The BMW M340i is an M Performance 3 series. Its 387 hp and 500 Nm engine, combined with a sprint time of less than 5 seconds, promises sports car performance. But for all that oomph under the hood, it stands out as much as a glass marble on a gravel driveway. It also wears an ‘xDrive’ badge on the boot, so it doesn’t look legendary. Bmw the dynamics of the rear drive are there.
It’s like one of those items on a restaurant menu that you can’t quite figure out even after reading the description. We spent an afternoon driving the M340i down a twisty road, trying to figure out if this BMW is salty, spicy, or sweet.
Do you like procedures? Then you might like it. Press the “Sport” mode button twice to enter “SPORT +” mode, move the gear selector down to “D”, then left to “S1”, brake the left foot as hard as you can can, and finally, step on the accelerator with your right foot. Complicated? Yes. But these are the necessary steps to put the M340i in “Launch” mode. Once this happens, a message will flash on the driver’s MID and net HUD, confirming the same. The display of sports counters on the infotainment screen also makes it possible to watch the increase in power on the gauge for a few seconds. It’s time to get a firm grip on the steering, prepare for take-off, and release the brake pedal.
The M340i pulls right out the door and plunges you into the comfort of the suede-like Alcantara, while all you do is stick a smile from ear to ear. The new inline-six engine emits a hoarse roar interrupted by a loud growl from both tailpipes when the 8-speed automatic shifts to another cog. Yes, this is what a sports sedan should look like! While the number claimed by BMW (4.4s) didn’t quite match the 4.92 we tested, a car that hits 100 km / h in less than five seconds is still very fast.
Before continuing, a little explanation is due on what an M Performance car really is. We all know that M Sport packages are an aesthetic addition to classic BMW models. Full-fledged M cars, on the other hand, are (practically) racing cars with massive power output, precise handling, and number plates to make them legal on the road. M Performance cars are a blend of these two extremes, combining subtle styling changes with good performance gains to deliver a more accessible driving experience. This is precisely why the M340i looks a lot like the usual Series 3 but packs a bigger bang below. The perfect sleeper? Maybe, but for now let’s get back to this beautiful winding road.
After launching an imaginary start line at the bottom of our chosen hilly road, the M340i is approaching its first corner. Upgraded brakes require firm pressure to slow you down at higher speeds, but offer plenty of bite and stopping power. The nose turns sharply in the corner. The new variable-ratio steering rack is faster and more direct than the standard 3-Series. It’s well weighted too.
All-wheel drive dictates that you can’t go through corners without understeer if you’re too impatient with the throttle. But if you wait for the climax and hit the throttle hard, the rear-facing xDrive system sends more torque to the rear wheels, allowing the tail to come out a bit. This slight drift combines with the electronic locking differential, helping the car to turn around the corner faster.
This Series 3 takes flat turns and is clean and tidy even under hard braking. Keeping things firm and taught is a completely redesigned suspension setup. This includes stiffer springs and anti-roll bars, additional body reinforcements, and stiffer camber wheels. If you thought the 3 Series was getting smooth again with the launch of the Gran Limousine, then this standard wheelbase M340i should make you feel the opposite.
The new 3.0-liter engine is an important part of the experience. It’s smooth and easy to rev up, allowing you to continue the rev limit of 6500 rpm with each gear. It comes out cleanly through tight corners, the dual-scroll turbos winding up quickly without any lag.
The 387 horsepower hit a real sweet spot, enough power to roughly surpass the grip of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 (225/45 R18 at the front and 255/40 R18 at the rear). Not enough for big burnouts, even with traction control turned off completely. But that’s more than enough to keep the car agile and light in the corners. It gives you the feeling that you can use the full power of the car, even at perfectly legal speeds, without the cold fear that a full-fledged BMW M car can instill.
In ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport +’, an electronically controlled valve in the exhaust allows this six-pot engine to sing. It’s a basic sound too, with just a few pops and crackles thrown into the mix when you release the throttle. It’s not a supercar sound, but just enough to turn a few heads. In “Comfort” and “Eco Pro”, the valve lowers the level for a roar adapted to the city.
In ‘Comfort’ and ‘Eco Pro’ mode, things calm down a bit, and at city speeds it’s really as easy to drive as the regular 3 Series. The throttle response is more attenuated and the weight of the steering is reduced. Even the brake pedal becomes lighter.
Considering the sporty suspension setup, it is not as comfortable as the Gran Limousine or 3GT for example, but it’s also not as tough as a sports car. There’s some firmness on sharp bumps like ruts and level changes, but the cab is surprisingly smooth on speed bumps and dips in the road. It even has good ground clearance, and you don’t need to be too careful on Pune’s infamous tabletop speed bumps.
Comfortable seats, 3-zone air conditioning, ambient lighting and enough space in the back for two full-sized adults. In short, its cabin experience is as sumptuous as the regular 3 Series. Nice details like the anthracite roof liner, sport seats and M details on the door sills, steering wheel, seat belts and seat piping, subtly suggest that this car is a bit special.
Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a clear and easy to use touchscreen, gesture control and a virtual assistant give you all the technical support you need. Rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, parking assistant, reverse assist and cruise control also ensure convenient city driving. Just a few hiccups like ventilated seats, radar-guided security assistance, and true keyless access, which are optional in other markets. This should allow BMW to price the M340i not only under the M2 Competition, but positioned very aggressively near the Rs 65 lakh mark.
Many turns, mini drifts, little pops and crackles from that sweet-sounding exhaust, and almost a full tank of gas later, we’ve made it to the top of our favorite twisty road. My heart is pounding and the muscles in my face almost hurt from smiling. I couldn’t think of a car better suited to this stretch of tarmac. More power would have required a lot more focus and focus to master, and the sporty xDrive made the car exciting but safe. A flashier car would also have attracted a lot more attention, and sometimes unwanted. The M340i was perfect. If you’re looking for a driver-focused car, it hits the right spot: delicious performance, everyday functionality, and the ability to fly under the radar when needed. The real question then is, are you willing to spend the extra few lakhs on those special Sunday rides?