2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo: Last-Minute Road Trip
March 13, 2014
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.
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