The BMW 3-Series, by itself, is a great car. Imagine plonking a huge six-cylinder engine under the bonnet and calling it the M340i. This is a performance model from BMW that reminds us of the 330i of the E90 generation sold in our market many years ago. The new M3s are powered by straight-six engines as well, but these cars are priced exorbitantly, pushing the prices beyond 1 crore rupees, not making them very affordable for a lot of BMW enthusiasts. The M340i is BMW’s answer to Mercedes-AMG’s C 43, which is no longer sold as a sedan, but a coupe instead. Is the new M340i a blend of practicality and performance? We find out.
Looks like a Three?
Absolutely. Except that, the M340i is an angrier-looking BMW 3-Series. The visual differences stare you in the face if you know your BMW Cars. Up-ahead, you’ll see that the grille is different; it gets a gunmetal grey finish with a different graphic pattern. The stylish Laserlight headlights have a broader DRL signature and the front and rear bumpers get gunmetal grey accents too; the wing mirrors included. The bumpers look sportier while the sides remain the same. However, the 18-inch alloy wheels look fantastic. You have the option of fitting on bigger 19-inch wheels also.
Step into the M340i version of the BMW 3-Series and what is instantly evident is the tidy texture on the dashboard and the black half-Alcantara upholstery along with signature M color embellishments. The cabin is beautifully laid out; there’s a nice, sporty feel to it. However, a few racier elements would’ve made it so much more desirable. Some of the relatively basic-looking plastics can be ignored for once, particularly after what BMW Cars have offered us with the M340i. The features are all the same ones you get on the 330i M Sport. Equipment includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen with gesture control, adaptive LED headlamps with laser high beams, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, three-zone climate control, a sunroof, wireless phone charging, a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, multi-color ambient lighting, and a whole lot more.
The BMW 3-Series, with its ‘M340i’ badge means business, or should we say performance. However, what must be made clear is the fact that this not a car from the M-Performance division of the brand. And neither is it a run-of-the-mill M-Sport variant. The M340i is to BMW what the C 43 AMG is to Mercedes. It’s basically a fast BMW that minuses all the track-car bits from it, offering the owner a unique blend. The engine produces 381bhp and 500Nm of torque – all from a 3.0-liter, turbocharged, straight-six unit, sending power to all four wheels via a sporty ZF 8-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. The M340i can sprint from naught to a hundred in 4.4 seconds – that’s pretty quick for a sedan. The car gets launch control and xDrive all-wheel-drive. The transmission is so clever, it senses downshifts promptly, matching other dual-clutch gearboxes for pace; it even holds on to gears very well, particularly in manual mode. In Sport + mode, the power delivery is instantaneous but manageable at the same time. Performance is nowhere close to what you get on an M3, but the engine revs smoothly, all the way up to 7000rpm. The engine has been tweaked by the M Division to make the car dynamically more aggressive. The exhausts sound great – and this is going to be one of the few reasons buyers will be lured by it. The suspension has been worked on too, making it lower and stiffer. You don’t get adaptive dampers though. The car feels more planted like it’s clawing the tarmac, particularly around corners and high speeds. It maintains good composure but the ride, as expected, isn’t great. The M340i also features improved brakes and variable-ratio steering.
Also, unlike the M5, you can’t swap to rear-wheel-drive, because this isn’t the same drive. In Sport or Sport+, more power is transmitted to the rear, plus there’s a sports rear differential that channels torque from the left to the right, helping you dart out of corners quickly. Understeer is apparent, and if you want the tail to step out, you’ll have to mash the throttle but also be prepared to catch it as it flings itself into the other direction. It’s a properly balanced sports sedan that doesn’t really need expertise behind the wheel, provided you’re a responsible driver. And the AWD is always there to have your back, just in case things get scary. Also, grab the latest info on the upcoming cars, only at autoX.