The EPA reckons you can drive your new BMW 3 Series diesel 678 highway miles between fuel stops.
According to my highly non-scientific reckoning, that’s probably about right.
The 2014 BMW 328d ($38,225) runs a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine that compensates for its meager 181 horsepower with 280 pound-feet of torque.
<strong>Tech refresher:</strong> Torque makes acceleration, while horsepower relates to sustained speed. One expert explains it like this: “Torque is what gets you to the speed you want quickly; horsepower is what keeps you there.”
In other words, BMW’s new diesel not only sports sterling efficiency numbers (32 mpg city/45 mpg city/37 mpg combined), but does so in lively fashion. The 0-60 mph sprint comes up in the low-7-second range, about average for the sport-sedan class and quicker than the base, 180-hp/200 lb-ft 320i ($33,675; 24/36/28).
The new diesel joins a lineup that includes gasoline-powered four- and six-cylinder engines and a gas/electric hybrid. Most are available in either rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations, and some can be had with either a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic.
Other 3 Series updates this year include two new AWD-only body styles, a wagon and a Grand Turismo (GT) Hatchback (both priced from $42,375). Under BMW’s new naming strategy, the 3 Series Coupe and Convertible go away and, going forward, will be branded as 4 Series models.
All 3 Series cars (including the X3 crossover) are built on the same sturdy and responsive platform, and can be had with a series of options packages that allow owners to tweak their 3s in the direction of comfort or performance, or both.
Of course, the price escalates accordingly. My AWD 328d tester included the $3,500 M Sport package (18-inch wheels, sport seats, aerodynamic body add-ons, more); $1,000 Dynamic Handling Package (adaptive M suspension, variable sport steering); and $500 Sport automatic transmission), and tipped the scales at $47,075.
But, oh my, what a ride.
I picked up my 328d tester in Snoqualmie Falls (see story below) and headed south for SeaTac. After returning to the Northwest, I spent a couple of days in the Skagit Valley, north of Seattle. I wrapped things up with a return to Spokane via Hwy. 2 and landed at home with the fuel gauge registering one-quarter full.
This account glosses over a multitude of passing opportunities (passed with flying colors, puns intended), hairy curves and high-speed sweepers. The optional sport transmission allowed me to alter transmission and stability control programs depending on road conditions and my immediate need for speed.
In full-on Sport Plus mode, the engine runs, without shifting, to the redline and the stability control system shuts down, allowing the driver to let it all hang out. The optional adaptive suspension slashes body lean without turning the ride harsh.
Through it all, the well-equipped, attractive and roomy cabin remains tranquil, with only a hint of diesel clatter at low RPMs.
Diesels are popping up across the automotive landscape. If the rest of them are half as good as BMW’s, hybrids could turn out to be a threatened species.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com.
2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sedan
Vehicle base price:
Trim level base price: $40,500
As tested: $47,075
Optional equipment included sport seats; 18-inch wheels; aerodynamic kit; unique headlight and shadowing exterior trim; adaptive suspension; variable sport steering; sport automatic transmission; Estoril Blue paint.
EPA rating: 31 city/43 highway/35 combined
Clean diesel fuel required