REVIEW | The 2020 BMW M340i will rekindle your love of fast sedans
The BMW M340i is the new juggernaut of the compact executive saloon which picks up where the previous F30 generation 340i left off.
But this is a very different kettle of fish that’s based on the enhancements and tricks that premiered BMW’s latest seventh-generation (G20) 3 Series, catapulting it to the pinnacle inside the storm of competitive alternatives from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Jaguar in terms of superb ride quality and digital sophistication.
Even in the first few metres of driving the signs are stunningly good. You can adjust the seat for any position and I found the chair squats suitably low for a sporty, hunkered down perch behind a multifunction wheel that’s both meaty to hold and precise.
The rear bench is delightfully larger to stretch out from than in previous models while an optional Infotainment Package worth R24,500 brings in Gesture Control, BMW Live Cockpit with apps and a Harman Kardon sound system, while the interior can be designed to your tastes too.
The Black Sapphire metallic painted test unit featured BMW Individual "Merino" leather in a Fiona Red/Black combination that covers the seats and door panels while aluminium Tetragon caresses the centre tunnel and licks some sections of the dashboard.
The torque in the engine is immediately apparent, allowing effortless ambling on optional double spoke 19-inch alloys that are connected to a surprisingly supple standard fitment M Sport suspension, which also brings it 10mm closer to the ground.
You’d be surprised to hear that the M340i can waft if you want it to. Thumb in comfort on the optional adjustable suspension and it softens, the steering loosens a notch and the baritone from the exhaust system becomes a distant roar while the eight-speed transmission settles for gentle upshifts, making it a pleasant thing to float around in.
This new M Performance 3 Series is powered by a turbocharged 3.0l six-cylinder with outputs of 285kW and 500Nm. That’s a bigger shove than the previous 340i and it’s all the déjà vu you’ll get because this market gets the M340i xDrive while the US and other markets can choose rear-wheel drive. The speed result is a 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 250km/h.
But let’s talk about the all-paw traction. It’s not the variable AWD system found in full-on BMW M cars. This one’s mostly locked permanently into four wheels with limited adjustability. Once you get it in the groove you’ll need to expect it to understeer at some point. It’s for the best because activating the fronts has helped in the efficient clawing at bends.
The drivetrain also features a rear differential and because it’s still a hot BMW, inevitably some owners will be tempted to elicit a bit of sideways action. With the traction switch in the off position the on-board yaw sensors monitor counter steering angles and throttle inputs, allowing for a fleeting drift before the computer jumps in extinguishing the smoke.
But you don’t want to waste time or burn rubber. This isn’t what you’ve signed up for with the M340i xDrive. It’s in its element when bends are presented and when using its instruments to do the job you will increase the grin on your face and the fresh air between you and any car behind. It covers ground and many bases well and marks the class’s coming of age in pushing back against the SUV craze.
Type: Six-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Eight-speed automatic
Type: All-wheel drive
Top speed: 250km/h
0-100km/h: 4.4 sec
Fuel Consumption: 7.7l/100km (as claimed), 9.2l (as tested)
Auto on/off LED lights and daytime running lights, alloy wheels, cruise control with auto brake function, Brake Assist, EBD, park distance control, run flat tyres, multifunction steering wheel control, rain sensor wipers, keyless start, partial suede cloth/leather upholstery, audio system with USB port, 18-inch alloys, stability control, six airbags
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km
Lease*: R21,475 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
BMW M340i xDrive
Refined drive, spacious interior, performance and handling
You’ll cough up more for cool specification
Fast and refined business sedan
****Value For Money
Mercedes-AMG C43 -287kW/520Nm — R1,095,920