BMW continues to add models to its already robust product line at a staggering pace, and the 2020 M340i is among the newest in the Canadian stable.
It’s not a true M model, but a member of the more approachable M Performance series. Like the M240i and the M550i that came before it, the M340i takes all the goodness of the redesigned 3 Series and mates it to upgrades that, in some departments, allow it to perform at levels that rival those of an older M3.
The new 3 Series is clearly an evolution of the last generation’s lines, with more contoured surfaces 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 before, but weighs less than the last generation thanks to the use of lightweight materials. This M lite version is differentiated by unique badging and by replacing blingy chrome with a carbon-like grey trim.
My loaded-up test car came with every imaginable driver assistance technology, including adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology, front and rear collision warning and intervention, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure assist. The 360-degree camera system provides beautiful stitched-together top-view images, and it’s one of the best systems I’ve seen. Everything worked well, with a singular exception: once, while slowly backing straight out of my garage, the car’s brakes were applied abruptly enough to startle me – yet there was no obstruction, and I was already halfway out of the garage.
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 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 a console-mounted controller that together make the infotainment system easier 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 laser headlights offer adaptive, variable illumination and did a very good job of painting the night landscape in bright white light. I appreciate the world-class materials BMW used to craft the interior, and fit and finish is top-notch. It makes for a refined, upscale experience, and helps elevate the 3 Series’ premium character further as it tries to retain – or perhaps recapture – its title as king of premium sports sedans.
No, the M340i doesn’t have M3 power, but I never wanted 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.
It officially makes the 0–100 km/h run in 4.3 seconds, which is territory previously inhabited only by M cars – and it actually feels a couple 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 executing snappier shifts.
The relaxed exhaust burble also shifts to an angry, frenetic howl during acceleration, punctuated by a brap between shifts and 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’s never quite obnoxious.
Snuggled into the caramel-coloured heated leather front seats, which are both comfortable and well-bolstered, you can’t help but appreciate the M340i’s incredibly smooth ride. While the rear seats are heated, comfortable, and offer respectable head- and legroom – more than ever before in a 3 Series – they’re still not very roomy for someone my size (5-foot-10). Rear passengers do get a separate climate control panel and USB charging ports for added comfort and convenience.
Driving Feel: 8/10
Combining a model-specific M Performance rear differential and chassis tuning with the optional adaptive M suspension makes for some of the most comfortable and sportiest suspension performance. The balance between the M340i’s ride and handling is outstanding; t 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 eight-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 348 mm four-piston front and 345 mm 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 manoeuvres.
Fuel Economy: 6/10
While the ratings suggest a reasonably frugal performance car, the M340i’s ability to sip fuel diminishes massively the moment you decide to have some fun. No surprises there – accessing nearly 400 hp 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 six-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 – some onlookers told me that they prefer the M3’s much-bolder styling), it’s less expensive and it’s a wonderfully sorted sport sedan.
|Peak Horsepower||382 hp @ 5,800 rpm|
|Peak Torque||369 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||10.7/7.8/9.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||481 L|
|Model Tested||2020 BMW M340i|
|Price as Tested||$74,545|
$10,350 – Premium Excellence Package, $8,300; Tanzanite Blue II metallic paint, $1,450; Adaptive M suspension, $600