A Wagon State of Mind – The BMW F31

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Here at Revolving Garage, we believe that a wagon is one of the more useful automotive form factors created. Thanks to BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Cadillac, and a few others, they don't have to be boring either. This is a 2014 BMW 328i xDrive M-Sport Wagon, chassis code BMW F31. It has turbo-charged inline-4 with a stated 240 horsepower (though these often show around 240 wheel horsepower on a dyno). It is mated to ZF's brilliant-but-still-an-auto 8-speed automatic transmission, and it puts power down to all four wheels thanks to BMW's xDrive drivetrain.

This particular car sits within a garage that also includes a BMW E36 M3/4/5 and a Toyota Tundra CrewMax. To that end, it satisfies the role of "do almost everything" car. And for that, it is brilliant.

The front and rear seats are heated. The cargo room in the back is more than adequate for dogs and gear, and there is even a built in cargo separation net that will keep the dog hair (and associated dog) in the back. The panorama sun roof is something that can be found on any modern wagon, but it is a welcome addition.

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Other interior elements that plus this car up include a wonderful Harman Kardon stereo, an excellent heads-up display (HUD),  and the right amount of safety gizmos: lane departure warning, blind spot detection, and collision warning. One thing we really like about how BMW dealt with these safety features is that there is a physical button for each. To that end, the preferred configuration is leave collision and blind spot detection on all the time, but only activate lane departure when you will be freeway cruising. If one of these systems needs to alert you there is both a vibration through the steering wheel and some sort of visual indication of the warning.

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Revolving Garage Copyright First Gear Media, LLC

Options are everything when it comes to these cars - this applies to both price and ownership experience.

Let's just get price out of the way. This car started with a base MSRP of $41,450 but went out the door with over $20,000 of options for a final new price of over $62,000.  So what do $20k of options in a 4-cylinder BMW wagon look like? Here are the highlights:

  1. M Sport package - $3,850
  2. Technology package - $3,150
  3. Premium package - $2,200
  4. Driver Assistance Plus package - $1,900
  5. M-Performance brake package - $2,000ish (hard to determine how much this option truly cost. See the difference in BMW F30 328i brake packages here: Turner Motorsport Guide to F30 328 Brakes )
  6. Lighting package - $900
  7. Cold Weather package - $950
  8. And about nine other options that range between $500 and $900 a piece

Beyond mileage, options and color drive used values significantly. Black F31s with limited options (think halogen headlights and no M-Sport package) can be found in the low 20s, but colors like Estoril Blue and Melbourne Red (seen here) that are optioned to the hilt can set you back 30k or more.

But how does it drive? Well, pretty damn good for its segment. The magazines and forums rag on BMW's first go at electric-power assisted steering. Those complaints are a classic example of using hyperbole to get attention. Do the tires connect to my soul like they do in the E36 M3? No. But come on, it's decent. The car does come alive when pushed beyond what your passengers will appreciate. Putting it into Sport wakes up throttle response and decreases the power support for the steering. Between the Sport/Sport+ mode, the M-Performance brakes, and the burly M-Performance exhaust, this F31 goes a few steps beyond just a typical wagon.

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All in all, you can comfortably, sportily, crush miles in this thing through all four seasons. Your whole crew (including the dog) will be comfortable, and you'll have room for the gear too. Put it into Sport mode and you'll arrive with an even bigger grin on your face.

A wagon can be a one-and-only car and still check a lot of the boxes. This wagon is lively, practical, quick-enough (ask me again if I ever actually get an E63 AMG wagon), and pretty good looking. It also fits nicely as a second, third, or fourth car. The car buying masses in the US tend to lean toward CUVs in place of wagons, but those who know whats up, know whats up, right? The BMW F31 provides a sport-sedan like experience with the practicality of an SUV and good lucks that very few CUVs can match (Porsche Macan maybe?). Unfortunately, BMW discontinued the 3-series wagon for the United States, and VW has announced an end to the production for the Golf Sportwagen and the Alltrack.

Our parting thoughts are simple. F30 generation BMW's are a great buy, and wagons can be incredibly cool cars. It's just a shame that the wagon options in the US are so limited.

Revolving Garage Copyright First Gear Media, LLC
Revolving Garage BMW
Revolving Garage BMW