Before the full-fat BMW M3 arrives next year, the M340i is the sole six-pot option for those seeking more thrills and performance from the new 3 Series
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
The era of the six-cylinder 3 Series appears to be coming to an end. They’re not completely gone yet, but if you want a six-pot version of the new 3 Series that’s not an M3, then your only choice is this, the M340i.
We’ve had a go in the regular 3 Series cars, and we found them to be generally capable, if slightly flawed in some areas. Most notably, tricking out the car in M Sport trim results in a suspension setup that is overly stiff, bordering on the uncomfortable. The Luxury trim fares better, but the sporting pretensions are still evident in daily driving situations.
It stands to reason that the M340i, being a ‘level up’ from the 330i we’ve driven, would offer more or less the same characteristics, and its status as an M tuned car means that the dreaded M Sport suspension will rear its head again, ready to inflict more damage on our spines.
Here’s the thing though: we can’t definitively tell you yet, because CarBuyer’s experience of the car only took place over a couple of laps round the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Johannesburg, South Africa. Fun as it may have been, a smoothly-surfaced race track isn’t quite the right place to test out a car’s ride quality.
Judging from reviews elsewhere though, it appears that the M340i retains that noted harshness that we’ve experienced in the other M Sport 3 Series we’ve driven. We can only reach a proper conclusion once we’ve taken the car out on a proper test drive on Singaporean roads, but for the time being, you’ll just have to draw your own inferences.
What a track drive can demonstrate however is how well a car handles and performs, and in those respects the M340i truly comes into its own. The chassis is finely balanced, and the M340i also comes with the benefit of BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which seems to help the car change direction and pivot around corners with pinpoint accuracy and precision.
And then down the straights, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo, which produces 374hp and 500Nm of torque, boasts plenty of grunt to cover distances rapidly and effectively. 0-100km/h comes in a brisk 4.4 seconds, and just to give you an idea of how quick that is, the outgoing M3 does the same sprint in 4 seconds flat, a mere 0.4 seconds difference.
The M340i’s straight six layout also means that it offers a little bit more character than its four pot siblings, in terms of power delivery and aural sensation, and yet it doesn’t quite do it with as much drama and pomp as a proper M3. As such, the M340i makes for a nice middle ground choice for those seeking subtle performance without drawing too much attention to themselves.
It looks the part too. BMW has done well to give the M340i a set of clothes that doesn’t shout too much about its performance potential. Frankly speaking, it looks very much like any ordinary 3 Series with an M Sport package, with only the badge on the boot lid giving its identity away.
It’s the same inside as well, with all the usual good stuff you’ve come to expect from a top-end BMW all present and correct here. Expect it to come with the latest tech gizmos and goodies, like the Intelligent Personal Assistant voice recognition command system, and the updated BMW OS infotainment system that we’ve already seen in the lesser 3 Series cars.
If anything, the M340i looks set to be the last of a dying breed. A six-cylinder BMW 3 Series that offers plenty of performance and driving enjoyment but without going too far into the hardcore realm that is a full-blown M car. If the ride can be sorted, then the M340i would probably be as close as you can get to the perfect compact executive performance sedan.
BMW M340i xDrive
Engine 2,998cc, inline 6, turbocharged
Power 374hp at 5500-6500rpm
Torque 500Nm at 1850-5000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 4.4 seconds
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Efficiency 7.4L/100km
VES Band / CO2 C1 / 168g/km
Agent Performance Munich Automobiles
Price S$315,888 with COE
Verdict: Sweet six-cylinder engine mated to a sparkling chassis and handling setup makes the M340i almost the perfect 3 Series