Last-Minute Road Trip - 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo Long-Term Road Test

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo Long-Term Road Test

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo: Last-Minute Road Trip

March 13, 2014

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo

The call was unexpected. My brother and I had to get ourselves up to Oregon in short order, but air travel wasn't going to work because of flight schedules, the remote location of our ultimate destination and other complications. We had to drive.

If we left right now we'd get there about the same time (if not earlier) than airline travel because we could drive through the night. Once there we'd have our own wheels and we could depart on our own schedule when the situation improved.

Our route would mimic the one I followed on my most recent holiday road trip in the Tesla Model S. But this time the Tesla wouldn't do. Superchargers are plenty fast enough for vacation travel, but this was no vacation. We were staring down the barrel of a drive-straight-through run for the border.

I chose the 2014 BMW 328i xDrive GT because it isn't terribly thirsty and has a decent-sized 15.8-gallon tank. I also liked the idea of xDrive all-wheel drive because there was a chance we'd encounter snow and ice over the many interstate summits we would cross — a good chance because the forecast called for rain, and rain can turn to snow at altitude in early March.

We departed L.A. in the early afternoon. Our estimated arrival time was the wee hours after midnight so there was no reason to drive like idiots. We'd run a reasonable pace and stop as infrequently as possible for food and gasoline.

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo

This image shows us passing Mount Shasta at 11:20 p.m., some 9 hours and 45 minutes after we left Santa Monica. To this point we'd stopped just once for fast food, fuel, water and energy drinks and had made a couple of brief visits to rest areas. Last December's Tesla vacation trip required 13 hours and 45 minutes to get this far, but that figure shrinks to 13 hours once I adjust that trip's starting point from Santa Ana to Santa Monica.

Bottom line: We shaved 3 hours and 15 minutes off the Tesla vacation trip to this point. We did this by eliminating two 1-hour meals and making fewer (and shorter) in-between stops. We took a more direct route through Sacramento (the Vacaville Supercharger isn't ideally located unless you're coming from the Bay Area) and we generally maintained a get-there mindset that kept us in the saddle longer.

And Shasta wasn't an overnight waypoint like it had been in the Model S vacation. Here we were able to keep on going a few more hours and arrive at our final destination in a single push.

The saved time is not to say this banzai run was better than the Tesla road trip. It wasn't. We arrived tired and cranky, essentially jet-lagged. And all that seat-time left me sore, stiff and miserable. I'd noticed the 328i GT's seats weren't very comfortable in the first few hours but had no choice but to press on and do what stretching I could during our infrequent stops.

In the absence of time pressure I'd be better off in the BMW 328i if I adopted a Tesla-style road trip pattern of longer and more frequent stops that included ample time for strolling and decompressing.

The point of all this is well known to everyone: You have the option of making this kind of straight-through run in a fossil-fuel powered car like our 2014 BMW 328i xDrive GT. You'd have to leave your Tesla at home in such circumstances, as we did. But this isn't necessarily damning news for the Model S. Anyone who has the coin to own one probably owns a few gas-powered cars they can choose from. Or they should, at least.

As for the reason for the trip, all is well after a couple of days.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 4,420 miles


  • joefrompa joefrompa Posts:

    Glad to hear all is well Dan. Can you expound on your comments on seat comfort? I believe you have the M-sport package & sport seats as a result - was the bolstering too much? No lumbar support? Too narrow of seats for you? Not enough leg support? What'd you think of the road noise, wind noise, overall ride feel? How'd you do on fuel economy? Any thoughts on the sound of that 4-cylinder after 6+ hours of driving?

  • also glad to hear things are okay. Is it just me getting older or are seats today overall less comfortable on long drives compared with cars from 10+ years back?

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    I'll touch on other subject in subsequent posts. I learned a lot about this car in a short time and I intend to spread it out in multiple posts. As for the sport seats, they mainly felt hard and thin on the bottom cushion. I drove with my wallet in the console, but that didn't help. And the extendable thigh support didn't really help and I was bothered by the gap midway along the thigh; I could feel that even if I didn't pull it out to make the lower cushion longer. It wasn't a question of being pinched by bolsters along the ribs. That was fine. And the backrest and lumbar was OK. Seat issues are personal. Someone else may feel differently. That said, I can usually tolerate just about anything. But this car was literally a pain in the [non-permissible content removed] for me.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Methinks thou dost protest too much with all the Tesla equivocating. You basically say that if you had the extra time, the Tesla would have been OK to take, but this sounds like it was a family semi-emergency, and I think, and I think YOU think, that at this point in your experience the Tesla is purely and simply not dependable enough to take on a 2000-mile road trip of some importance, regardless of the time frame. When you can play games, a $100,000 electric toy is wonderful to have, but when you absolutely, positively HAVE to be there overnight (to steal the old Fedex advertising slogan), you take an ICE vehicle.

  • Glad to hear that things are "ok" This seat experience sounds very similar to that of my 2006 330i with sports pkg. Seats got uncomfortable after about 90 minutes. Funny thing is the much plainer looking seats in my 2012 Jeep Wrangler are all day comfy. At the end of an all day trip I realize that I didn't think about the seats at all. p.s. I am a skinny dood before someone claims that the BMW's seats were too snug. No issues at all w the seats in an x5 or 5 series.

  • tenschamp2 tenschamp2 Posts:

    Glad to hear everything is okay as well. In regards to the post, 'You'd have to leave your Tesla at home in such circumstances, as we did. But this isn't necessarily damning news for the Model S. Anyone who has the coin to own one probably owns a few gas-powered cars they can choose from. Or they should, at least.' The other option would be for someone to rent a car when a trip like this is needed. Your could probably rent a car at your local Avis/Hertz/Enterprise for ~$30/day with unlimited miles. Given the need for this kind of trip only happens maybe once a year, that'd certainly be a more fiscally responsible option than owning a second car, and I don't think going through the rental car process wouldn't have added too much more time.

  • tenschamp2 tenschamp2 Posts:

    And I'll reiterate the need for an edit button...sorry for the errors in that one.

  • 7driver 7driver Posts:

    I would like to point out that even if you don't have the coin to own a gas powered car in addition to a Tesla Model S, renting might also be an option.

  • I have the seats and drove from dc to Houston with no problems, so I guess it's just personal

  • darthbimmer darthbimmer Posts:

    I find BMW's sport seats fairly comfortable with seat heaters. Hint: they're not just for cold weather driving, they're for keeping your backside muscles relaxed on all-day drives.

  • darthbimmer darthbimmer Posts:

    Agree with @tenschamp2-- If a plug-in electric vehicle works as your daily driver 50 weeks out of the year, do it. You can rent a gas powered highway cruiser for the few times when you need it.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    @fordson: I think you are projecting. Dan was quite clear in his posts from the Oregon trip that he really enjoyed using the Tesla; it forced him to rethink his trip and as a result he enjoyed it more. His only point in this post re the Tesla was that the

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    I'm glad all is well Dan. As someone who has a long commute and drives close to 30k miles per year, seat comfort is high on my list of requirements. I have found BMW seats are just not that comfortable. I'm average sized and pretty fit, their sports seats are nice for short enthusiastic drives, but their regular seats just don't work for me. Back support, especially mid back seems lacking. Saabs generally had the best seats, I like Lexus seats and LOVE the new Altima seats. Not enough to buy one, but they are nice.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    @bankerdanny: you are certainly welcome to your point of view. Dan's posts from his Oregon trip and how happy he was with the car and the pacing of the trip all happened before the Tesla's second drivetrain replacement. The first replacement, at just o

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