BMW M340i. The thrill of motorsport in your everyday drive

BMW has an illustrious history of pushing the boundaries when it comes to infusing everyday motoring experiences with a hint of motorsport, and this has resonated with motoring enthusiasts around the world for decades. Ever since the 1979 release of the M535i, a high-performance version of the E12 5 Series sedan, BMW and its M division have continued to redefine the accessible performance car experience, pushing the boundaries with each new offering. With the genesis of BMW cars, one no longer needed to shell out big bucks to experience the thrill of motoring, and the M3 specifically is the perfect embodiment of accessible performance. But, as time has gone by, BMW’s M cars have become more and more inaccessibly priced, and although this isn’t unique to BMW, enthusiasts do miss the accessibility of BMW M cars of yesteryear. However, this legacy of speed, precision, and driving excellence, all wrapped up in an affordable-ish package, finds its way into the heart of the 2023 BMW M340i sedan, creating a vehicle that pays homage to its roots and is built upon BMW’s relentless quest for sheer driving pleasure. The M340i combines BMW’s pedigree with everyday practicality, delivering an exhilarating driving experience that’s hard to fault, and while others may call it a “baby M3” or “not a real M”, we’re here to tell you that the M340i is the best performance package currently on sale in India.

In terms of exterior design, the BMW M340i strikes a balance between sportiness and understated elegance, perfectly embodying the “sleeper car” ethos. The M340i builds upon the “LCI” refresh of the current 3 Series by adding a fair amount of M-inspired styling cues and design elements, making it stand out as a performance-oriented machine on the road. The 3 Series is a good looking car in its own right, but the M340i’s mean and aggressive demeanour is undeniably gorgeous. At the front, the new M340i features inverted DRLs in its headlamps with blue elements within the housing, which when combined with the blacked out mesh kidney grille and the redesigned front bumper, give the car a menacing front fascia that means business. The sculpted sides, with their flowing character lines, give the M340i a dynamic stance, and the flared wheel arches housing the stunning M-specific 19″ alloy wheels with blue M-Sport brake callipers scream performance. The prominent M badge on the front fender and the M-style aerodynamic side mirror drive home the sporty credentials of the car. The rear end of the car looks similar to the regular 3 Series, and we especially love the sharp and sculpted  LED taillights. What’s different at the back is the redesigned bumper, diffuser and exhaust tips, and while the exhausts do look sporty with their gloss black surrounds, we would’ve much preferred a set of real exhaust tips without the extended surrounds, similar to what BMW’s full-blown M cars sport. Overall however, the M340i is a masterclass in balanced design, and BMW has ensured that the car subtly shows off its performances credentials without being over the top with its sportiness. 

The delicate balance of performance and luxury continues as you step inside the M340i’s cabin, with the Indian spec of the car getting only the option of an all black interior. The lovely sport seats with side bolstering provide ample support even during spirited driving, and we especially love the Alcantara/ Sensatec upholstery and carbon fibre interior trim, making the cabin feel as race car-like as you would want in your daily driver. The attention to detail is evident in every corner, with precise stitching and impeccable fit and finish. The interior design is distinctly driver-centric, with controls thoughtfully placed for easy access. The standout interior feature of the mid-cycle refresh is the massive BMW Curved Display that houses a 12.3″ digital instrument cluster and a 14.9″ infotainment touchscreen with BMW’s latest iDrive software. Both the infotainment display and the digital instrument cluster are one of the best in the business, with razor sharp graphics, stunning animations and an intuitive UI. While we don’t love the omission of physical HVAC controls, BMW’s solution of keeping climate control functions always visible at the bottom of the screen is the next best option. The instrument cluster also has a tonne of functionality, with various display modes depending on the chosen drive mode, although the Sport Plus display is the one we spent most of our time in. There’s also a fantastic heads-up display on offer, once again providing sharp graphics and a layout that is easy on the eye. Although buying the M340i is hardly a decision one would make based on its feature list, it’s nice to see that BMW has not skimped on creature comforts. The M340i comes with automatic headlamps and wipers, electronically adjustable front seats, adaptive cruise control, four-zone automatic climate control, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with wireless charging and a sunroof, amongst other usual features found in a car in this price range. Some notable omissions include ventilated seats, which we thoroughly missed, and ADAS features, which we didn’t miss quite as much. Another feature we longed to see is the M tricolour stitching found on the seat belts in the previous generation M340i, and we would’ve loved to see it carried forward in this generation as well.

But let’s get to what truly sets the M340i apart – its driving dynamics. The heart of the M340i is the legendary BMW B58 engine, a 3.0 litre straight six with a single twin-scroll turbocharger, which also forms the backbone of the more powerful S58 engine found in the M3 and M4. In the M340i, the straight six produces an ample 374 bhp and 500 Nm of torque, although as usual, we suspect BMW is downplaying its power figures. BMW says the M340i completes 0-100 km/h run in 4.4 seconds, but we consistently got a time around the 4-second mark while using Launch Control. Again, as usual, it seems that BMW is being modest about the M340i’s credentials. The ability of the M340i to launch perfectly no matter what the road conditions in uncanny, and BMW’s Launch Control system does wonders to modulate power delivery and manage grip. At its price, it’s almost shocking to experience the sheer grunt that the M340i provides, with neck snapping launches and instant acceleration which can make the uninitiated feel a bit nauseous. 

This engine, which is found in several other BMW models, is an absolute gem of a motor, with strong power delivery across the rev range. Mated to the tried and tested ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, the engine shows little to no hesitation and pulls relentlessly no matter what gear you’re in. Even in Comfort, the gearbox is quick to respond and instant acceleration is always available at the tap of your right foot. Switching to Sport or Sport Plus makes the engine and transmission respond even quicker, and the car holds a significantly lower gear when in Sport mode for the transmission, making acceleration sometimes feel quite brutal. Of course, you can always switch to Manual mode and use the paddle shifters to take complete control out on a twisty road. Putting the car in Sport Plus mode also opens up the exhaust valves, resulting in arguably the best soundtrack you can get under the crore mark. The exhaust note starts out as throaty in the lower revs, with plenty of pops, bangs and gurgles to excite the child in you. As the revs rise, the note changes to a sonorous and loud-enough tune, and while part of it is amplified engine noise being played through the car’s internal speakers, the M340i still manages to sound great from the outside. 

But pure grunt is just one part of the experience, and the M340i is nothing short of a precision instrument for the driving enthusiast. The handling is sublime; with the risk of sounding cliched, it’s like the car is an extension of your body & soul. Hunkered down in the low driving position of the M340i, you can feel every bit of the road surface you’re driving on, and the feeling of confidence that it instills in the driver is rather special. The rear-biased xDrive four-wheel-drive system ensures that power is sent where it’s needed, allowing for tremendous agility and ample grip while exiting corners. In Sport Plus and Sport Traction mode, the system allows for a little bit of slip, and it’s great to see that the characteristic tail-happy BMW M feel lives on despite the switch to xDrive. Whether you’re attacking corners on a twisty mountain road or simply navigating through city traffic, the M340i feels poised and composed.

The steering response is sharp and communicative, offering the driver a direct connection to the road, and the slightest steering input in Sport or Sport Plus mode results in a change in direction. There’s also a significant difference in the weight of the steering when in Sport or Sport Plus mode, while Comfort mode makes the steering feel extremely light for daily urban use. In fact, the M340i drastically changes character at the touch of a button, and switching between Sport Plus and Comfort makes you feel like you’re driving two completely different cars. Comfort mode lets go of the touchy throttle, the firm steering and loud exhaust, and with the car in Drive, you’ll easily be fooled into thinking you’re driving a regular 3 Series. For us, the only pain point in the overall driving experience of the M340i is the suspension setup, which is heavily geared towards performance rather than comfort. It’s not that it’s un-drivable for a daily commute, but the firm suspension which gives the car such a sporty character also causes a majority of road undulations to find their way into the cabin. Unfortunately, the India-spec model doesn’t come with adaptive suspension as an option, which would’ve significantly improved the daily usability of this car. On the brighter side, BMW M340i’s rear seats now boast generous legroom, considerably enhancing comfort for passengers in the back.

But the true magic of the BMW M340i is too captivating for any of its little flaws to affect our opinion of it. This car is not just about getting from point A to B; it’s about the joy of driving and enjoying a driving experience that ignites your passion for the open road. It’s a reminder of why we fell in love with driving in the first place. Each time you step foot in the M340i, it invites you to savour the little joys of driving – the precision of a well-executed turn, the heart-dropping exhilaration of instant acceleration, and the satisfaction of being in complete control of a machine with as much character as this BMW. It’s a car that celebrates BMW’s heritage by delivering a driving experience that is nothing short of euphoric, and in a world where driving can often be a mundane chore, the M340i reminds us that it can also be a thrilling and joyful pursuit.

The BMW M340i is available in a single variant, and is priced at INR 71.50 lacs. At this price point, the M340i has almost no direct competitors, and instead provides a driving experience that is hardly ever available at such an accessible price point in the Indian market. One must applaud BMW for sticking to their guns and carrying forward their legacy of creating accessible and throughly enjoyable motoring experiences, and if you can afford it, we urge you to bring home the M340i. Because who knows how long we have until cars like these are a thing of the past.

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