February 17, 2015
Day 4: Willcox, Arizona to Lake Forest, California, 562 miles.
Although I guess you could say I was "working" on a Saturday for the last day of my Austin Road Trip, the nice thing about driving on the weekend is that there isn't so much of a "rush hour" period that you have to make sure to avoid. I veered off Interstate 10 to Interstate 8 West toward San Diego, but to be honest it's a crapshoot as to how bad traffic will be down there, too.
The 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo and I hit considerable rain all morning in Arizona, but the GT pushed through without any trouble. As I mentioned previously, this is a solid and stable car. It gives you a good sense of security to press on at reasonable speed even in less-than-perfect road conditions.
But the day wasn't without problems.
February 11, 2015
Day 1: Lake Forest, California to Deming, New Mexico, 692 miles.
I'm not sure why I keep getting sent to Austin, Texas for press drive events. What with the state capital's unofficial slogan of "Keep Austin Weird," the bosses might have been thinking, "Let's see, Monticello is a weirdo, if we send him there enough maybe he'll finally find a place he fits in."
Regardless of the reasoning, I was on another road trip to Austin, this time in our long-term 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo, as opposed to the 2014 Volkswagen Passat TSI I took on my previous trip to the Lone Star State.
Since it's about a 1,400-mile journey, I'd take two days to get there, just like last time. Ah yes, but unlike the last trip, which saw me procrastinate and not hit the road until 1:30 p.m., this time I was determined to get going much earlier.
And you know what? Mission accomplished.
December 18, 2014
After not having been in our 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo for a while, driving it had the exact opposite effect on me as it did on our incredibly esteemed Features Editor, Mike Magrath. Click here for his take.
Magrath wants more motor, says the 2.0-liter turbo-four with 240 horsepower "just isn't enough for me." Which is funny, because while I was driving it I was thinking, "man, there's always plenty of oomph, enough that it's easy to forget this thing is just a four-cylinder. It wouldn't be hard to mistake it for a six."
And hey, I've gone on record as saying this is one of the best four-cylinder engines out there. And by that I mean I just said it right now.
December 1, 2014
Our long-term 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo has a peach of a motor. There's a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder under hood that spins out 240 horsepower and 255 lb-feet of torque. It's butter-smooth, free-revving, produces power across its entire RPM band, clears 60 mph at the same time as a Lexus IS350 (5.9 seconds) and just isn't enough for me.
August 28, 2014
Get used to automatic start-stop systems like the one on our 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo because they're only going to become more widespread in years to come. Such systems are quickly gaining favor as a fuel-saving and pollution-reducing measure because they temporarily shut down the engine when a vehicle is going nowhere at stoplights.
The basic logic of the concept is hard to argue with, but anything that's this much of a departure from the norm is bound to earn itself a heaping helping of detractors. Some can't get past the feeling that their engine just stalled. Others can't stand it when their car does something they didn't initiate. And there will always be those that give a thumbs-down to anything that stands in the way of a quick getaway.
For them there's an off button.
But what are the disablers missing out on? Are the fuel savings big enough to be noticeable or is this just another one of those theoretical decimal-place increases that automakers chase after because they're desperate for anything that can nudge their CAFE score up a peg?
I cooked up a test to see if I could find out.
August 25, 2014
Our 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo is trying to bridge a gap between compact crossover and station wagon that we're not 100% sure exists. But we've spent months talking about the function and the styling and the way it drives on the road. What happens when we really put the spurs to it and get our 240-horsepower, M Sport package equipped crosswagon on the track? Will it perform like a 3 Series should, or did they split the difference here, too?
July 1, 2014
As you likely know, BMW offers two engines for the 328i Gran Turismo: the 240-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the 328i (like our car) or the 300-hp, 3.0-liter six-cylinder in the 335i Gran Turismo.
So which one to get? Well, I suppose my title has already given the answer away. But here are my reasons why.
June 26, 2014
Our 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo has many desirable attributes. It's practical. It's classy. It's also pretty quick when you give it the boot. But from the traditional 3 Series sedan standpoint, I don't find our GT particularly rewarding or enjoyable to drive.
June 3, 2014
It doesn't look like much, especially with a healthy coat of dust on it, but the turbocharged 2.0-liter in our 2014 BMW 328i GT is a real piece of work.
May 20, 2014
When you're traveling about 40 mph and you get a chance for a burst of speed, this is my favorite time in our long-term 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo. It provides powerful mid-range torque combined with a quick-thinking transmission. It's satisfyingly responsive.
April 24, 2014
I noticed something interesting when I was poking around under the hood of our 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo the other day. It wasn't the engine or any system associated with it, but it is something that's shared with another newly redesigned BMW product, the 2014 Mini Cooper.
What am I going on about? It has to do with the washers under the heads of the bolts that hold the front suspension struts to the body. They're super thick.
There's nothing new about a washer under the head of a bolt. They help spread the load out and they prevent galling when the bolt is wrenched tight.
But the extra thickness we see here has another purpose that isn't obvious to the untrained eye.
April 17, 2014
That's right. I'm not afraid to say it. The cruise control on our 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo is the best I've ever sampled.
I should note, for the record, that I am talking about standard cruise control here. Our 3 Series GT is not equipped with the optional adaptive cruise control system that's built to maintain a following distance if other cars are present.
It starts with the controls on the steering wheel. Buttons for power, set and resume are set in an array around a thumb wheel for making speed adjustments. Roll it up or down against the detent to trim the set speed in 1 mph increments. Push past this initial resistance and you'll get a 5 mph bump.
On the instrument panel, a ring around the outer rim of the speedo contains lights that pinpoint your current set speed. Orange indicates an inactive speed that you'll get back to when you hit resume, green indicates an active speed you're at or, if you just made an adjustment, heading towards. The chosen set speed also shows up digitally and lingers for a few seconds on the head-up display whenever you make a change.
All of that is great, but it's not the best part.
April 4, 2014
The trip back south from Oregon wasn't as rushed as the northern leg had been. We wanted to get home, but we were too frazzled to drive back on high alert.
So after our first California fuel stop in sleepy Yreka we decided to set the cruise control at a reasonable speed in the low 70's, settle in and let Interstate 5 stream past.
March 27, 2014
I wasn't sure what to make of a 3 Series version of BMW's rear-heavy-looking Gran Turismo experiment.
Then I took it through some twisty bits on California's famous Mulholland Drive.
So how did it perform?
March 17, 2014
Interstate road trips are a sure way to pile on the miles, so it wasn't too much of a surprise when our 2014 BMW 3281 GT clicked through 5,000 miles on the way back from Oregon.
It's not much of a milestone, I admit. Nothing much goes wrong this early on.
But it's a numbers thing. Some folks like to commemorate those occasions when the odometer rolls past a string of nines and replaces them with a neat row of zeroes. You can count me among this crowd, but I suppose it was more of an event in the days of mechanical odometers.
For those that are into this sort of thing, it's traditional to show where "it" happened.
Are you sure?
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.