2014 BMW 328d xDrive
2014 BMW 328d xDrive. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Paul Williams

New to the Canadian market this model year, the 2014 BMW 328d offers no surprises when it comes to design, equipment and quality associated with this luxury brand. The big news is under the hood, where the familiar gasoline engine is replaced with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel.

Common in Europe for many years (over 50 percent of non-commercial vehicles are diesel-powered there), diesel is still something of an exotic in North America. But that is changing as consumers discover the attributes of diesel versus gasoline (for example, Volkswagen is seeing record sales of its new Passat TDI, even in the US). A major benefit is that diesel provides superior fuel economy, and happily it doesn’t achieve this by sacrificing power. In the 328d, 181 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque provide good acceleration both from a standstill and when passing.

On the highway I’m experiencing fuel consumption of about 6.6 L/100 km, translating to a cruising range of close to 1,000 kilometres per tank. In the city, I’m averaging around 8.1 L/100 km. For a luxury sedan of comfortable proportions, these are very good numbers, with further savings realized if the price of diesel fuel remains between regular and premium grade gasoline (all BMW gasoline-powered vehicles require premium fuel).

2014 BMW 328d xDrive
2014 BMW 328d xDrive. Click image to enlarge

I should say from the get-go that I think consumers are well served with a diesel option, although being a BMW the price of admission for this car is high. The 2014 BMW 328d AWD starts at $47,700, with our test vehicle nudging $60,000 ($58,260, including freight, to be precise). So yes, there’s an irony that the savings in fuel, at least in the short- to midterm, are more than offset by the price of the car. But luxury brands come with luxury pricing, so let’s see what else this BMW 328d offers.

There is a palpable solidity that you experience when driving a BMW, and the 328d AWD is no exception. The doors close with a satisfying “thunk,” and the car feels like all its bolts were tightened an extra quarter-turn compared with most mainstream vehicles. When cruising at highway speeds, the 328d exhibits a feeling of heft and lightness of operation; comfortable, smooth ride and responsive handling. It feels different than mainstream-market cars, as it should.

On a recent trip to Toronto and back from Ottawa, my rear-seat passenger fell asleep for a couple of hours, waking to comment that this back seat was the most comfortable she’d ever experienced. Subjective, I know, but I think valid feedback from someone occupying the seat for 500 km, plus traffic jams.

I found the driver’s seat equally comfortable, although fortunately in my case, the comfort and support of the seat helped maintain alertness.

2014 BMW 328d xDrive2014 BMW 328d xDrive
2014 BMW 328d xDrive. Click image to enlarge

I was pleased to note beverage containers in each door, and that they were large enough to accommodate my Camelback water bottle. On the centre console there are two more beverage holders that are accessed by removing a panel that doubles as a catch-all for keys, wallet, phone, etc.

The problem with the removable panel (other than that it’s an either-or proposition) is that if you remove it, there’s no place to put it. There should be a pocket or something on the side of the transmission tunnel; otherwise it ends up on the floor. Alternatively it may just end up under the seat or in the glovebox. My experience was to use the cupholders to hold coffee and to hold odds and ends. Still, it looks nicer with the cover on.

The remote keyless entry is a convenience that defaults to unlocking the driver’s door only. This is a useful security feature, but if you’d like all your doors to unlock at once, you can change the default in Vehicle Settings, accessed via the iDrive interface.

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