Review: The Bavarian WunderWagon

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Mon., Oct. 28, 2013
Contributed
- Contributed Photo

There has been a very European thing happening to what in days of not-so-old was a class of American automobiles that were as essential to family life as the dog and the grocery store: the station wagon. Across the sea the tastes on the car front lean more towards performance rather than comfort, seeking to engage with driving more than isolating oneself from it. As a result, the sport wagon is infiltrating the market and it blends a sports car and a wagon together by adding practicality to the former and driving enjoyment to the latter. When the sport wagon is built by BMW, you also get the very latest in electronic wizardry and cutting-edge safety technology, all in a solid, attractive package. In our region all-weather traction and fuel efficiency are of prime importance, and the 328i xDrive Sports Wagon is a testament to how BMW can imbue a mid-size wagon chassis with amazing utility, functionality and performance and still deliver lots of miles for every gallon of gas.

Our Sports Wagon test unit was powered by a 2-Liter TwinTurbo Inline Four, which is boosted by a twin-scroll turbocharger. This in turn also benefits from Valvetronic Variable Valve technology and the ultimate power output is 240 horsepower. From here we go to an 8-Speed automatic transmission with a manual mode, and then through BMW’s xDrive (the company’s very sophisticated All Wheel Drive system). This very intriguing drivetrain is made even more interesting through the inclusion of Auto Start-Stop technology, which shuts down the engine at stops (like hybrid vehicles) to save fuel and then starts up immediately when you release the brakes. The result of all these features is excellent acceleration, superb traction in pretty much any road condition and surprising fuel economy (we experienced 29.8 MPG during a week with the Sport Wagon; an excellent performance). The multi-mode suspension is firm even on the comfort setting, but the reward is superb handling and control and as such you forget there is a wagon body behind you and not a sports sedan.

The wagon body increases the 328i’s versatility, but the sporty character found in the chassis is carried on throughout the interior. For years I’ve thought BMW has the finest gauge clusters in the automotive world, from the crisp analog instruments to the central flat screen infotainment display. This hasn’t changed, but unfortunately the iDrive controller (a knob/button interface located behind the shifter) is still a key part of the direction of many functions and is still a bit counterintuitive to use. But the electronics on this car are not limited to control interfaces and in fact are often the things you don’t see unless you need them, including highly advanced braking and stability controls to countless other elements of BMW’s Advanced Safety System. Like with all BMWs the craftsmanship and solid construction is apparent everywhere, and while it commands a premium price you can certainly see where your money goes.
The 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon is EPA rated 22 MPG city/33 highway and has a base price of $41,450.


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