We all love a wagon. And we’re fortunate because the Europeans do sports wagons better than anybody. However, the US market doesn’t overwhelming share our affinity, making wagon sales hard to come by.
Undeterred by Audi’s decision to eradicate the A4 Avant and only offer the allroad to wagon aficionados, the F31 BMW 328i Sports Wagon will go on sale next Spring. It’s the third generation for US buyers but the fifth in total since sadly the E30 and E36 Touring never officially made it here.
You may already know the story of BMW’s wagon history: it began after an employee built one at home based on the E30. The concept later won favor with management and was accepted for production.
However, the carmaker is realistic about US sales: numbers haven’t moved much since 2001; with 70% sold in just five states, California being the biggest single market. But that simply means the majority of American drivers have never experienced the wonders of this versatile platform with engaging performance and good economy, preferring clumsy SUVs and crossovers.
With a small audience, it doesn’t make economic sense to homologate lots of different versions, so the F31 Wagon comes in one delicious flavor. It gets the glorious 240hp N20 two-liter four-cylinder turbo engine that pulls hard and revs cleanly. However, you can forget about a manual. Instead, you’ll make do with the wonderful eight-speed automatic that shifts like butter, with close ratios to get you to 62mph in 6sec, and enough cogs to exceed 30mpg highway (EPA figures imminent).
While we might dream of a stripped-down manual wagon, in reality, not enough people would buy one to warrant the crash-testing. That said, this 328i wagon is a delight to drive. We found no handling compromises or comfort issues, despite its different spring and damper rates required to compensate for heavy loads. In fact, we managed to induce a little oversteer, which the electronic power steering was perfectly weighted to deal with. This car was every bit as entertaining as the 328i sedan we drove at its Laguna Seca launch, making it a great choice if you need to carry cargo.
If you insist on a six-speed manual, you’ll want to wait for the xDrive version, which is aimed specifically at New England customers who appreciate the superior traction in winter.
From a packaging perspective, all 3 Series wagons are on the small side, swapping style for ultimate utility. It boasts only 35cuft with the 40/20/40 rear-seat split.
The cargo area has a clever stowage system with a floor net and straps, tie-down eyes, underfloor storage and a cubby to store the luggage compartment cover when you need the extra capacity. The net can be configured in different ways and there’s a ski door in the rear seats for greater flexibility. Add an electric tailgate, rear power socket, roof rails and panoramic sunroof, and you’re prepared for any situation.
The rest of the standard equipment will leave you breathless when you list it to your neighbor: 6.3" flastscreen with iDrive controller, USB port, Bluetooth, auto stop/start, Dynamic Driving Control with Eco Pro mode to aid fuel economy and Sport+ mode, brake regeneration and air curtains. You could also add optional heads up display, navigation, park assist, lane departure and BMW Apps to stream internet radio and Facebook updates.
Every 3 Series has a spec list that reads like a 7 Series from three years ago. These cars are astonishingly advanced.
As with every 3, you can order it in Modern, Luxury, Sport or M Sport lines, each bringing different emphasis to interior and exterior trim, as well as suspension and wheel options.
Inevitably, we’d be tempted by a black 328i Sport Wagon with M Sport line adaptive suspension that sits 10mm lower on 19" wheels. It would be a sweet alternative to an otherwise dull Japanese crossover.
2013 BMW 328i Sports Wagon
1997cc i-4 DOHC TwinPower turbo, direct injection, Valvetronic
Eight-speed Steptronic automatic
aluminium double-joint strut f, five-link r
Single-piston calipers, 12.3" rotor f, 11.8" rotors r
Wheels & Tires
17x7.5", 225/50 R17
Power: 240hp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque: 255 lb-ft at 1250-4800rpm
Top Speed: 155mph
Weight: 3410 lb