2014 BMW 328d xDrive Wagon Long-Term Update 5
On heated steering, driveline dilemmas, and the requisite fuel economy report
Living in L.A. can make you forget that weather exists. As I traveled north for the holidays, I was reminded that temperatures can fall below 60 degrees (eek!) and that occasionally water will simply fall from the sky. I think they call it "rain."
Perplexed by these phenomena, I remembered that my 328d has a Cold Weather package that includes heated seats (front and rear) and steering wheel. They work excellently. The button for the heated wheel hides on the left side of the steering column, below the column adjustment lever. The wheel doesn't seem to get warm enough to travel through gloves, but it does feel pleasant on my hands. It's such that in real cold weather you don't want to take your hands off the wheel. So it promotes better driving habits, too.
While I sat in traffic while returning to wonderfully weather-less L.A., I began to think, as one does, about drivetrain. All 3 Series wagons come with standard all-wheel drive, but I haven't found a benefit to the system because of where I live. People in colder climates will surely appreciate the powered front axle, but I can't help but wonder about the potential improvements of removing it. For example, the 328d would be lighter, which would improve acceleration, handling, and fuel economy. It would also make the car more nimble at lower speeds, as rear-drive 3 Series have a 1.3-foot smaller turning circle than their all-wheel-drive counterparts. Granted, you'd need proper tires for snowy weather. But considering that our all-wheel-drive 328d came equipped with summer tires (part of the M Sport package), we'd have to buy them anyway.
Of course making all-wheel drive optional could complicate the logistics train from factory to dealer and might ultimately increase overall cost. But it would be nice. And while we're making driveline modifications, let's throw in the M3's twin-turbo I-6 while we're at it, OK?
Fuel Consumption UpdateWith nearly 17,000 miles showing on the 328d's odometer, now is a good time to jump into the massive spreadsheet of observed fuel consumption we maintain for each long-term vehicle. Get your calculators and pocket protectors warmed up because this one's going to be fun.
Looking at the 328d's overall consumption trends, it's easy to see when it's been in the city and when it's been on the freeway. Slow stop-and-go driving obviously consumes more fuel, and in the case of the 328d, it seems to settle in the low-30-mpg range. Get on a long stretch of freeway, though, and consumption improves to north of 40 mpg.
This difference is appreciable when you're staring at the predictive range in the instrument cluster. Around town, the 328d tends to go just under 400 miles before most staffers fill it up. But on the freeway, range can exceed 600 miles.
Covering that distance on one tank doesn't happen often, but it's quite impressive when it does. The 328d's best-recorded consumption was a whopping 52.9 mpg over 617.2 miles. It hasn't repeated that since.
Predictably, the 328d gets the worst fuel economy when it's loaded with camera gear and chasing sports cars up mountains for video shoots. In that case, fuel consumption drops to the mid- to high-20-mpg range, and the frequency of those shoots has brought down our 328d's fuel-economy average.
Overall, the 328d is consuming far less fuel than our gas-powered 2012 BMW 328i long-termer, which weighed nearly 500 pounds less. Even better, we're paying less in the process, as diesel is less expensive than the premium fuel that car required.
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