2014 BMW 328d to New York. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Paul Williams
We’ve had some near record-breaking cold weather in Ottawa this winter, so if you were wondering whether BMW’s latest diesel-powered vehicle handled the conditions, I can tell you that it was just fine… mostly.
On –27 degree mornings, the 2.0L four-cylinder turbocharged diesel surged to life making a bit more noise than usual (what wouldn’t, at this temperature?), settling into smoother operation after a few minutes. Surprisingly, the car’s climate control system was able to find some heat for the cabin quite quickly (my experience in a Volkswagen Golf TDI was that it took much longer to warm up).
Likewise the heated seats and the heatable steering wheel were quick to respond, even though their elements were contending with some very hard leather surfaces due to the cold. A heatable steering wheel, by the way, will surely become a must-have for Canadians once word gets around and prices drop (as they have already started to do).
There was one problem, however, which took the car off the road for two days. Without getting too technical, the “urea line” froze. This is part of the emissions system and if it doesn’t work, the car simply won’t start. In my case, this didn’t actually happen while the car was on my watch; my long-term test was on hiatus and it occurred during the test drive of another journalist who was passing it back to me for a subsequent road trip to New York City. So technically, yes, I had no problems of this nature during my long-term test drive, but after that drive, I have to report that the vehicle experienced this issue, solved by thawing out the car at dealer and reprogramming the 328d computer. In addition to the various glitches I experienced earlier in my test (and described below) I have to say I’m surprised that this car wasn’t simply problem-free.
2014 BMW 328d xDrive. Click image to enlarge
That said, the 2014 BMW 328d was a pleasure to drive. The engine makes a modest 181 horsepower from its diesel engine, but compensates with a lusty 280 lb-ft of torque that provides spirited acceleration both from standstill and when passing. It was never deficient in this regard.
Both 328d models (there’s a “Touring” wagon, as well) are fitted with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which was also severely tested during my long-term test drive this winter. Wearing a set of Pirelli winter tires, and aided by a suite of electronic traction aids, I’d venture to say that this is one of the most surefooted vehicles I’ve driven in these types of frigid, slippery and potentially dangerous conditions.
On the highway my fuel consumption dropped on occasion to 5.0 L/100 km, translating to a cruising range of 1,000 kilometres per tank. In the city, my initial average was around 8.1 L/100km, but this dropped to 7.2 in the later stages of my drive. Possibly this is due to the engine settling in after a few thousand kilometres, or maybe I’m just learning to drive more economically. Whatever the explanation, these are superb numbers for a good-sized compact, luxury sedan.