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Chasing the unicorn: Buying a 2014 BMW 328d xDrive

Expensive 3 Series diesel goes for efficiency over power

Published: January 22, 2014 11:56 AM

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We changed our plans a bit on this one: we set out to buy a BMW 328d xDrive station wagon for the test program. Combining all-wheel-drive with a diesel engine in a station wagon body is a near-mythical dream car for online Euro-loving car enthusiasts. Same goes for car journalists, well known for not buying the oddball cars they so lovingly praise, such as the Acura TSX wagon and Cadillac CTS-V wagon with stick shifts.)

In the end, well, we didn’t buy a BMW diesel wagon, either. Dealer inventories showed about 30 328d xDrive sedans to every wagon. What wagons we could find were typically loaded well over $50,000. So we went with the sedan, which starts at $40,600.

Not that we got away inexpensively with this car, either.  As with all BMWs, the options add up quickly. For instance, we added what we considered basics for this class: $950 Cold-Weather (heated front and rear seats and steering wheel) and $3,100 Premium (leather, moonroof, satellite radio) packages.

From there, the price jumped quite dramatically. Our car has BMW’s $3,150 Technology package, adding a touchpad to the iDrive controller for scratching out navigation destinations with your fingertip. There’s also a suite of connectivity features, enhanced Bluetooth (which works very well), and a head-up display. A $950 Driver Assistance package adds a backup camera (which is, ahem, standard equipment in any $18,000 Honda Civic), and parking sensors.  Automatic high beams cost another $250. Finally, although I got red paint free on the last BMW 3 Series test car I bought, this go around Melbourne Red Metallic dinged us for $550.

All in, that adds up to a budget-busting $50,475. Wow. That’s slightly more than our Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited diesel—and the plush Jeep has far more equipment and utility than the BMW, and it can tow 7, 400 pounds. But it’s not all bad news.

Don’t think that American brands are the only ones to play the incentive game. We saved $1,250 as part of a holiday incentive, and if we financed through BMW, there would have been another $500 off for customer loyalty. (There’s always a BMW knocking around our track, it seems.) Add in end-of-the-year dealer motivation and we got around $4,000 off the sticker price. That bargaining room helps even if you lease, as many 3 Series owners do, rather than actually buying the car.

Enough about money. The 328d has a small 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine mated to an eight-speed automatic. We think that small four-cylinder diesels like this one and the 2.1-liter Mercedes-Benz BlueTec make a stronger case for diesel here in the States than larger, more performance-focused diesels. Those six-cylinders, including the slow-selling previous-generation BMW 335d and, to some extent, Audi’s current 3.0-liter TDI V6, provide near-gasoline-levels of acceleration but give up some fuel economy gains. To remind, with a diesel, it’s about the fuel economy.

But to be fair, that sets up a dilemma. The 3 Series is aimed at driving enjoyment and for this price, you expect it to ooze refinement. Instead you get the clatter of a less-than-refined diesel and you lose the quick responsiveness of BMW’s gasoline powerplants. We’ll see if the fuel economy makes up for those sacrifices as we put more miles on the car.

See our latest BMW 3 Series road test.

—Tom Mutchler

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