German cars and diesel engines seem to go hand in hand, as both tend to deliver great performance with an eye towards practicality. Though not all diesel cars have been a hit in our eyes. It gets particularly tricky when you start messing with one of our favorite sport sedans of all time, the BMW 3 Series. So let’s find out how an oil burning 3 stacks up.
The 2014 BMW 328d is not the first diesel 3 Series that we’ve tested here at MotorWeek, having sampled the 6-cylinder twin turbo 335d back in 2009. But, since the current 6th generation F30 arrived for 2012, a diesel engine has been missing from the U.S. line-up.
Now that clatter has returned, only at this time it’s coming from a smaller 2.0–liter 4-cylinder single-turbo. It still produces big torque numbers however, 280 lb-ft. worth. And still cranks out decent horsepower at 180.
And while this 4-banger doesn’t feel as refined as some diesels on the market, Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the xDrive all-wheel-drive model are 32-City, 45-Highway, and 37–Combined. We averaged a good 36.2 miles-per-gallon in daily driving duties. You can do even better if you stick with rear-wheel-drive. The Energy Impact Score comes in quite good at 10.9-barrels of oil burned per year with CO2 emissions of 4.8 tons.
Our initial impressions around town were that this diesel “3” did not feel especially torque-y, but there’s still plenty enough pep to get your job done. And most found the automatic stop/start system a little too annoying.
But, at the track, this diesel-3 snaps off the line with authority; and a simple to engage launch control system had us hitting 60 in 6.4–seconds, only four tenths less than the old diesel-6. With the 8-speed automatic in Sport mode, no manual is available; shifts were on the harsh side of things, feeling almost DCT-like. And you’ll use first through sixth of the eight running out the quarter in 14.7–seconds at 96 miles-per-hour.
Diesel appetite aside, not much else sets this 3 apart from the rest of the 3 Series line-up. The interior still features above average material quality, and a very driver-focused layout.
While this particular car was very light on the creature comforts we’ve come to expect in a sporting luxury car, no heated seats or back-up camera to be found; it still features a tasteful design that most of our staff appreciated. There’s comfortable seating throughout the cabin, even with the upgraded M sport seats; and better than expected rear head and leg room.
Say what you want about modern BMW steering feel, the 3 Series remains a highly enjoyable car to drive whether you do so enthusiastically or as a still smooth cruiser.
However, no matter what the setting, we found optional Adaptive M suspension produces a rather soft ride. Still, the car feels light, peppy, and composed, with a decent amount of road feel. Engaging Sport mode will add a nice bit of responsiveness into the mix, and the M steering wheel looks and feels great in your hands.
Indeed, through the cones, our xDrive all-wheel-drive responded quite well; with a predictable, dialed-in feel you expect in a BMW sport sedan. Upgraded M performance brakes proved stellar in our testing, with average stopping distances of just 112–feet from 60.
Our 328d came coated in lovely Estoril blue paint, with blue trim inside as well, although their shades don’t quite match…No exterior differences with the diesel, but upgrading to the M Sport package nets you some additional aero trim and 18-inch split-spoke alloys.
A base, 4-banger 3 Series 320i sedan stickers for $33,675, and a base 6-pot 335i starts at $44,325. The 328d slides in between at $39,525; and all-wheel-drive will cost you 2-grand more.
So while we can appreciate the better fuel economy of the diesel, $40-grand is a tough sell for a car as sparsely equipped as this one.
Bottom line, the 2014 BMW 328d is a fine car. But while the 3 Series remains one of our all-time favorite sport sedans, when you reach that 40G barrier, our emotional favorite, the inline-6 gas 335i, is still our preferred choice.
Engine: 2.0 liter
Horsepower: 280 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.7 seconds @ 96 mph
EPA: 32 mpg city/ 45 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 10.9 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 4.8 tons/yr