2014 BMW 328d

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Downsizing is hitting diesels too.'14 328d lead

I wrote a week or so ago about the 2014 BMW 320i – a new, economy-minded (for a BMW) and smaller-engined/lower-powered version of the 3 sedan.

This week, I’m writing about the 328d – “d” for diesel. BMW has sold a diesel-powered Three before, of course. But unlike the last one (2011) the diesel is now a four rather than a six – and it chuffs out just 180 hp now vs. the old six cylinder diesel’s 265 hp.

Oh, the pain (cue – for those who remember him – the keening wail of Dr. Zachary Smith from Lost in Space).Dr. Smith pic

But, there’s a sunny side – the same sunny side that shines on the 320i (reviewed here, if you’re interested). It is stupendous mileage: 32 city, 45 highway – vs. the old 335d’s 23 city, 36 highway.

That’s almost a 10 MPG improvement – both ways.

But is it worth the loss of 85 hp?

WHAT IT IS

The 328d is the “new” diesel version of the BMW 3 Series sedan/wagon. The previously available turbo-diesel six has been retired in favor of a turbo-diesel four. It’s much less powerful – but much more fuel-efficient.

It’s also a lot less expensive.

The previous 335d (last sold new in 2011) had a base price of $44,150. That’s three years ago – so not adjusted for inflation.'14 "328d" badge

A new 320d sedan starts at $38,600 for the RWD model – $40,600 for one with the optional xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Imagine that. A new BMW that costs less – thousands less – than its immediate predecessor.

The 320d’s main rival is arguably the new Benz E250 Bluetec diesel – which is also capable of phenomenal mileage (28 city, 45 highway). Howevah – as they say in Massachusettes – Benz asks $51,400 to start for the E250; $53,900 with 4-Matic all-wheel-drive.

You might also want to wait and see what Audi has in store for the A3 for 2015. The updated version of this model will launch this spring/summer.

WHAT’S NEW

The 3 Series sedan was “all new” for the ’12 model year and since then updates have centered on mechanical things – like the new 2.0 turbo gas engine in the 320i – and now the new turbo-diesel engine in the 320d. The wagon has also reappeared – after a brief interlude – and is also available with the new 2.0 diesel engine.

The emphasis – even for luxury car brands like BMW – is shifting toward a more balanced nexus between power/performance – and price/efficiency.

WHAT’S GOOD2014 BMW 328i xDrive Sport Wagon

45 on the highway is better than any current gas-engined economy car – and very close to the parkway parsimony of most current hybrids.

32 in the city is equally startling – particularly for a prestige-brand, RWD luxury-sport sedan.

Same superlative handling/reflexes as any 3 Series.

Though down on power relative to the old turbo-diesel six, the turbo-diesel four still belts out move-you-right-now low and mid-range torque (280 ft.-lbs., more – and lower down in the RPM band) than the 328i’s 240 hp gas engine.

Like the new 320i, the new 328i is a deal . . . as BMWs go.

And it’s a steal compared with the $51k to start Benz E250.

Go sedan – or wagon.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD'14 328d interior shot

Performance is noticeably ebbing among the entry-luxury (not just BMW, either). It’s not that the 328d is slow (it’s not). But it’s no longer quicker than a Camry or an Accord.

Diesel not offered with a manual transmission – which would have made it more engaging to drive.

It’s a bit spartan for almost $39k to start. No standard heated seats. No standard satellite radio. Both cost extra.

Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) hassles – and expense.

UNDER THE HOOD

As in all new entry-level Threes, there’s a four rather than a six under the hood. In the 328d, it’s a 2.0 liter turbo-diesel (same size as the 320i and 328i’s 2.0 turbo gas engine) and it makes 180 hp at 4,000 RPM and 280 ft.-lbs. of torque at just 1,750 RPM.'14 328d engine 1

One of the neat things about modern diesels like this one is that in addition to the usual down-low grunt, they also have decent lungs on top. Check the 328d’s redline. It’s 5,500 RPM.

Not 4,200 RPM.

Not so long ago, 5,500 RPM was a respectable redline for a gas engine. A gas high-performance engine (the giant V-8 in my classic ’70s muscle car redlines at 5,700).

Combine that kind of power (and torque) spread with the long-legged gearing of an eight-speed gearbox with a .67 top cog and you’ve got a car that will run 90 all day at 2,300 RPM.

And the zero to 60 time? It’s about 7 flat now – which is of course several steps behind the 5.9 second run of the old (2011) 335d.'14 328d tach close up

But – as already mentioned – the 335d could only manage 45 MPG on the highway if it happened to be riding on the roof of a Prius . . . and its 23 city rating was about what you’d expect to get with almost any middling-powerful gas V-6 powered sedan.

The new 328d’s 32 city rating, meanwhile, is absolutely exceptional – by any measure. Not to go too over-the-top about it, but within very recent memory, 32 MPG would have been considered a damn decent score on the highway . . .

. . . from an economy compact.

ON THE ROAD

The initial, coming-off-the-line thrust is still quite potent – no issue with The Slows in this car.

Mid-range response is also excellent – and high-speed cruise is more than anyone (in this country) needs or rather can make much use of for any length of time . . . at least, not without laser and radar jammers and a serious lawyer on 24 hour retainer.'14 328d road 1

The issues – if they are – are two:

First, the easy – almost effortless – passing power is not there anymore. You will have to work it – and plan for it. In the 335d, passing was merely a matter of depressing the accelerator. Part-way to the floor. A knock-out, every time. This was satisfying and also appropriate given you had laid out, what, $44k for the thing? You ought to be able to make short work of Camry jockeys for that kind of money.

In this one, you’ll need to be more like am ambush predator – waiting for your moment, then seizing it. If you get the drop on the Camry jockey in the next lane over, the diesel’s roll-on thrust should see you through.

BMW is no doubt counting on the compensatory factors of the 328d’s much-lower MSRP – and the much higher MPGs – to make up for no longer being one of the Kings of the Road.'14 328d wide shot

It will be interesting to see how this bet plays out.

Now the other thing is the noise. The 2.0 diesel engine makes some. Not a lot – and it’s not tractor-trailer obnoxious. But – unlike some other diesels I’ve test driven recently – you can tell by ear that this one’s a diesel. The rattling is most obvious accelerating full-pedal from a standstill – though it mutes to nothingness once you ease off a little. Still, given this is a BMW, I think BMW might want to pad the engine compartment a bit more.

The other bit of less-than-great news is the engine needs horse pee – urea. Also known as Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). There’s an additional fill-hole adjacent to the receptacle for the Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel, both located behind the fuel filler door. DEF is necessary to keep the BMW’s emissions in check – and must be added periodically, the frequency of top-offs depending on how the car is driven.  It’s a minor hassle – and additional expense (though not a big one) that diesel owners get to put up with in exchange for not having to fill up as often as their gas-burner counterparts.

Benz diesels also need DEF, incidentally.

Audis too.

AT THE CURB'14 328d curb 1

The 328d comes as either a sedan – or a wagon. This versatility in bodystyles gives the BMW a leg up over the Benz E250, which – for now – is a sedan-only deal. (Ditto the attractively priced – and very attractive – Benz CLA.)

I didn’t get to test-drive the wagon, but given it shares almost everything that would be relevant in terms of driving/handling with the sedan, the two should be fundamentally similar.

The sedan is actually slightly longer overall than the wagon – 182.5 inches vs. 182 inches – and the wagon has a scootch more front seat headroom (40.4 inches vs. 40.3 for the sedan). Both have the same reasonably generous back seats, with 35.1 inches of legroom. But the wagon – naturlich – has more cargo capacity behind the back seats: 17.5 cubic feet vs. 13 cubes for the sedan’s smallish trunk. Fold the second row down and the wagon’s cargo deck expands to 53 cubic feet.'14 328d wagon cargo

When I reviewed the 320i (gas engine but same basic car) a few weeks ago, I made mention of the Three’s arguably “just right” size. It’s larger than a compact (unlike the price-comparable Benz CLA or the C-Class), with much more room in the back seats especially. But it’s priced not too far beyond the outer bounds of what a loaded Camry or other bread-and-butter (non-luxury) mid-sized sedan would cost you.

This is very clever of BMW – and just like the new high-efficiency engines – the accessible price and value for the dollar is bound to attract new people to the blue and white spinner.

But – and here comes my Big Beef – the loaded Camry (or Accord or Hyundai Genesis, etc.) will come with heated seats and satellite radio plus other things the $38k to start BMW doesn’t come with.'14 328d center stack

You do get a few upgrades when you buy the 328d over the base 320i – such as an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat with memory and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. But that’s thin gruel, frankly, for a car not far from $40k.

At least, given what $30k buys these days at a Toyota or Honda or (gasp!) Kia store.

The Technology Package adds a 20 gig music storage hard drive and an upgraded  8.8inch display monitor (it’s an iPad-like thing on top of the center stack). Order the Premium package and and your Three will come through with leather, keyless ignition and (if it’s a wagon) a “sweep your foot under the bumper” automatic liftgate opener. The Sport package adds a grippier wheel/tire package, as well as an additional Sport+ setting for the multi-mode automatic.

The Cold Weather package gets you the heated seats.'14 328d snow

But, be advised – these packages are pricey. Order a couple and you’ll be well over the $40k threshold. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It is a BMW, after all. And – on the other hand – BMW does give you, the buyer, the option of buying a less-adorned Three.

In contrast, Mercedes gives you a more loaded car – and a more loaded price tag.

Take it – or leave it.

THE REST

This car is a sign of the changing times. Whether because of pressure from Washington (CAFE) or pressure from the economy (people have less to spend) or some combination thereof, there is an ever-more-noticeable tack toward the Sensible side under way.'14 328i console pic

I suppose this is a good thing. What good, after all, is a “nice car” if you can’t afford to own it?

Or, for that matter, to drive it?

The $4k-plus price cut – and 9-10 MPG uptick in economy –  makes the numbers jibe better.

Remember: Diesel fuel costs more than gas nowadays. A lot more. About 50 cents per gallon more. The less you pay for the diesel-powered car – and the farther it can go on a gallon of diesel fuel – the more economic sense it makes to buy it and to drive it.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The previous 335d was a hoot to drive – and I’ll miss it. But its $44k to start sticker and merely so-so fuel economy made it hard buy if you really gave a damn about what you were spending.

With this car, you do ok.

It’s still an indulgence – but one that fits the times.

Throw it in the Woods?

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Looking at the HP and the engine spec, the 328d sounds more like an equivalent of 320i. Am I correct?
    Also, is there a big difference in performance (noticeable) between the 328d and the 328i?

  2. I don’t know. I like the 3 series a lot better than the CLA. The 3 series is a drivers car with rear wheel drive. The CLA may handle well, etc, but it is still FWD. It will never handle the same nor will it be as repairable as a RWD car, not that BMWs or Mercedes are repairable.

    • We’re talking about subjective values here.

      My comments however, were specifically directed at the 328d, with it’s exceptionally slow diesel engine. Also, that heavy engine probably makes the 328d’s front end
      too ponderous to achieve the optimum agility of a well balanced RWD car.

      If “that” is the way I have to take my RWD BMW, make mine a FWD CLA….every time!

  3. As you said…”BMW is no doubt counting on the compensatory factors of the 328d’s much-lower MSRP – and the much higher MPGs – to make up for no longer being one of the Kings of the Road.”

    BMW has abandoned it’s high standards, when it no longer aspires to make every one of it’s cars the “king of the road…” at least in it’s own segment.

    Look at Mercedes’ much more inspired approach to the CAFE requirements. Their CLA will kick the diesel burner BMW’s ass….not only in every vehicle performance parameter beyond MPG….but also where it counts most….on the Sales Charts!

  4. BMW Clean Diesel. Take the CamryAccord and Throw it in the Woods. Ultimate driving machine? Have they legalized marijuana in the Fatherland! Err. All the cool new cars are in Europe. Too bad they don’t send some of them to the US. So sad a rally ready Euro car in America? The French really hate Americans and now we are feeling the pain!

    Anyway there are not many choices for anyone that does not want a 2,000 cc Turbo. I wish I mass produced a 2 liter Turbo. I would rule the World! Dull Autos! Say it a’int so mon! V

    • Hi Vic!

      What you’re seeing is the inevitable result of 35.5 MPG CAFE. Larger engines will very shortly become exceedingly rare.

      And 54.5 MPG CAFE – not all that far down the road – will probably make even a 3 liter V-6 seem like a “big block” to future generations….

  5. BMW – Downsizing. I have recently discovered 2 things on BMW’s with 2 wheels. They actually make some bikes worth owning but the problem is the bike costs 60 to 70% more than an comparable Kawasaki. Why a 1,300 cc sport bike cost 19G’s is anybody’s guess. A Kawasaki ZX-14 cost about 11 G’s brand new (2013). I’ve all but had it with the Audi and BMW crowd. An Audi A4 which is nothing to write home about it is the stratosphere. Even a bargain basement A3 is 30 grand. Why? Why? I’ll take my Audi money and by a new Vette Stingray and show them a thing or two at the track! VJU

    • Hi Vic,

      Part of it, of course, is the “value” (such as it is) of the prestige brand. Other factors include the higher level of electronics/gadgets one typically finds on a BMW over a Kaw.

      I also can’t see spending $19k on a prestige bike when you can get a bike that’s just as good – or even better – in every objective way for thousands less at the Kaw or Honda or Suzuki store…

  6. What we are witnessing here is the twilight of the age of the motorcar brought on by CAFE standards. Yes, cars still peform pretty well, but the dimishing performance numbers are markers of an era slipping by. We thought it was through in the 1970’s, but technology brought back automotive performance.

    It didn’t have to be this way. Amerikans, elected a bunch of Democrats in 2006 in a temper tantrum against rising gas prices and the presidency of GW Bush. In exchange, we got the energy conservation act of 2007 which gave us 35.5 mpg cafe by 2020 and 54 mpg by 2025. We also got CFL lights, which I actually happen to like. In addition, ongoing NHTSA safety requirments were phased in in 2009 which increased car weight as well. The last phases of the 1990 clean air act were implemented in the mid 2000’s, manadating oxygenated fuels everywhere and the use of ultra low sulfur diesel.

    It will be interesting 5 years from now if Amerikans will react to lower power outputs much in the way that they did in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I know one thing, though, the limits of automtoive technology for the moment are being tested again. Without major compromises to automotive durability, and handling integrity we will not meet the 2020 targets. Those issues will merely be covered over by an electronic band-aid.

  7. This is a great car. It is ironic that the BMW gives the highest gas mileage of any diesel powered vehicle in the states. The VW Jetta only gets 31/42 and the Passat is 31/43.

    • Hi Swamp,

      I thought so, too – and I wish I’d thought to mention that business about the BMW beating the VW.

      Thanks for bringing that up!

      • Dear Eric,

        Weird shit happening here!

        First Mercedes Benz making lower priced cars than Toyota with its CLA250.

        Now BMW making higher mileage diesels than VW with its 328d.

        What’ll they come up with next?

        • I see it as a positive trend. These cars are very appealing. Performance – and economy. Value – and luxury.

          Yes, power is down a little. But things should be put in context, I think. These turbo twos (gas and diesel) are putting out as much or more hp than the V-8s I grew up with in the ’80s – and their performance is better.

          Needless to say, their gas mileage is much better!

  8. Will US automakers follow suit? GM is the most likely possibility here (they already sell the Cruze with a diesel – it’s not a stretch to see one in a Malibu). Ford is wedded to EcoBoost turbo-charged motors and for internal political reasons, isn’t likely to offer one. Chrysler *may* offer one – they have the Fiat diesel six in the Grand Cherokee and the Ram pickup, and both seem to be selling amazingly well. So pulling from the Fiat parts bin again for a diesel four is a possibility.

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