BMW continues to add models to their already-busy product line at a staggering pace and the 2020 M340i is one of the newest ones in the Canadian stable. It’s not a true M model, but a member of the M Performance series. The M240i and the M550i came before it, and both are awesome machines, adding notable improvements to the base models. The M340i takes all the goodness of the all-new 3-series and mates it to significant performance upgrades that, in some departments, allow it to perform near last-generation M3 levels.
The new 3-series is clearly an evolution of the last generation’s lines. It has more contoured surfacing and a shapely hood. The new lines add poise and stance and, to my eyes, make the car more muscular and athletic. It’s bigger than ever before, but weighs less than the last generation, thanks to lightweight materials. The M-version is differentiated by its badging and by replacing blingy chrome with a carbon-y Cerium Grey metallic trim, which I really like. The M340i also gets unique wheels and staggered tire sizes with huge boots in the back.
My loaded-up review car came with every imaginable driver assistance technology, including active cruise control with stop-and-go technology, front and rear collision warning and intervention, blind-spot monitoring and lane departure help. The 360-degree camera system provides beautiful stitched-together top-view images – it’s one of the best systems I’ve seen. Everything worked well, with a singular exception. One time I was slowly backing straight out of my garage and the system must have felt I was about to back into something (I was half-way out of the garage) because it slammed on the brakes abruptly enough that I may have soiled myself.
Cabin storage is decent, including a bin with a wireless phone charger under the sleek lid at the front of the console, and space under the armrest lid. The 3’s spacious trunk has a powered trunk lid and hands-free opening function.
User Friendliness 7/10
While the new 3-series cockpit has been modernized and visually streamlined, it still has an all-business air about it. The newest iDrive combines a 12.3-inch touchscreen with the iDrive controller, and it has become an easier system to learn and use. Hard buttons augment the system, and you can also use the somewhat hokey gesture controls. Yes, you can twiddle your finger in a circle in front of the screen, as if you’re moving an invisible volume dial, and it will increase or decrease the volume. My kids loved this, and everyone else laughed it off. It feels like an answer to a question nobody asked.
The dazzling LED headlights with BMW Laserlight offer adaptive, variable illumination and did a very good job of painting the night landscape in even, bright white light.
I really appreciated the world-class materials BMW used to craft the interior, and fit and finish was top-notch. It makes for a very refined, upscale experience and helps elevate the 3-series’ premium character further as it tries to retain (or recapture?) its title as king of the sports sedans. We loved the digital dash and the customizable ambient lighting.
Yes, it has power. No, it doesn’t have M3 power, but you know what? I never wanted for more when I was driving this car. It builds momentum with such alacrity that, short of taking the car to the track, it will be a rare day indeed where the M340i driver needs more. Regardless of the driving situation, the power is poured on as fiercely as the driver asks for it. How fiercely? It officially makes the 0-100 km/h run in 4.3 seconds, which is territory previously inhabited only by M cars – it actually feels a couple of ticks quicker than that using the launch control.
Smooth and luxurious around town, the M340i transforms in Sport and Sport + modes, responding more quickly to throttle inputs and with snappier shifts. And the relaxed exhaust burble shifts to an angry, frenetic howl during acceleration, punctuated by a flatulent brap between shifts and followed by an addictive snap-crackle-pop when you let off the throttle. It’s all a lot of fun, and while it will get the attention of those on the street around you, it never quite gets obnoxious.
Snuggled into the caramel-coloured Vernasca heated leather front seats, which are both comfortable and well-bolstered, you can’t help but appreciate the M340i’s incredibly smooth ride.
There are three rear seats. While the two outboard ones are heated, comfortable and offer respectable head and leg room – more than ever before in a 3-series – for someone my size (at 5’10”), they’re still not very roomy. And the middle seating position still doesn’t work for human passengers. Rear passengers get a separate climate control panel and USB charging ports.
Driving Feel 8/10
Combining a model-specific M Performance rear differential and chassis tuning with the optional adaptive M suspension makes for the most comfortable and the sportiest suspension performance. The balance between the M340i’s ride and handling is outstanding. It easily moves between that buttery luxurious ride and relatively sporty, drama-free driving dynamics. If I had a complaint here it would be the steering. It is more vague and offers less feedback than a car this capable deserves, particularly when driven hard.
The 8-speed transmission is simply fantastic – it’s smooth, intelligent and ultra-quick. You can manually shift with paddles or the gear selector if you want.
The xDrive all-wheel drive system, clearly engineered with a delightful rear-wheel bias, adds traction, agility and stability in dry and wet conditions alike. And although the massive 348mm 4-piston front and 345mm rear discs are beauties, those M Sport brakes aren’t just there for looks. They will haul the car down from speed with authority and are as easy to use in everyday commuting as they are in emergency maneuvers.
Fuel Economy 6/10
While the ratings suggest a surprisingly frugal performance car, that only speaks to its potential – I can confirm the M340i’s ability to sip fuel diminishes massively the moment you decide to have some fun. No surprises there – accessing nearly 400HP doesn’t come for free and stabbing the accelerator to access my addiction to the car’s raw acceleration and gorgeous soundtrack became costly at the pump.
A $75,000 3-series sedan is an 8/10 value? Well, it won’t be to everyone. But considering the M340i’s ability to balance comfort, luxury and performance at some of the highest levels you’ll find in this category, the price suddenly becomes less eye-watering. It’s not the car, nor the price class, for everyone to be sure.
Should you have the money to shop in this category, and you want more than the 330i can offer, you’ll want to put the M340i on your shopping list. You can’t get a current-generation M3 anyway – heck, the M340i is the only way you’re even getting a 6-cylinder engine in a 3-series right now. And frankly, as mentioned, unless your car is headed to the track regularly, the performance of the M340i should satisfy anyone’s needs. It doesn’t look as aggressive or gaudy as an M3 (although that’s a matter of personal preference), it’s less expensive and it’s a wonderfully-sorted sport sedan.
2020 BMW M340i
$8,300 (Premium Excellence Package);
$1,450 (Tanzanite Blue II metallic paint);
$600 (Adaptive M suspension)
Price as Tested
382 @ 5,800 rpm
369 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm
11.4/8.3/10 L/100 km city/hwy/comb
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by BMW Canada.
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