We drive the BMW M340i
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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