TEST DRIVE: 2016 BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon Track Handling Pack

Test Drives | October 26th, 2016 by 5
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In America, wagons are not popular. This much we already know. In fact, they’re so unpopular that they almost don’t exist in North America anymore. …

In America, wagons are not popular. This much we already know. In fact, they’re so unpopular that they almost don’t exist in North America anymore. European car companies that have been making wagons for decades have almost completely stopped selling them across the Atlantic. Companies like Audi, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz have all but abandoned the wagon in favor for jacked up “rugged” type wagons in hopes they can trick American buyers into thinking they’re actually SUVs. However, one brand that still has hope for the wagon in America is BMW, thankfully. And the car it’s using to hold the North American wagon flag is the BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon (now 330i).

Admittedly, if there were a modern wagon to convince Americans to buy them, it’d be this one. This very specific one. Reason being is that the car I recently had the pleasure of spending the week with was just so damn cool. We recently tested another 328i wagon a few months back, but when BMW told me this one was available, I jumped a the chance. That’s because this specific wagon had both the M Sport package and Track Handling Package, making it the sportiest iteration of the 328i Sports Wagon.

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Those aforementioned packages bring a suite of options, both aesthetic and functional, which make the 328i Wagon a serious looker. The M Sport package brings the great looking aerodynamic body kit, shadowline exterior trim, the ever-so-cool M Sport steering wheel, adaptive M suspension and the option of the stunning Estoril Blue Metallic paint color. So, with just that package alone, this is a great looking wagon with some added performance bits. But it gets even better with the Track Handling Package, which brings gorgeous 18″ Orbit Grey wheels, variable sport steering (VSS) and M Sport brakes. The combination looked awesome and drew many compliments…from Americans. Incredible.

Even inside, this was a special looking car. The combination of the Saddle Brown leather and M Sport package made for one of the best looking 3 Series interiors I’ve seen yet. In fact, overall, I’d say this might have been the best looking iteration of the F30 3 Series I’ve ever seen.

But how does it drive, because that’s really what the 3 Series has always been about? Well, I must say that the news is good. While the current F30 generation BMW 3 Series has lacked the sort of tactile feel and feedback that enthusiasts are used to, BMW has done better work with the post-LCI 3er. The new Track Handling Package does help quite a bit as well, actually.

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The combination of both performance packages allow this to be a pretty exciting little wagon. The variable steering that comes with the Track Handling package changes the steering ratio as you turn the wheel, so the further you turn the wheel, the more the steering speed increases. This gives the 3 Series a 2 turn lock-to-lock steering travel, making it feel very fast and very sharp. Many enthusiasts have complained that the VSS sucks the life out of the car’s steering. However, the current 3 Series doesn’t have much steering feel to begin with, so there really isn’t any lack of feel over the regular steering rack. The VSS just makes it feel more lively and sharper.

This being a BMW 328i, not the newly released 330i, it still uses the old N20 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cyldiner engine. That means 240 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, allowing the 328i wagon to get from 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds. So it’s quick and certainly quick enough to be fun. It isn’t stunningly, blow-you-mind fast, but it’s definitely grin-inducing. Especially when combined with the always brilliant ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox that’s smooth and intelligent in auto mode while being snappy and responsive in manual mode. We just wish the engine and exhaust sounded better, as it sounds a bit like a vacuum cleaner. It’s not that enjoyable of a sound.

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Thankfully, it’s relatively quiet in the cabin and the Harmon Kardon sound system is pretty good. So there’s minimal wind and road noise coming through, keeping the cabin nice and calm. A lot of that quietness can be attributed to another component of the Track Handling package, the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.

The Michelins alone could be worth the extra money for the Track Handling package as they’re stickier, grippier, quieter and more comfortable than the standard run-flats that come on the 3 Series. From reading some forums and listening to 3 Series owners, almost all of them get the Track Handling package just for the tires. They provide better grip, sharper steering and more confidence going into corners while also being quiet and comfortable. They really help change the 3 Series.

So, in terms of ride and handling, the BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon (man, that’s annoying to say) is a pretty good little sports sedan…err..wagon. It’s dynamic enough and fast enough to be fun. But it’s also really comfortable, luxurious and practical. The wagon body style allows it to be every bit as practical as a small crossover or SUV, especially considering the all-wheel drive. In fact, being that small crossovers don’t really have any off-roading prowess, I don’t know if buying something like a BMW X3 would be worth it over the 3 Series wagon.

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With the rear seats up, the trunk is still quite big, being able to swallow up luggage, equipment or even a dog or two. With them folded down, you can get a ton of stuff in the back, especially considering the wide entryway of the rear hatch. I was able to move a dining room table in the back of the 3er wagon with ease.

So, the 328i xDrive Sports Wagon is a quick, fun, capable, comfortable and practical. It really can do everything and it’s very likable because of it. Is it the sharpest car in the class or the most dynamic? No, cars like the Jaguar XE have sort of surpassed it in that category. But there isn’t a single car in the class that has the breadth of abilities that the 3 Series has, especially the wagon.

I’m going to say something that will probably bother a lot of BMW enthusiasts, but I mean it as a compliment. The BMW 3 Series has sort of become the Volkswagen GTI of its class. Now, before anyone gets all huffy with me comparing a BMW to a Volkswagen, hear me out. The GTI isn’t the most exciting car in its class, the Ford Fiesta ST is. It’s also not the cheapest or most luxurious. However, it’s overall breadth of abilities — being able to be sporty, fun, comfortable, good looking and affordable — can’t be matched in the class. That’s sort of like the 3 Series now. It’s still the best car in its class because it just does everything so well, even if it isn’t the absolute best at some things.

In America, wagons are not popular. This much we already know. In fact, they're so unpopular that they almost don't exist in North America anymore. European car companies that have been making wagons for decades have almost completely stopped selling them across the Atlantic. Companies like Audi, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz…
Exterior Appeal
Interior Quality
Steering Feedback
Performance
Handling
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine
Price Point

The BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon is a superb all-around package that blends performance, sportiness, comfort and practicality like no other car can in its class.

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