Lots of people want practical vehicles to haul families and their goods around, and increasingly small and fuel-efficient diesel engines are an option--albeit often an expensive one.
We've tested several diesel SUVs and crossover utility vehicles lately. But last weekend, we got a chance to test one of two diesel wagons sold in the U.S.
Ours was the 2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sport Wagon (the other is the Volkswagen Jetta TDI SportWagen, which is many thousands of dollars cheaper).
Diesels are smooth and fantastically efficient at highway speeds, if not necessarily at their best around town and in stop-and-go traffic.
With a long highway trip ahead of us, we climbed into the dark grey 328d wagon and spent our first 10 miles in the thick of New York City traffic--after which it registered a dismal 13.2 mpg on the trip computer.
Happiest on highway
Then the highway north to hilly upstate New York opened up, the BMW settled into a comfortable cruise mode--and we quickly decided that this was going to be one very comfortable road-trip car.
The diesel 3-Series wagon is rated by the EPA at 35 mpg combined (31 mpg city, 43 mpg highway)--and that seems eminently realistic to us if your duty cycle doesn't have a lot of urban stopping and starting.
At the end of a long weekend, we'd covered 497 miles--at an average fuel economy reading of 41.7 mpg. With 50 miles or so remaining, we didn't even have to refill the 15-gallon fuel tank.
2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sports WagonEnlarge Photo
Perhaps 80 percent of those miles were covered at highway speeds, underscoring the diesel's efficiency under light loads.
And as a highway cruiser for two people and a variety of luggage, BMW's littlest wagon was a joy. Behind the wheel, it felt more lively and connected to the road than the diesel BMW 528d sedan we tested earlier this year.
The engine largely stayed at speeds as low as 1250 rpm, aided by control logic that saw the eight-speed transmission upshift four or five times by the time the car reached 35 mph around town.
From the inside, only an occasional low-pitched rumble as the engine pulled hard at low speeds betrayed the diesel power, though from the outside, the distinctive diesel sound was clearly evident.
The 2014 328d is powered by a 180-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel four-cylinder engine paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Quoted torque is 280 lb-ft, and the BMW 3-Series wagon weighs roughly 3,800 pounds.