The current F30 series of the 3 Series continues to impress with its performance, handling, quality build, and styling. Although these elements have been part of the mix from the onset (think of the '70s with the E21) a new factor has come to play: efficiency.
The new 2014 BMW 328d brings to the table exactly that without ever relegating what has always made the 3 Series great. The car's turbo-diesel engine is phenomenally powerful and smooth, and exceptionally good on gas. The rest is as expected.
What is a BMW 328d?
The 328d is only the second diesel variant of BMW's 3 Series ever offered on the North American market. The first was a silly-powerful RWD-only 335d with an inline 6-cylinder engine.
The 3 Series itself has been BMW's bestselling nameplate for almost ever and therefore plays a pivotal role in the Bavarian brand's success. The numerous powertrains and body styles (if we include the new 4 Series) ensure that failure is not an option.
2014 BMW 328d Price and Specs
The 328d starts at $47,700. This money gets you a turbocharged diesel sipping 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. It puts out 181 horsepower at 4,000 rpm and a butt-tingling 280 lb-ft of torque between 1,750 and 2,750 rpm. Tied into this is an 8-speed automatic transmission and BMW's xDrive AWD system.
My tester was painted Glacier Silver Metallic and the cabin, draped in Coral Red Dakota leather. Options included: Premium, Sport Line (a must) and a few other goodies for a grand total of $56,220.
The 328d is rated at 6.4L city, 4.5L highway (L/100 km). My average after more than 1,700km worked out to just over 6L/100 km. Remarkable!
Driving the 2014 BMW 328d
There are few driving experiences that are as subtly rewarding as driving a BMW 3 Series. As a serious fan of all things diesel, the combination of the 3 and oil burning had my expectations floating somewhere in the stratosphere.
First remarks stem from the engine itself: In 2014, I've become accustomed to quiet diesel engines, the pitter-patter being less than remarkable. In the 2014 BMW 328d, the diesel knock or clatter is louder than some potential buyers may like. In fact, a few heads turned as I drove by, but not because I was driving a silver 3 Series, because of the engine's tune.
As far as I'm concerned, I care not about the "noise" as I find melody in the compression-ignition engine to actually be endearing. Truth is, once the throttle begins its travel towards the floor, all complaints abate. This tiny torque monster will have the small of your back firmly pressed against the seat. Once that experience has passed, press the "SPORT" button and repeat. Yeah, I know...
The beauty with this mill is not only its near lack of lag, sharp throttle response, and strong pull but how well the 8-speed 'box attaches to it shifts from one gear to another. Smooth as silk or cutthroat-style when in Sport+, this transmission is as brilliant as it is efficient. It plays a huge roll in keeping the motor in its sweet spot when needed or snoring when loads are minimal.
Then there's the ride and the drive. A BMW 3 Series inherently owns the tarmac, even when covered with all kinds of nasty weather-related stuff. The car's near perfect 50/50 weight distribution, finely tuned suspension and beautifully sorted chassis ensure comfort and confident handling. Steering assistance is well judged and as precise as a modern BMW should be.
Inside and Out of the 2014 BMW 328d
The F30 series BMW 3 speaks a design language that is all BMW and this is but one of the reasons why the car is so popular. The 3 Series is instantly recognizable and those who cannot find the beauty in what BMW has sculpted in the latest 3 are simply biased.
Despite the constantly growing outer dimensions, the BMW 3 Series remains tidy and very handsome. Any car purchased should include the Sport Line or M Sport packages.
The 2014 BMW 328d's passenger quarters are growing at an equal pace to that of the shell. The trick is that BMW has been able to keep the cabin intimate enough, all the while providing occupants with more head- and legroom.
Fit and finish are superb, and ergonomics are slightly convoluted but are adapted to rapidly. The seats are my only complaint. I've never done this before, but this is I bitching about front seats in a BMW that, because of the lack of lumbar support, had my back in pain two hours into a five-hour drive.
Instrumentation, HMI, and all other means of interacting with the car work as well as expected.
Comparing the 2014 BMW 328d
The BMW 3 Series has it rough. There's a limited number of segments where there are so few significant players that compete as hard as they do in the entry-level compact car segment.
Think about the constant siege between the Germans: Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4 and 3 Series. Throw in the Infiniti Q50 and Lexus IS and the grudge match will leave very few survivors.
Luckily for the buyer, it's nearly impossible to go wrong with any of these cars. For branding purposes, it's tough to beat Germany at its own game. I must say that I have a very soft spot for the IS...