What exactly is the BMW M340i – a dressed-up 3 Series or a bargain M3? We find out.
BMW India’s marketing team for the 3 Series seems to have no chill. In less than two years after the arrival of the seventh-gen 3 Series in India, the brand has been expanding the range as if there’s no tomorrow. Earlier this year in January, BMW India brought in the long-wheelbase 3 Series Gran Limousine in the country. And now roughly two months after its launch, it’s ready to turn the luxury sedan market on its head with the locally-assembled M340i xDrive.
This one is special though. You see, when BMW gets brave enough to slap the iconic M-badge on its regular cars, it means business. And when it’s on the 3 Series, you know that things will be spicy. So, what’s the M340i XDrive all about? To understand this, let’s take a look at different aspects of this car one by one:
M340i xDrive sounds quite complicated, what does that even mean?
First, it’s not a real ‘M’ car. But don’t be disheartened because it’s not a faux M Sport car with a sporty body kit either. Instead, the M340i comes from the M-Performance division, which is allowed to nick some parts – like engines, limited-slip differential, suspension components, and more – from the full-blown M division. So, the M340i belongs to this subset. And the xDrive, well, it means that it’s an all-wheel-drive vehicle instead of being a regular rear-wheel-drive 3 Series model.
Doesn’t look all that different from the regular 330i M Sport though, does it?
True, it doesn’t. But there’s a shiny new grille – not half as gaudy as the one on the new M3 – which looks quite acceptable in the flesh. And there’s a spicy new sunset orange colour option, which looks superb. It also gets LED laser headlamps and a new bumper design at the front and rear. Plus, the exterior mirror caps, air intake, kidney grille surrounds, and exhaust tailpipe are finished in metallic grey. The 18-inch M-alloy wheels are identical to the 330i M Sport though.
It’s a similar story inside, as it features the same driver-focused dashboard layout as the regular 3. However, the interior comes in an all-black M-specific Sensatec/Alcantara trim. Like the regular 3, there’s a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel – it gets M340i lettering for added effect – and a 10.25-inch touchscreen, with iDrive 7.0, which gets wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Being the fully-loaded trim, it also comes with a head-up display, sports seats with adjustable side bolsters, gesture control, a Harman Kardon sound system, and more. The quality is top-notch and everything works flawlessly, just like the regular 3.
What’s so special about it then?
You want to know what’s special about it? Brace yourself, for there are one too many special bits and bobs here.
The M340i may not look all that different from the regular 3 Series, but it’s a completely different animal beneath the surface. Under the bonnet sits a mighty 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-scroll turbo petrol motor, which churns out 382bhp and 500Nm of torque. This unit, dubbed the B58, is the same that does duty in other cars like the X6, Z4, Toyota Supra, etc. in different tunes. In fact, the S58 unit, which is found in the X3 M or the new M3 and M4 is derived from the same engine platform, although it gets a revised bore x stroke and twin turbos among other updates.
Then there are the chassis improvements. The ride height is 10mm lower than the regular 3 and it comes with stiffer M-Sport springs. It also has more wheel camber, staggered tyre sizes – 225/45 (front) & 255/40 (rear) – and a sharper steering rack. Plus, it gets an M-Sport rear differential, beefed up M-Sport brakes, and all-wheel drive. That’s some serious bit of kit!
Is it considerably faster and more engaging to drive than the 330i?
The M340i clocks 0 – 100km/h in 4.4 seconds, while the 330i takes 5.8 seconds – which, in accleration times, won’t be considered in the same postal code as the M340i! In fact, forget the 330i, it’s even quicker than the E90 M3 (4.6s) and just three tenths slower than the outgoing F80 M3. Quite remarkable for something that’s not a fully baked M car.
What’s more, since it’s a six-cylinder, the engine purrs and revs freely all the way up to its 7,000rpm redline. The 8-speed ZF torque converter sings along nicely with its pitch-perfect, seamless shifts. Couple this with AWD traction, and you end up with a brutally powerful everyday sportscar.
There’s no denying that it’s considerably faster than the 330i, but I’m not sure if it’s usable on public roads. It’s just too fast to not be furious on the road. I mean, the moment you step on the gas pedal, it shoots forward in a relentless manner, so much so that you quickly find yourself running out of space to use all that power. On our roads and in real-world conditions, I’d say that the 330i M Sport is as good. Sure, the 340i is a sharper handler and is more responsive everywhere, but on public roads, the performance difference isn’t huge. However, thanks to AWD, its grip levels are quite evident, as the car feels surefooted on all sorts of roads.
But has AWD killed the fun?
Not really. Since the system is rear-wheel biased, the M340i shows its playful nature as soon as you turn the traction control partially, or fully, off. However, it definitely lacks the adjustability of a rear-wheel-drive BMW. As you hurl it into a corner aggressively, the rear-end starts to rotate in a progressive manner, but at this precise moment, the front-end starts gripping and scampers you back on the right path. This kind of grip is great when you’re chasing lap times or racing in an autocross event, but it’s not of much use if you want to have silly fun on an empty parking lot.
Everyday M or not?
Time to drop the truth bomb – I don’t think the M340i xDrive is the best everyday M car on the market today. To me, the 330i M Sport still holds that honour. You see, on public roads, it’s marginally slower, handles just as well, rides way better, and is more economical to run. Plus, with its rear-wheel-drive layout, it’s slightly more fun. The M340i, on the other hand, is a phenomenal package, however, it’s a little subdued, which is understandable, given that it’s not a proper M car. Still, it could’ve done with a little more drama and little more noise – the standard M-Sport exhaust is quite loud, but it doesn’t crackle or pop as it should. All in all, the M340i needs more character to set it apart from the regular 3 Series.
Start looking at it from a performance car angle though, and it makes a lot of sense. You see, with an expected price-tag of under ₹65 lakh, the M340i will offer significantly more value over the new M3, which is expected to be priced at over ₹1.3 crores, as and when it arrives in India. Considering that, the M340i is a perfect melting pot where you get the everyday usability of a 3 Series with the explosive performance of an M3 for track days. Plus, the money you save can be used for adding more performance parts, a juicy exhaust, and other racy bits. And once all is said and done, the M340i will do nearly everything that an M3 can, at just half the price and without flaunting an obnoxious pair of nostrils. Now that’s quite a bargain!
- BMW M340i xDrive
Engine: 2,998cc / 6-Cylinder / Twin Scroll Turbo
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 382bhp @ 5,800rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1,850 – 5,000rpm
X-Factor: Practical enough for weekdays and fast enough to give the big boys a run for their money on track days over weekends.
• Mad performance
• Grip & handling