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We drive the BMW M340i

by Ali Arsham
Saturday, October 12, 2019

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BMW M340i
BMW M340i
Over the past 40 years, no other BMW has embodied the concept of the Ultimate Driving Machine better than the BMW 3 series.  When the first BMW 3 series arrived on U.S. shores in 1976 as a successor to the iconic BMW 2002, it built upon the sport sedan foundation pioneered by that model and launched a new name: the BMW 3 series that would become BMW’s most successful model.

Over the course of six model generations, the BMW 3 series has been up and down in the hearts of the enthusiasts. BMW has been trying to increase sales of the 3 series which meant watering it down to make it appeal to a broader audience. The seventh generation of the sports sedan introduces the M340i and tries to bring back the sports in sports sedan. 

Right off the bat, we can give a fail grade to BMW in its attempt to win the hearts of the enthusiasts. The new 3 series is not available with a manual transmission which is a shame. In fairness, we can’t blame BMW since the buyers have become increasingly lazy and it is very hard to justify the engineering for something that less than 10% will buy.

The 3.0 liter, six-cylinder, inline engine in the M340i features an aluminum crankcase and aluminum cylinder head. A new, single, twin-scroll turbocharger with an integral, compact, steel exhaust manifold and impellers that weight approximately 25% less than those of preceding models, builds boost pressure more rapidly. Fuel is supplied by means of new high precision injection technology which allows injection pressures up to 350 bar. The engine produces 382 hp which is close to what the old V8 powered M3 did only a few years ago.

The latest upgraded version of the quick-shifting automatic transmission features a new hydraulic control system and shorter gearing for improved response and acceleration. The 8-speed transmission’s Launch Control function optimizes traction during acceleration off the line more effectively than in previous versions and shift paddles on the steering wheel allow for manual gear selection.

The result is a very quick 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds which is even more remarkable considering that the M340i is EPA rated for 30 mpg on the highway. Think about that for a minute: 30 mpg, 382 hp, 0-60 in 4.2 seconds.

Intelligent connectivity enables the sport automatic transmission to adapt its shift strategy according to the route and driving situation. Working with the standard navigation system, the transmission uses data from this system and from the optional Active Cruise Control system’s radar sensor.

Driver's view
Driver's view
This makes it possible for the transmission to avoid unnecessary gear changes when negotiating a series of fast corners and, when approaching a vehicle ahead for example, to shift down early in order to use the engine braking to scrub off speed.

The Auto Start Stop function and the coasting function also use data supplied by the optional navigation system and cameras. In this way, inefficient engine shutdown, for example when stopping briefly at junctions or roundabouts, can be prevented. Movement of vehicles ahead is registered in order to determine the ideal moment for the Auto Start Stop function to stop and start the engine.

The double-joint spring strut front suspension and five-link rear suspension have been upgraded. Aluminum swivel bearings and control arms for the front axle and aluminum wheel mounts and a new generation of wheel bearings for the rear axle significantly reduce unsprung weight. The front axle has increased level of component rigidity to enhance both steering precision and cornering dynamics. The M Sport suspension features more rigid bearings and additional body struts, firmer springs and anti-roll bars, and an even higher degree of wheel camber.

Driving the M340i on the street will immediately show the amount of engineering that has been spent on development. It is normally very difficult to get the balance of ride and handling right. It is easy to soften everything to aim for a comfortable ride or just stiffen things like a race car which results in a bone jarring ride. The M340i was impressive because the ride is creamy smooth and it absorbs the worst potholes with ease. 

But when you want to attack a corner, it is equally as impressive as a sports car. The steering provides very little feedback to the driver which makes it less enjoyable and harder to drive at the limit though. Our car’s optional 225/40-19 front and 255/35-19 rear tires provided much better grip than anticipated.

Shift Nob has improved
Shift Nob has improved
High-performance lightweight brakes play a very important part in the characteristics of a performance vehicle. The front brake disks measure 13.7 inches with four-piston fixed calipers while the rear brake disks measure 13.6 inches in diameter with single-piston floating calipers. The brakes have been designed to be able to withstand the demands of a track day should you decide to push your M340i.

The standard M Sport differential is an electronically controlled, fully variable locking rear differential that appreciably enhances traction and cornering. The electro-mechanical locking effect allows as much as 1,106 lb-ft of torque to be redirected from the faster-turning wheel to the slower-turning one. This means understeer can be countered effectively under quick cornering.

Here, the engine’s power, which cannot be transferred to the road by the unloaded wheel on the inside of a turn, is deliberately shifted to the wheel on the outside of the turn rather than applying the brakes to neutralize its effect. The effect of the M Sport differential is quickly noticeable in a series of fast bends. The distribution of power to each individual wheel prevents the tendency to oversteer in situations involving multiple changes of direction and load.

Here, the transfer of more power to whichever wheel is on the inside of the bend enables the driver to stick to the chosen course with stability and confidence. Similarly, when the driver changes lanes and brakes at the same time, directional stability is optimized through the transfer of power between the right and left rear wheels.

The interior of the M340i has received many upgrades as well and is a classic BMW design with a very clean and minimalistic design. The buttons are well arranged although some labels are a bit too small and hard to see especially at night. The 10.2 inch iDrive screen is fully configurable to show things as you desire.

There are custom settings for everything you can imagine and everything is tied to your key. The car comes with two keys and it will remember the preferences for driver with key 1 versus driver 2. 

The M340i is a joy to drive and is full of advanced technology. The majority of the population will love and appreciate the features. If you are a serious driver, some of the features are annoying and sometimes even dangerous. If you decide to change lanes without signaling, the computer suddenly intervenes and grabs the steering wheel from you, as an example.

Instrument cluster
Instrument cluster
This can be very dangerous if you needed to suddenly change direction because you spot an obstruction in your path. The smart computers also will not allow you to do some things such as driving with the door open or driving at night with your lights off (yes why would you want to that, but you should be able to). The good news is that most of the nanny functions can be turned off.

This level of engineering and technology will end up costing you. The base price of the M340i is $54,000 and the list of options is as long as the Amazon river. Our car had numerous options which brought it to an eye watering $67,070.  That is a lot of money but when you start looking at the details you will find that the M340i is worth it. Our suggestion would be to select the most basic version with as few options as possible to get the purest experience.

The M340i is an amazing car that checks so many boxes. It has room for five people comfortably, has a huge trunk, gets exceptional fuel economy, is quick and handles superbly and is configurable in ways that most manufacturers will not allow. But above all, it is a premium car that is a lot of fun to drive. Those are traits that are hard, if not impossible, to find in other cars.

Specifications

INTERIOR
Front head room40 "
Rear head room38 "
Front shoulder room55 "
Rear shoulder room55 "
Front leg room42.0 "
Rear leg room35.1 "
Luggage capacity13.0 Cu.Ft.
Maximum cargo capacity13.0 Cu.Ft.
Standard seating5
EXTERIOR
Length182.5 "
Body width71.3 "
Body height56.5 "
Wheelbase110.6 "
Curb3,710 Lbs.
Gross weight4,695 Lbs.
FUEL
Fuel tank capacity15.8 Gal.
EPA mileage estimates21 City / 31 Hwy
PERFORMANCE
Base engine size3.0 Liters
Base engine typeI-6
Horsepower320 Hp
Horsepower rpm5,500
Torque330 Lb-Ft.
Torque rpm1,380
Payload900 Lbs.
Drive typeAll-Wheel Drive
Turning radius19.2 ''

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