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2014 BMW 328i xDrive & 2007 BMW 328i - Wagon Brains

Kids and groceries don’t have to relegate you to a clumsy SUV

Greg Emmerson
Nov 14, 2014
Photographer: Adrian Jon

There's a long and noble tradition of sport wagons in Europe that for some reason has never fully translated to this side of the Atlantic. The concept of moving more than two people plus cargo efficiently, comfortably and with agility seems like a no-brainer, but the glut of SUVs and minivans on the freeways suggests most Americans don't share this view.

2014 BMW 328i xDrive 2007 BMW 328i 02 Photo 2/33   |   2014 BMW 328i xDrive & 2007 BMW 328i - Wagon Brains

Fortunately, there's a hard-core group of Europhiles who understand the advantages and enjoy the cool factor of owning something out of the ordinary. Audi and Mercedes currently offer some of the most desirable sport wagons on the planet, even if not all of them are available here (that means you, Audi RS4). And while BMW hasn't had any such product to stir the emotions for a few years, it does at least acknowledge the existence of a small, loyal band of wagon aficionados and services them with a stylish 3 Series wagon.

2018 BMW 3-Series
$34,900 Base Model (MSRP) 24/35 MPG Fuel Economy

Two such BMW wagon fans are the owners of the cars seen here. Both have owned a series of performance cars in the past, but circumstances led them down similar wagon trails.

The 2014 F31 BMW 328i xDrive belongs to Stan Chen, events and motorsport manager at Toyo Tire USA. Long-standing European Car enthusiasts might remember him as the founder of tuning shop DTM Autohaus, a company he established in 2000 that spawned a series of cover and feature cars for our sister publication Eurotuner magazine.

2014 BMW 328i xDrive 2007 BMW 328i 09 Photo 6/33   |   2014 BMW 328i xDrive & 2007 BMW 328i - Wagon Brains

Chen sold that business in 2004 before joining Toyo, during which time he drove a modified 5 Series. He had hankered after a station wagon for many years, but his wife, Chelsea, was the main obstacle to this plan. The imminent birth of their first child, Valentina, tipped the balance in his favor.

Since they live in one of the trendier parts of Southern California, the Mercedes E-Class wagon was ruled out because it wouldn't fit their garage. So the choice narrowed down to the Audi allroad and the BMW, with the 328i xDrive getting the nod because Mrs. Chen didn't like the Audi's plastic cladding.

2014 BMW 328i xDrive 2007 BMW 328i 11 Photo 7/33   |   2014 BMW 328i xDrive & 2007 BMW 328i - Wagon Brains

Decision made, the next step was finding a car, since few dealers carried stock. However, that can be an advantage if it's been sitting on the lot for a few weeks. Snagging a good deal, Chen immediately set about sourcing parts and planning his SEMA 2014 build. The car will be displayed on the Toyo Treadpath, if you'd like to see it in person.

F31
A veteran of the tuning industry, Chen mapped out a strategy. It involved a host of big names to ensure a quality build, beginning with the M Performance online catalog at bmwusa.com. BMW's entry into the aftermarket business has provided a selection of high-quality parts that can be ordered from any BMW dealer and even added to the vehicle's finance plan.

2014 BMW 328i xDrive m sport rear bumper 04 Photo 8/33   |   BMW M Performance body kit adds muscle; green highlights are a tribute to ACS3 CLS II from the ’90s.

In this instance, BMW was one of the few resources, but these parts were only intended for cars with the M Sport trim package. Fortunately, the company offers an M Sport retrofit kit, allowing owners of lesser models to update their bumpers to the higher specification. With the new bumpers in place, Chen could fit the M Performance three-piece front splitter and rear diffuser. He also added the side blades and tailgate spoiler.

2014 BMW 328i xDrive recaro sportster CS leather seats 05 Photo 9/33   |   2014 BMW 328i xDrive & 2007 BMW 328i - Wagon Brains

Everything was color-matched to the white exterior—with the exception of the splitter and diffuser, which were painted in the same charcoal gray as the HRE wheels. The side skirts also received a splash of gray before Porsche Irish Green was applied to strategic areas such as the wheel rims and leading edges of the spoilers.

A similar green stripe was applied along the sides, which older enthusiasts might recognize as a tribute to the AC Schnitzer ACS3 CSL II. The Coupe Lightweight Silhouette II was based on the E36 M3 and caused a stir when it was unveiled in the mid-'90s. Finished in a similar green, it had yellow highlights, which Chen has echoed with his Ferrari-yellow M Performance brake calipers—another official accessory that uses multi-piston Brembo brakes as part of the package.

2014 BMW 328i xDrive HRE 501 vintage series wheel 06 Photo 13/33   |   HRE Vintage Series 20-inch wheels were custom-painted to complement the theme. Stance courtesy of KW coilovers. Tires are Toyos, naturally.

The Thule roof box continues the white and green color scheme. This addition hasn't won universal approval from his better half, but Chen rationalizes it by being able to keep his car care products separate from the baby formula. It's also in the fine European tradition of packing everything you have into a small vehicle and traveling long distances, so this combination of wagon and roof box is a common sight across the Old World.

2014 BMW 328i xDrive m sport side blade 33 Photo 14/33   |   2014 BMW 328I Xdrive M Sport Side Blade 33

HRE's Vintage Series mesh wheels bring more retro nostalgia. These 20-inch custom-painted rims support all-season Toyo Proxes 4 Plus tires that allow the family the chance to explore winter slopes. Ordinarily, this would be a fine choice for the 328i xDrive, but Chen has extracted more horsepower with a piggyback control module from the ECU Tuning Group. It's claimed to provide a healthy power increase, although we're not able to verify any numbers. However, it does suggest that a set of Toyo's high-performance summer tires might be needed soon.

Chen ensured the wagon would sound more purposeful with a cat-back MXP exhaust (previously known as Mevius) with four black chrome tips. Fortunately, the noise isn't loud enough to disturb the sleeping offspring.

The interior "only" has a set of Recaro Sportster CS front seats, but such a well-equipped wagon needed little else. Chen did visit Alpine Coding to have all the European options activated on the car, so it now has emergency brake lights, an M Performance logo on the dash at start-up, the ability to turn off the daytime running lights and tire pressures displayed by the TPMS. With the parts assembled and the car built in a hectic two days at The Shop in Culver City, California, this F31 cuts through traffic with panache. It's a modern car with retro accents and proves that it's possible to stand out from the crowd without having to make sacrifices in style or performance.

2014 BMW 328i xDrive m performance front splitter 26 Photo 18/33   |   2014 BMW 328I Xdrive M Performance Front Splitter 26

E91
James Camarador from La Canada, California, had a similar desire to create an interpretation of the ultimate 3 Series wagon. His starting point was the previous-generation E91, taking obvious inspiration from the M3.

2007 BMW 328i m3 front bumper 07 Photo 19/33   |   James Camarador’s M3 conversion on his E91 328i sports Laguna Seca Blue paint and air ride for extra attention.

Again, Camarador is a mainstay of the West Coast tuning community, previously known for a 2000 Honda Civic (EK) and later an E46 M3. His current fleet includes a modified 997.2 Porsche 911 GT3, Lexus lS 460, right-hand-drive S13 Nissan 240SX, Honda Element daily driver and this wagon.

2007 BMW 328i m sport steering wheel 03 Photo 20/33   |   2014 BMW 328i xDrive & 2007 BMW 328i - Wagon Brains

When he bought his 2007 BMW 328i last year, he fully intended to modify it heavily, but took his time finding the right shop. Anyone who pays attention to the SoCal BMW tuning scene won't be surprised to learn Camarador eventually arrived at the door of our good friend at LTMotorwerks. Long Tran and his crew had recently completed an M3 conversion on another E91. So with all the research and development carried out on the first car, "the second would be a breeze," Tran assured him.

2007 BMW 328i BBS E88 wheel 10 Photo 21/33   |   BBS E88 18-inch wheels are an awesome choice, built-in custom sizes and finished in custom colors by James at his Floss Design business.

Creating a convincing M3 conversion is far from plain sailing, however. The first task is sourcing the many parts. This included the entire M3 front end: bumper, radiator support, hood, headlights, air ducts, fenders and bellypan. Everything fits fairly easily, but it has to be aligned properly, which takes most of the time.

The hardest aspect of the swap was the rear end. Although the E91 wagon is similar to the E90 sedan, there are differences, particularly around the lights and tailgate. As a result, fitting the rear bumper was a real challenge. And to make it harder, it must be aligned with the M3 rear quarter-panels, which also have to be grafted precisely into position. These then dictate the location of the side skirts. Oh, and all four M3 fender liners are required to complete the project properly.

2007 BMW 328i LCI taillight conversion 08 Photo 22/33   |   2014 BMW 328i xDrive & 2007 BMW 328i - Wagon Brains

The LTMW team is adept at bodywork and soon had the wagon bulging in all the right places. They then painted it in the E46 M3's distinctive Laguna Seca Blue to ensure an eye-catching finish.

Beyond its M3 panels, the 328i also sports a GT4-style dry carbon-fiber front lip from Vollkommen Design as well as M Performance black grilles. LTMW even carried out an LCI upgrade, using the later window trim and taillights. This sounds easy enough, but actually delayed the project for four weeks while awaiting delivery of the trim from Germany, since it wasn't offered as an option in the United States.

The carbon lip must fear for its life because, thanks to the AirREX air suspension, Camarador can bring it into contact with terra firma at the touch of a button on the digital display. With AirREX bags at each corner, a five-gallon air tank and a Viair compressor, Camarador is able to set it low for show. However, he's also able to raise the car and drive it home. Not that he does. He likes to have it slammed at all times, with his cruising setting lower than most people would dare.

The eagle-eyed will have noticed that not only does the E91 wagon wear a set of highly desirable staggered BBS E88 wheels, but they're a different color on either side. This might be partially our fault.

2007 BMW 328i m sport steering wheel 25 Photo 26/33   |   2007 BMW 328I M Sport Steering Wheel 25

You see, Camarador runs a business called Floss Design. He refinishes wheels or creates custom finishes to customers' specifications. When he asked us what color we'd like to see the wheels, we couldn't decide between silver or gold. So he gave us both options. At least it supports our dilemma, because even now we can't decide which we prefer.

Behind the wheels is a set of M Performance big brakes with the calipers painted yellow. There's also a BurgerTuning Juice Box piggyback ECU to provide the straight-six with a little more pep. Why doesn't the car have a more potent powerplant? "The M3 bodywork represents the first stage of a comprehensive conversion, but it's also expensive," Camarador said. "So while major engine work is planned, the car remains at stage one for the time being. We hope to either fit the new ESS supercharger for the original 3.0-liter engine or transplant the M3 V8."

2007 BMW 328i 24 Photo 27/33   |   2007 BMW 328I 24

As it stands, Camarador loves cruising in his stanced 328i. He occasionally uses its cargo hold for business purposes, but mostly he enjoys people's reactions when they first spot the Laguna Seca M3—a rare occurrence in its own right. What gives him the most satisfaction, though, is the subsequent double take when they realize it's a wagon.

2007 BMW 328i m3 rear quarter panels 20 Photo 28/33   |   2007 BMW 328I M3 Rear Quarter Panels 20
2014 BMW 328i xDrive 2007 BMW 328i 18 Photo 29/33   |   2014 BMW 328I Xdrive 2007 BMW 328I 18
2014 BMW 328i xDrive 2007 BMW 328i 19 Photo 33/33   |   2014 BMW 328I Xdrive 2007 BMW 328I 19
By Greg Emmerson
1078 Articles
2014 BMW 328i xDrive & 2007 BMW 328i - Wagon Brains
2014 BMW 328i xDrive Tech Spec
Owner: Stan Chen
Hometown: Long Beach, CA
Occupation: Toyo Tires Events & Motorsport Manager
Engine: 2.0-liter I-4, 16v, turbo w/ECU Tuning Group piggyback ECU, MXP cat-back exhaust system
Drivetrain: Stock eight-speed automatic transmission, AWD
Brakes BMW M Performance four-piston calipers, R1 Concepts 14.5 rotors (f); BMW M Performance two-piston calipers, 13.4 slotted and dimpled rotors (r)
Suspension: KW Variant 1 coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 20x8.5 HRE 501 Vintage Series wheels, 225/35 R20 Toyo Proxes 4 Plus tires (f); 20x9.5 HRE 501 Vintage Series wheels, 255/30 R20 Toyo Proxes 4 Plus tires (r)
Exterior: BMW M Sport bumpers (f & r) w/M Sport retrofit kit, M Performance front splitter, diffuser, side blades, roof spoiler, Thule Sonic roof box, AeroBlade Edge rack system, Hyper Optik ceramic window tint
Interior: Recaro Sportster CS leather seats, full European coding by Alpine Coding
Thanks: The Shop (theshopautomotive.com), Alpine Coding (alpinecoding.com), STM Advanced Window Film Solutions (stmsolutionsinc.com), Thule (thule.com), BMW M Performance (bmwusa.com), R1 Concepts (r1concepts.com), KW Suspensions (kw-suspension.com), Toyo Tire (toyotires.com), HRE Performance Wheels (hrewheels.com), ECU Tuning Group (ecutuninggroup.com), Mevius (mackin-ind.com), Recaro (recaro-automotive.com)
2007 BMW 328i Tech Spec
Owner: James Camarador
Hometown: La Canada, CA
Occupation: Floss Design wheel refinishing
Engine: 3.0-liter I-6, 24v, w/BurgerTuning Juice Box
Drivetrain: Stock six-speed automatic transmission, RWD
Brakes BMW M Performance 13.3 drilled and grooved discs, four-piston calipers (f); Brembo 11.8 drilled and grooved rotors, two-piston calipers (r), Brembo lines, ABS
Suspension: AirREX airbags, five-gallon air tank, control unit; Viair compressor
Wheels & Tires: 18x10.5 BBS E88 wheels w/wheel stud conversion, 255/35 R18 Toyo Proxes 4 Plus tires (f); 18x12.5 BBS E88 wheels w/wheel stud conversion, 295/30 R18 Toyo Proxes 4 Plus tires (r)
Exterior: M3 hood, front bumper, radiator support, air ducts, bellypan, headlights, front fenders, side skirts, rear quarter-panels, rear bumper and fender liners, Vollkommen Design GT4-style dry carbon-fiber front lip, M Performance gloss black kidney grilles, LCI window trim and taillight conversion, MTEC LED angel-eye headlights
Interior: M Sport steering wheel, piano black dash and door trim, AirREX ride height screen
Thanks: LTMotorwerks (ltmotorwerks.com), Vollkommen Design (vollkommendesign.com), AirREX (airrexus.com), BurgerTuning (burgertuning.com)

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