2016 BMW 328i Touring review with video
Base price: $48,200 + taxes
As tested: $56,245 + taxes
Highway fuel economy: 7.2 litres/100 kms
City fuel economy: 10.6 litres/100 kms (also available in more efficient diesel option)
Competition: Audio A4 Allroad, Mercedes C-Class wagon (making its return in the summer of 2016), Volvo V60
If you’re a regular visitor to Family Wheels, you’ll know I’m a sucker for a good old station wagon. I don’t think they’re embraced as much as they should be here in North America – while our European neighbours have seen the light for some time. When done right, they can be just as sporty, even better looking than the sedan variant of the same car, and so, so much more practical for family living.
And here is one of the finest examples around, the BMW 328i Touring – which is just a fancy word for the good old station wagon. An eight speed automatic transmission and BMW’s all wheel drive system are now standard equipment on all 3 series wagons and the steering and suspension has been improved following some maligned reviews of the driving feel in the previous version of this car. Also look for LED headlamps and some new exterior design cues as well. So this isn’t a full redesign but there are a number of new goodies on board.
Our tester included both the M Sport package and the Premium Enhanced package that see the price tag balloon to nearly $10,000 above the 328i’s base price… but man, these are some primo additions to an already good car. The sport package gives you adaptive suspension that will learn and adjust to your driving style, variable sport steering that can change depending on your driving preference and some very responsive M-series brakes. Then some of the headlines in the $5,400 Premium Enhanced package include a phenomenal head’s up display that flashes speed and navigation information onto the windshield, a 360 degree bird’s eye view park assist camera system, and a very impressive Harman-Kardon sound system.
From a driving perspective, this car is a riot. Smooth and refined yet its turbo-charged 2-litre engine springs to life when you want to play. The paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel respond quickly to shift changes and make dipping into windy corners really enjoyable. Yet, the engine managed a pretty modest 9.5 litres per 100 kms (30 MPG) in our week of testing. And for an even more efficient (and still very fun) drive, this car also comes as a 328d diesel variant that boasts around 6.5 litres per 100 kms. One thing that surprised me was cabin noise. The 328i is fairly loud at highway speed compared to, say our Volvo XC70 station wagon. And even in comfort mode, the suspension on this car did seem a little firm for those who like a ride that swings more toward plush than sporty.
The seats in this car are very comfortable and are infinitely adjustable. Our tester even included inflatable bolsters so you can really get snugged into your seat. But I found that the front seats are boxed in and it feels much tighter than it has to. This isn’t a race car and after a long road trip, the front seats might start to feel a little claustrophobic. And while I’m tall and appreciate the adjustable thigh supports, keeping those nooks and crannies in the two front seats clean would be annoying.
Looking to the infotainment system, BMW uses a mouse-like clicker in the centre console and I’d much rather just use a touchscreen. Some of the menus are tricky to scroll through and the voice for the navigation prompts is rather grating, for some reason. But the mapping software is top notch and even accounts for real time traffic so you won’t be driven right into a snarled traffic jam.
The back seat offers decent but not amazing leg room but the seats are very comfortable. You will find it tight if you have kids still in car seats, particularly rear facing, but pre-teen kids will be more than happy back there. Of course, the real advantage of going for a wagon is its cargo capacity and the BMW passed our trunk test with flying colours. But I was disappointed to see the back seats don’t fold flat to create a totally flush cargo zone for big trips to the hardware store or Costco.
At the end of the day, the 328i Touring is one fun, good looking wagon. Families with more than two kids who are really into gear-intensive sports (like skiing or hockey) might find it tight for all that extra stuff that comes with the territory. But here’s a great example of a sporty wagon done right!
Family Wheels driver comfort score: 4/5
Family Wheels performance score score: 4.5/5
Family Wheels rear passenger score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels trunk test score: 4/5
Family Wheels fuel economy score: 4/5
Family Wheels build quality score: 4.5/5
Family Wheels value score: 3/5
Family Wheels overall score: 27.5/35 = 78%