Accord, VW GLI, VW Golf, Mazda 6, Volvo S60, etc and I really can't justify the 3 Series's price. Maybe I'll wait for a decent used one. Or maybe Mazda will launch a V6 Mazda 6.
        Rotation
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ERICS
        You deserve a reward for a rare level of honesty on the internet for indicating that while you would like a sporty, 6-speed manual, twin-turbo wagon you wouldn't actually lay out the money for one. Everyone else just pretends they would and then chide the automakers for not making them when they know they won't sell.
        Matt
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ERICS
        It's cheaper to lease a $40k 3-series than a $25k Mazda6. BMW MSRPs are meaningless, because everyone leases BMWs. They offer huge discounts/incentives, low rates, and high residuals; that combo makes leasing irresistible. I'm leasing a $38k 320i for $339/month, nothing down. You can add Bluetooth audio streaming aftermarket for like $25 using any number of bluetooth to aux gadgets.
          ERICS
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          Maybe that's my problem. I've always purchased my cars for cash. I guess I'm weird that I don't buy something I can't buy with cash. No saleman ever mentions a lease when my jaw drops at a 48k 180hp 4 cylinder car with plastic seats. Maybe I could manage a lease, though I've never done one before. I feel like the mileage limits would be akin to range anxiety.
          Chumley
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          Well you must have gotten a heck of a deal - an almost 70% residual? BMW advertises the base 320i with few options, MSRP of $36.8k for $329/mon with $3800 due at signing. At the risk of turning it into a lease vs. buy debate because there are valid reasons to lease for some people, not everyone wants a never-ending monthly rental payment. The only "fair" way to compare is published prices, not what someone, somewhere claims to be able to lease or buy it for.
          Ted
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          That's good . B/C You NEVER want to actually own a german car. When the warranty is over so is the car !
          ERICS
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          Thanks Matt, you may have opened my eyes to owning a BMW besides my used 2007 M Roadster that I just picked up. I'll go price out my 328xi wagon and see what they can do with the lease.
          BG
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          @Ted, thousands of us own German cars for years and decades. If you are a bit intelligent in selecting options when you buy them and maintain them carefully, they are just fine. If you think you can neglect them, put in the cheapest gas, never change fluids and just drive them like a Camry or Sentra, then of course you will get in trouble.
          Matt
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          Eric, You don't turn into a pumpkin if you exceed mileage limits, you just pay for the additional depreciation due to the mileage. Leasing is just pay-as-you-go depreciation. I took the cash I would have spent on a new car, invested it, and the dividends mostly cover the cost of the lease. This way my money is tied up in appreciating assets instead of depreciating. Chumley, the residual was 65%, but cap cost was ~11% discount from MSRP after negotiating+incentives+rebates. So I'm only paying for 24% of the vehicle's new MSRP over 3 years. Then used MSD's to buy the rate down to 1.8%, way below what my investments yield. I'm no master negotiator, I just followed the leasing guidelines discussed on Bimmerfest.com, so it's a pretty typical BMW lease.
          The Friendly Grizzly
          @Matt
          "You can add Bluetooth audio streaming aftermarket for like $25 using any number of bluetooth to aux gadgets." I spend that kind of money on a car, I am not hanging aftermarket gadgets on when those same features are now standard in cars costing half as much.
        hboi18
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ERICS
        i find it hard to believe you optioned a 320i at 50k... when it tops out at just over 45k....and few people buy these cars anyway....lease deals on bmw's are always good You can lease a 528i series for 399 a motnh and thats a 55k car, the 320i is 269 a month and this is at my local dealer
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