Better than before by addressing the blandness of its predecessor, the 2020 BMW M340i xDrive delivers on speed and substance despite sky-high pricing and looks that might get lost in the luxury crowd.
After wandering the wastelands of conservative cues in the previous-generation sedan, the 2020 BMW M340i xDrive makes a more concerted effort to attract the eye of luxury shoppers. It’s a handsome car, especially if one can appreciate the singular geometry of its front-bumper curves, but it’s still a design that doesn’t take many risks, which is true of most of its in-segment rivals.
In profile the car is still quite similar to larger models from BMW, which is either a pro – if you want yours to be mistaken for a more expensive ride – or a con – if you’re looking for in-brand individuality – depending on your point of view.
BMW is doing a much better job at making sure some advanced safety equipment is included in the price of its high-dollar cars. The M340i xDrive offers forward emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring as standard equipment. Step up to the so-called “Driving Assistant Professional” option and you get a self-steering feature, lane-keeping, and adaptive cruise control (with the latter available à la carte as well). I found particular use for the traffic jam system that will automatically follow the vehicle ahead at speeds of up to 60 km/h.
The 3 Series has long been lauded for offering a large rear seat, and the current version of the car is no exception. Adult-friendly accommodations can be found at all four corners of the M340i, with enough room in the middle of the back bench for the occasional fifth passenger. Trunk space is also weekender-ready, with a centre passthrough for longer items like hockey sticks or skis.
User Friendliness: 8/10
Interacting with the BMW M340i’s myriad features and systems is relatively straightforward – once you get used to the iDrive dial on the console and the buttons that flank it. Moving side-to-side on the centre-mounted screen to access deeper menus can occasionally be clunky, but the infotainment system is simpler and harder to get lost in compared to past iterations. Would I like to see more versatility from the hyped LCD gauge cluster? Definitely, as it lacks the wow factor of Audi’s similar setup.
Aside from the lack of flash from its infotainment/gauge cluster setup, there’s nothing really missing from the 3 Series in terms of features. To be lamented, however, are some of the materials that driver and passenger interact with the most. Specifically, the buttons used to control climate functions (temperature, fan speed, etc.), and the flat plastic tabs on the console beside the shifter, don’t belong in a car that can crest $70,000. It’s an unusual oversight in an otherwise well-appointed cabin.
BMW will have you believe that the M340i’s 3.0L turbocharged six-cylinder engine makes 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, and that those numbers alone are good enough to rocket the four-door to 100 km/h in a mere 4.4 seconds. On paper, this is the most powerful non-M 3 Series ever built, but it feels like the Bavarians are playing coy with the numbers and that it’s making more output than advertised. It’s an incredibly quick car and one that punches well above its weight in a straight line.
Did I want cooled seats on the 35°C days I drove the newest 3 Series? Absolutely. That being said, I can’t think of any other missing elements from the BMW’s list of comfort features, and the passenger compartment is remarkably quiet at speed. Keep the available adaptive suspension system in the aptly-named Comfort mode and the car hovers over potholes, too, preserving an oasis of civility in which I could escape Montreal’s increasingly hostile infrastructure.
Driving Feel: 8/10
There are a few unusual aspects of the BMW M340i xDrive’s character behind the wheel that prevent it from receiving a perfect score. The most jarring is a hesitation from the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox at lower speeds, either when pulling away from a stop or attempting to goose the gas while rolling through traffic. This is the first time in recent memory that I can recall taking issue with the otherwise-outstanding ZF-built gearbox, which is a stalwart across the industry.
BMW has made an effort to take most of the drama out of full-throttle pull in the M340i, using a variety of electronic nannies to keep the rear end planted and square while feeding a fair amount of torque to the front axles via the vehicle’s all-wheel drive system. This sometimes leads to the impression that you’re squeezing power out of a tube rather than uncorking a mighty motor. The speed is still there, but the sensation is muted, leading me to believe that the brand might be protecting the experience inherent in the upcoming M3 model.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
Official fuel economy ratings are not yet available for the 2020 BMW M340i xDrive, but my city-heavy driving netted me 13.4 L/100 km during my week with the car.
The M340i xDrive starts at $61,000, which is just over $10,000 more than the base four-cylinder version of the car. More than $10,000 in options later and you’re looking at a heady price for what is still considered an entry-level luxury car. Yes, the 3 Series will be more than enough sedan for almost every shopper, but it’s also nudging into territory where you can pick up a larger, more capable SUV or sedan with perhaps a little less brand recognition.
The 2020 BMW M340i xDrive is a fantastic all-around luxury sedan that is remarkably quick and supremely comfortable to drive. Balancing that out are its somewhat subdued looks and a purchase price that may have you shopping around for more car for the money.
|Peak Horsepower||382 hp @ 5,800 rpm|
|Peak Torque||369 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||11.4/8.3/10.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||696 / 1,608 L seats down|
|Model Tested||2020 BMW M340i xDrive|
|Price as Tested||$74,545|
$10,350 – Premium Excellent Package, $8,300; Tanzanite Blue II Metallic Paint, $1,450; Adaptive M Suspension, $600