2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo: Austin Road Trip, Day 3
February 16, 2015
Day 3: Austin, Texas to Willcox, Arizona, 871 miles.
This being my second road trip to Austin in the past six months, I wanted to do something other than slog along Interstate 10 west on the way home. So I came up with a plan: I would head northwest in the 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo to some mountain roads in southern New Mexico and Arizona, the same ones Automotive Editor Dan Frio and photog "Krazy" Kurt Niebuhr took during their trip back from Houston in our long-term 2015 Audi A3.
I planned it all out the night before I left Austin, including a texting conversation with Frio (no way was I actually going to talk on the phone with that dude, that would be nuts) for road specifics and recommendations for lodging.
But then I checked the weather forecast. The parts of New Mexico and Arizona I was heading for, which were at significant elevation, were going to be getting something like a half-foot of snow during the time I'd be driving through. Snowy conditions, mountain roads, elevation...even with the Gran Turismo's all-wheel drive I just didn't have it in me, especially without snow tires or chains. There was potential for disaster, not to mention hours and hours of slow going.
I needed a new plan.
I headed west on Interstate 10 as usual. But to mix things up I exited at the tiny town of Sheffield, Texas to head south on State Highway 349, heading toward U.S. Route 90 West in Sanderson. On the map Route 90 looked like it went through the middle of Nowhere, Texas, exactly what I was looking for.
Before I got to Route 90, I took a shortcut on Ranch to Market Road 2400 (RM 2400). I was thinking/hoping it might be dirt, but it wasn't. Still, plenty of nice scenery (for west Texas) and almost zero cars. Little in the way of anything human, in fact.
Route 90 was a more open two-lane road, but traffic, towns and people were still minimal. Friendly folks, though. I noticed several people in oncoming cars wave to me, as if they knew me or my car. I kinda liked it. No one waves to me in southern California, although they do occasionally flash a different gesture...
Route 90 meanders through small towns like Marathon, Alpine, Marfa and Valentine. Everyone seemed to be driving mud-splattered pickup trucks.
A couple of miles outside Valentine I came across this.
"What the...?" was my immediate reaction. No, it's not a Prada store in the Texas desert, but actually a sculpture created in 2005. Come to think of it, "what the?" is my current reaction, too.
The lower bolsters in the 328i Gran Turismo's sport seats continued to bother my outer thighs, as mentioned in Day One. I even tried to use less of the cruise control "spread-leg position," as Senior Editor Josh Jacquot calls it, to see if that would help. Nope. For whatever reason, my 5-foot-8-inch body (perfect for a race-car driver, of which I've made zero professional use whatsoever) just doesn't work with these seats.
To further confuse things, six-foot-two-inch Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds says he has similar issues with these seats, while our resident giant, six-foot-four Cameron Rogers, says he loves them.
No matter. I was on the road in a quiet, stable, good-driving car, exploring new areas I'd never seen before, enjoying Texas' vast landscape. It was cold and a bit rainy. In other words...I was happy.
Once back on Interstate 10 near Van Horn, Texas I pushed to make it to Willcox, Arizona. My off-Interstate excursion added miles and time to the day, but it was worth it to do something a little different.
The BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo's fuel economy for this leg of the journey was 29.1 mpg.
During the press drive of the 2015 BMW 228i Convertible (the reason I was in Texas in the first place), we came across this guy. Insert Matthew McConaughey joke here.
Mike Monticello, Senior Road Test Editor @ 23,682 miles