2014 BMW 328d (© Rod Hatfield)

2014 BMW 328d

Diesels are a tough sell in the United States. But demand is growing.

Twenty-five percent of BMW X5 crossovers sold in the United States are diesel, said Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW North America, during a press conference at the 2013 New York Auto Show. The technology is an integral part of BMW's ambitious strategy to meet more stringent U.S. corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards.

BMW unveiled a new 3-Series variant in New York that puts diesel technology in the heart of its lineup. The 3-Series Gran Turismo, first shown at the Geneva Motor Show, made its North American debut in New York as well, along with the Concept Active Tourer plug-in hybrid.

At the forefront of BMW's efforts to increase fuel efficiency are the groundbreaking i3 and i8 electric vehicles. They are on track to launch later this year and in early 2014, respectively, Willisch said.

View Pictures:  BMW in New York

More from the New York Auto Show

2014 BMW 328d

What is it?
A new diesel version of BMW's compact 3-Series.

What's hot?
BMW has offered a diesel engine in the 3-Series before, but it was a 6-cylinder. The 328d offers a more efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that BMW says should deliver an estimated 45 mpg highway. No word yet on mileage estimates for city driving.

The new engine puts out 180 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. It will have the same urea injection exhaust treatment as seen on other BMW diesels in order to meet U.S. emissions standards.

The 328d will be offered in both sedan and wagon body styles. Rear-wheel drive will be standard, with all-wheel drive offered as an option. The 328d wagon will be available only with all-wheel drive.

What's not?
BMW's new 8-speed automatic will be the only transmission offered. It is more efficient than a manual and therefore the best fit for a car focused on maximizing fuel economy, a BMW rep said. We understand the logic, but not offering a manual in a 3-Series seems like sacrilege.

How much and when?
The 328d will have a "small premium" over the 328i, which uses a turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine. Production will begin in July, and sales are set to kick off in July or August.

MSN Autos' verdict?
The new BMW 328d looks like a win-win, offering better fuel economy than the gas-powered 328i on which it's based, without sacrificing performance. The key will be its price; BMW diesels have historically carried a steep premium.

Matthew de Paula wanted to be an automotive journalist ever since reading his first car magazine in grade school. After a brief stint writing about finance, he helped launch ForbesAutos.com and became the site's editor in 2006. Matthew now freelances for various outlets.