A Perfect Storm: A Perfect Storm Trooper
The storm was literal—it was El Niño’s latest lashing of California, complete with torrential rains, high winds and a bracing chill. The 800-mile trip that lay in front of me presented a different kind of challenge, beyond the sheer distance, it entailed spending time hauling another couple around town. The challenge was accepted and dealt with easily by a 2016 BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon. This car is the real deal, designed to conquer bad weather, long-distance driving and hauling of people and goods with aplomb.
The 328d takes on these kind of challenges without breaking into a sweat. It has SUV-like space; hybrid-like fuel economy and all of the looks and performance you would expect from a BMW. The interior of the wagon will swallow 53 cubic feet of cargo (with the back seat down; 17.5 behind the back seat). The powerful four-cylinder engine (with 280 lb-ft of torque) clocks in with EPA fuel economy numbers of 30 mpg city/ 40 mpg highway and 34 mpg combines thanks in part to a sophisticated eight-speed automatic transmission. As is usually the case with diesels in the real world, beating those numbers is a piece of cake. In combined around-town driving, freeway driving that usually averaged 75-80 (keeping up with the traffic flow), I averaged 38.8 mpg. Some moderation in driving would easily push that number pat 40 mpg.
The car never lacked for power at low speeds or high. Handling was exactly what you expect from a BMW—solid road feel and adhesion to every road surface encountered. It’s not surprising the 2016 BMW 328d Sports Wagon continues a tradition at BMW of attracting passionate enthusiast who want to have it all—performance, fuel economy and utility.
The impossible challenge of stealth
The red metallic wagon did present another challenge—how do you fly under the police radar for this long of a drive with a car designed to easily exceed the speed limit (and one that seemed hell-
bent on taking you into that territory before you realized). It took discipline and a light foot, but I succeeded in this area as well.
Some cars are more difficult to get to know than others for a variety of reasons. This BMW is the classic case of a wonderful car, easy to appreciate on many levels, but demanding much more time and attention to be fully understood or to be fully utilized.
Part of the learning curve with the 2016 BMW 328d Sports Wagon is the variety and depth of technology that came with this test car. As amazing as the technology is (and much more on that later), it did come at a cost. The base price of the wagon jumped from $44,150 to well north of $60,000 after all of the goodies were added. How much of this technology you want or need is a personal question, but we’ll offer some thoughts on the different packages.
This 2016 BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon came with seven option packages. Here’s a run-down of the contents and relative value of each. They all build on a solid foundation of a driver’s car that has a powertrain and suspension designed around driving pleasure. But there is always room to improve.
Cold Weather Package
It is March, but it also is California, so the chill is not what much of the rest of the country has to deal with. Heated steering wheel, front and rear seats is a great feature, but whether you spend the $800 to add it will be driven by your geography.
Driver Assistance Package
This package consists of a rear-view camera and what BMW calls “park distance control” or sensors that let you know your proximity to another car. For $950, it’s a little pricey, but there is also no question that it is valuable technology and something showing up standard on more and more models.
Driver Assistance Plus
I guess this is BMW’s way of parceling out the technology. This adds side and top-view cameras for parking assistance (they are pretty amazing), blind spot detection and what BMW calls “active driver assistant,” think of it as an always alert angel sitting on your shoulder and taking control of the car to warn if you move out of lane by vibrating the steering wheel or are about to hit another car or pedestrian and will even brake the car. It also includes an adaptive cruise control that will take over the car in stop-and-go driving. This package runs $1,700, but packs some seriously powerful technology and something anyone dealing with rush-hour stop-and-go traffic should consider.
Automatic high-beams are the extent of this $800 package. I loved ‘em, particularly on back roads.
M Sport Package
This package is a mixture of performance–related items and some cosmetic touches. Its $3,100 price tag is rich, but that also comes with the prestige of the “M” designation. The real hardware
includes 18-inch wheels, sport seats and an aero kit for the exterior. Beyond that, the package has Anthracite wood trim and headliner, a special leather-wrapped steering wheel and special exterior trim. It’s a tough call because some of this package really does improve the car and the looks can’t be denied.
This $1,700 package includes keyless entry, lumbar support and a year of satellite radio, a little steep for me, although the Sirius XM radio is a must-have for traveling (and even around town).
Here’s some fun stuff. The package includes a navigation system with real-time traffic information, head-up display, remote services and BMW online and apps. The package is $2,750, but includes some pretty valuable technology. Of course, much of the nav-related tech can be duplicated with free apps on your phone, but the online BMW connection could be useful.
All-in-all, the tech level for the 2016 BMW 328d was pushing 11 on the old Spinal Tap scale. To be honest, in a week in the car I feel I mastered only a small
portion of it (though loved everything I used), but feel like I would have had to spend the week reading the owner’s manual (either the paper copy of the version on the car’s display screen) to fully appreciate all of the technologies available. The head-up display was very valuable at night, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road while also keeping track of not only the vehicle speed but the road speed limit (which is also displayed). The automatic high-beams were wonderful, also allowed more concentration of the task of driving rather than worrying about switching headlight functions. The rain-sensing wipers got put to much use and worked flawlessly.
Back to the Basics
I would got back to the basics with this car, which is what BMW is all about. The 2.0-liter aluminum block TwinPower turbodiesel engines delivers power and exceptional fuel economy. The variable-valve turbo technology helps make sure the power is there when needed. The eight-speed transmission augments the economy but comes with paddle shifters if you want to emulate the sport sedan that the sports wagon is definitely closely related to.
Inside, the 2016 BMW 328d Sports Wagon has seats that hug like a friend would—friendly and helpful without being overly constricting. With Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings on the car’s Driving Dynamics Control, the performance of the car can be dialed into your whim on a given day.
Standard features include Dynamic Stability Control, brake fade compensation, start-off assistant, brake drying and brake stand-by features with Dynamic Traction Control. High-performance, lightweight four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock braking system, Dynamic Brake Control and cornering brake control wrap up the under-the-car tour. Can you tell BMW likes the word Dynamic!
Inside, the driver and passenger have 10-way power front sports seats; in the rear is a 40/20/40 split fold-down seat with a pass-through. For entertainment and beyond, the car has an AM/FM/CS/MP3 player w/HD radio, USB audio connection and hands-free Bluetooth. The iDrive system w/on-board computer, 6.5-inch center screen, controller and eight programmable buttons (another one for the “more attention” needed file). Note that the iDrive of year’s ago has been significantly improved and updated and is fairly intuitive. The test car also had a Harman Kardon surround sound system upgrade.
Safety & Warranties
The 2016 BMW 328d Sports Wagon comes with several airbags—driver and front passenger, side airbags and head airbags front and rear (curtain head protection system). Overall, the car has earned a in government testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not tested the BMW sports wagon, but the 3-Series sedan received a marginal grade in the small overlap front crash test and good ratings in all of the other tests. It missed being a top safety pick and was rated as having an advanced (in a basic-advanced-superior three-tier system) crash avoidance and mitigation system.
BMW offers the following warranties:
- Basic – Four-year/50,000-mile
- Rust Perforation – 12-year/unlimited mileage
- Roadside Assistance – Four-year/unlimited mileage
- Free Factory Service – Four-year/50,000-mile
BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon – $44,150
Options – $16,475
Destination charge – $995
Total price as tested – $61,620
Other models: 2016 BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon – $42,650
So, should this be subtitled The Review of the Living Dead? The 2016 BMW 328d Sports Wagon shows definitively that:
- Diesel is not dead.
- Station wagons are not dead.
- Luxury cars can be practical.
- Fancy technology can actually work.
That’s a lot of work during a short, rainy week., but work doesn’t phase this little wagon. It’s designed to go anywhere there’s a road and haul a good portion of people and things while still delivering top-drawer fuel economy and BMW performance and luxury. A tall order, done in style.
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