Versus the competiton:
You’d think it would be a hard sell.
Too many boomers and Gen-Xers grew up traveling in a leviathan of a station wagon, with large side decals that resembled wood only if you were almost totally blind. That was enough to make one never want a wagon again.
So why are all the luxury automakers coming out with wagons?
Call it the sport-utility backlash.
Many people find the idea of clamoring up into a truck not their idea of elegance, yet they want the hauling ability.
Of course, any ideas that you’ll be hauling really serious loads is laughable given the BMW’s sloped rear window, which limits cargo space.
But this is about image as much as hauling. Besides, the hauling this wagon does has nothing to do with cargo.
The wagon’s 111-inch wheelbase is the same as the sedan’s, so the feel while driving it is the same as well. The wagon is only about an inch longer in overall length.
The engine line-up for the wagon is the same as well. The test vehicle was the 528i with its 24-valve double-overhead-cam in-line six-cylinder engine. With 193 horsepower, this engine is more than sufficient to move this car with some gusto.
Also available is an all-aluminum 4.4-liter 282-horsepower 32-valve double-overhead-cam V-8, capable of making this vehicle sing. Both engines have variable-valve timing, which helps produce more power while lowering emissions.
Although the test vehicle had only the six, it was still a pleasure to drive, despite its upscale utilitarian nature. True to Bimmers, this one goes exactly where its pointed, with quick accurate steering that returns good road feel. Body lean is well controlled — the body doesn’t do the mambo over bumps — doing a superb job of absorbing the commotion.
Stopping is as accomplished as going, with four-wheel-disc brakes with anti-lock doing their job with little muss or fuss.
Helping make this wagon such an accomplished road warrior was the optional Sport Package. When ordered, BMW lowers the ride height, adding a self-leveling rear suspension. Firmer shocks and springs and specific anti-roll bars are added. Tire upgrades and an M 3-spoke steering wheel completes the package.
It adds up to the perfect recipe for power-hungry soccer moms (or dads).
Of course, even the most power-hungry parent likes being coddled, so BMW does an artful job of balancing art and sport. The elegantly sculptured interior was ergonomically correct. The quality of the materials is apparent, and despite the absence of wood trim, the cabin feels upscale.
The front bucket seats are firm and supportive — all cars should have seats this good. The driving position is excellent. Initially, it feels claustrophobic, but one realizes that the lounging-type position that some cars encourage isn’t encouraged here. Actually, this is a car for serious drivers.
The cupholders, positioned so that they’ll block t he automatic dual climate control, seem like a half-hearted attempt at best. The stereo was typically excellent, although it lacks a CD player as standard equipment.
The cargo compartment is nicely finished, featuring a cargo cover that retracts like a window shade. A partitioned cargo space is available beneath the cargo floor. A 60/ 40 split-folding rear seat is also standard. Available options include a retractable luggage net that prevents occupants from being bombarded by luggage upon sudden stops, pull-up sunshades for the rear windows and a retractable load floor, that slides out to become the perfect table for tailgating.
The problem is the sloping rear glass limits cargo capacity, but this wagon is as much about image and driving fun as it is serious hauling.
Safety is also addressed, with front and side air-bags, inflatable head protection and other systems including Dynamic Stability Control (which monitors traction and cornering) aswe ll as D ynamic Brake Control (which reinforces driver effort during emergency braking).
What it adds up to is a wagon for the yup-wardly mobile, as well as those with a penchant for driving without surrendering to a mini-van or sport utility. And with the sheer delight this car delivers to the driver, it’s enough to make any boomer forget about the colony parkbrookwood estatevista cruiser wagon with fake woodgrain trim that most grew up in. Isn’t it?
Maybe, maybe not.
>> 2000 BMW 528i Sport Wagon
Vehicle type: Mid-size luxury station wagon
Engines: 2.8-liter in-line six-cylinder
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 111.4 inches
Length: 189.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,726 pounds
Cargo volume: 32.7 cubic feet
Base price, base model: $40,700
As tested: Not available
EPA rating: 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Fuel type: Premium