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In its sportiest settings, the sports wagon was surprisingly agile and an excellent driver's car. It stuck to the twisty corners of my favorite backroad even as I pushed far beyond the posted speed limit. The chassis stayed flat apex after apex and inspired great amounts of confidence.
What impressed me the most was how composed the wagon was during these high-speed hijinks. The diesel engine hums along at a low RPM thanks to its broad torque curve; the all-season tires don't squeal thanks to the xDrive system shifting power where the grip can be found; and the chassis feels comfortable and composed even when tucking into an apex. It's a good thing that the wagon form-factor doesn't attract a lot of attention to itself, because a car this comfortable at speed that could get you into a lot of trouble with the law if you're not careful.
The base level tech
Though the 3 Series is available with a wide range of optional infotainment tech, driver aid systems, and active and passive safety features, our example wasn't equipped with any of them.
The standard loadout is reasonably well equipped, but there are a few odd omissions and tech choices. For example, push-button start is a standard feature, but not smart keyless entry. So you have to get the remote transponder out of your pocket to unlock the doors as you approach, but put it back in your pocket to start the car with the ignition button.
Bluetooth is standard, which includes hands-free calling and text messaging, but I wasn't able to find Bluetooth audio streaming as an available source for the base 6.5-inch iDrive infotainment system. So if you're an Android, Windows Phone, or Blackberry user you'll need to either upgrade to a higher tech options package or deal with the 3.5mm analog auxiliary input and a cable to gain access to your favorite audio streaming app. (BMW's website states that the newer, but nearly identical 2015 model fixes this issue and features standard BT audio.)
iPhone users potentially don't fare much better. Though the BMW comes standard with a USB port, it requires a proprietary 30-pin adapter for iPod connectivity. If you're an iPhone 5, 5S, or 5C user, that means that you'd better bring your own lightning-to-30-pin adapter because that's the only way you'll get your tunes through the car's speakers.
The bottom line
The 2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon starts at $42,950. Our example wasn't much more expensive with the only additions to the bottom line being the M Sport and Dynamic handling packages and a $925 destination fee. As tested, this surprisingly capable wagon weighs in at $49,275.
For the money, the Bimmer is a flexible around-town vehicle with a good amount of space for people, pets, and cargo, an excellent road tripper that will effortlessly do 40+ mpg on the highway, and a pretty good drivers car when the road gets twisty.
Though our example's loadout was pretty spartan, BMW does at least offer the tech that we like to see in a premium sports wagon... for a price. For about $950, you could add a rear camera and park distance sensors -- features that really should be standard at this price point. For $3,150, you can add navigation, a head-up display, and the BMW Online and BMW Apps as part of a Technology package. For $1,900, you can add lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and an around-view camera system. For $1,200, you can add adaptive cruise control and for $500 more there's an automatic parallel parking system available. There's premium audio, Xenon headlamps, and so many more options available.
It's pretty easy to end up with a car with significantly more amenities than our example, but you'll also be building a ride that's significantly more expensive.
|Model||2014 BMW 3 Series|
|Trim||328d xDrive Sports Wagon|
|Powertrain||2.0L turbodiesel four-cylinder, eight-speed automatic trans. xDrive all-wheel drive|
|EPA fuel economy||31 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, 35 mpg combined|
|Observed fuel economy||41 mpg|
|Navigation||Available, not equipped|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard with messaging|
|Digital audio sources||CD, USB, HD Radio|
|Audio system||nine-speaker standard audio|
|Price as tested||$49,275|