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When it comes to the BMW’s shiny new M340i xDrive, the internet was abuzz with many tags. The missing link in the 3-series, the quickest car assembled in India, and so forth. With all that happening, I did what I had to do- shun the internet till I actually drove and experienced the car myself.
The reason was simple. No matter how much you try, these things impact you subliminally and I wanted to drive this car and feel all that it has to offer without any prejudices. After all, it is a BMW and I did not want to corrupt the Sheer Driving Pleasure with preconceptions. Fair enough, right? And just like the Cheetah, this was my shortest drive of a performance car so far. Just 100 kms or so, as the next day I had to leave on the 10,000 kms #roadTripUnited2021! But I couldn’t leave without driving it.
BMW has been making cars for a while now and for the most part, their name is associated with some of the best true drivers’ cars. That is even more true for the 3-series. The BMW M3 (E46) CSL is still one of the best cars ever made in my opinion and my only gripe is that I did not get to experience it.
Then with time, the 3-series became more and more practical and so, the gap between the 3-series sedans and M3 kept growing. This stood true for this generation as well. That is, until the launch of the BMW M340i xDrive.
Why so? With 387 bhp and 500 Nm of torque, it is much quicker than the 3-series cars but not quite as extreme as an M3. And starting from INR 6,290,000/-, its price tag is not as eye-watering as the M3 but slightly more than the other 3-series sedans. So that does kind of make it the missing link or a bridge between the 3-series and the M3.
With a 0-100 time of 4.4s, it is pretty much the quickest car assembled in India. So the tags are justified and the numbers give away the verdict too. And it was intentional so that we can get that out of the way and simply talk about driving the car.
First of all, the looks. I am going to be honest here; I love how the car looks. It started with the very first glance and for the most part, it was the colour. They call it sunset orange and it is without a doubt the best colour you can get this car in. Now, down to the nitty gritties. There is not much differentiating the 4-cylinder 330i and this special 6-cylinder wild-child. But if you are not able to spot the differences, maybe you should leave it alone, no offence.
Let us start listing them out. First of all, the front and rear bumpers. They are designed with more sportiness in mind and the added grey accents further accentuate that. The mirrors and the grille-surround also get a similar treatment. The grille itself has a significantly different pattern and it also does its bit to enhance the sportiness being portrayed visually.
Then there are the headlamps which now have BMW-signature Laserlight and bigger DRLs as well. Finally, the exhaust housing is now trapezoidal. The wheels are the same 18-inchers as the 330i but you have an option of bigger 19” wheels.
Step inside the car and there too, there are subtle differentiators. While the cabin is largely similar to the 330i, the M340i xDrive does get some bits that give away its M-credentials. The doorsill, M leather steering wheel, M seatbelts and so forth. Visually, you can see the M callipers but that’s the braking department which we’ll get to shortly.
The equipment list on the inside is also more or less the same as the 330i M Sport. Ambient lighting, 3-zone climate control, digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch touchscreen with a fan favourite in the form of gesture control. There’s a heads-up display and also, Android Auto alongside Apple CarPlay. The latter work wirelessly too and there’s wireless charging as well.
All in all, there’s enough distinguishing the best of 3-series from the rest. And the things that remain the same as well should be no cause for complaining as even the 330i is a serious piece of kit when it comes to the gizmos and tech-wizardry. Oh, let us not forget the 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system on which I duly played Thunderstruck while thrashing this car around!
The reason behind that particular song is that there are not a lot of things that can pump you up more than AC/DC. And you need to be pumped up while driving this car because this has been one of the most engaging cars I have driven in the recent past.
And that’s the reason why I do not like to be prejudiced. xDrive means 4-wheel drive and that makes cars less engaging. It is a sedan and it weighs quite a bit so it can never be that engaging. All of that is BOLSHEVIK! And you know what I am saying despite keeping it PG-13. So, without further ado, let’s get down to it!
Predictably, we will start with the engine. A 3-litre inline-six with M TwinPower Turbo tech. God only knows how happy it makes me seeing the iconic straight-six engine in a 3-series car again. The turbos on the other hand are not the best kind out there being twin-scroll type. So there is a slight turbo-lag but BMW, being BMW, have implemented those cleverly enough to make up for it. So despite there being some of it, the effects of the dreaded turbo-lag are scarcely felt in this car.
387 bhp of power arrives at 5,800 rpm and it makes sure that you get proper entertainment when you put your foot down. Also, the 500 Nm of torque that the engine provides you with between 1,850 rpm and 5,000 rpm has a part to play in the urgent acceleration and the fantastic 0-100 km/h number.
The redline sits at a lofty 7,000 rpm and you just have to hit that in every gear, every time. It is such a visceral, such a BMW feeling to do that and still having the engine running as smooth as silk. Another factor in the brisk acceleration that you witness while driving this car is down to the xDrive system. Since the power is being transmitted to all the wheels, it is put down on the tarmac more effectively.
There are many modes to choose from. Eco Pro makes it a dud for junkies like me but it is a very practical addition since it is still a proper sedan and the presence of these modes makes it a perfect daily driver. But what you wait for are Sundays where you sneak it out of your garage, still in Eco Pro so that the noise is muted, trudge around till you hit the stretch of your liking and… prepare.
Now, take a deep breath, put the M340i xDrive is Sport+, engage the launch control, and GO! In Sport+ the car transforms into almost a purebred sports car. The engine noise is glorious, the shifts are lightning quick and downshifts are rewarded with all the pops and crackles you can ask for. The BMW M340i may not be a full-fledged M3 but it sure is a more than ample trailer of what BMW can do when they wish to make petrolheads like me grin ear-to-ear.
I must also talk about transmission. 8-Speed Steptronic system from ZF makes for lightning-fast shifts in Sport+ mode. But what I liked, even more, was its ability to hold a gear as you hover around the ideal rpm to shift into the next gear. The top speed may be limited to 250 km/h but you just know that this car can do a lot more!
Onwards to handling then. The Magic alphabet would mean nothing if the car that adorns it doesn’t know its way around a bend. The BMW M340i xDrive sure does. Starting with the suspension, the M340i xDrive, despite missing out on adaptive suspension damping, boasts a stellar suspension setup. The work done on the setup by the M-division is very much apparent.
In the corners, the car feels much more solid and the body roll is kept properly in check. The ride height is 10mm lower and the suspension is firmer. That helps in the car maintaining its composure even in the gnarliest of corners and in a straight line at considerable speeds.
With this agility, there was bound to be some compromise on the ride quality. So inevitably, there are some but it is far from being jarring and the M340i xDrive still feels pliant and luxurious enough. So I’d say that BMW and their M-division has worked really well to make even this passive setup very well balanced.
Finally, we have bigger brakes too with M callipers that make for a precise and sporty braking setup that will not lose its sheen even if you were to take it to the racetrack. And you’ll find that this car will feel at home even there. This brings us to our final and most important aspect; does it still feel like a proper BMW despite the all-wheel-drive setup?
The answer is a resounding YES! Firstly, there is a rear bias in terms of the power delivery and you can tell that from the get-go. It may not have the option to switch to rear-wheel-drive completely like the M3 but it still feels quite close to one. The xDrive system aids practicality which still is a priority for a car like this but what we are here for is the magic of the M Sport differential.
With the electronically controlled fully-variable locking rear-differential, the M340i xDrive is able to achieve an elusive balance. While the differential takes care of the torque-understeer in corners by sending more power to the rear wheels while oversteer is also minimal (a happy-sad feeling) so that the drivers who were only looking for some extra power aren’t left unnerved. The special trick that makes this car such a hoot in the corners is something else.
Instead of applying brakes to counter under or oversteer, it uses the engine’s power to neutralize them. The differential allows the power to be sent to the outside wheels instead of applying brakes on the inside ones. What happens in that situation is that the outside wheels, which are loaded, can transmit more power to the road thus enabling quicker corner exits with loads of grip.
That is all the tech talk we need for the day. The bottom line is that the ill-effects of understeer are countered well, and so, the BMW M340i xDrive feels very, very close to a rear-wheel-drive car but is devoid of excessive oversteer. Yet, you can give it the beans big time to let that happen and make the rear step out but you have to be ready to catch it before things get snappy! Now you know what I meant when I called it extremely engaging.
In simple terms, I love this car. At the price tag (well..), it is all that one can ask for and one of the best cars if you like to drive. That said, it is just as good to be driven in and to be used as a daily driver. Those looking for more excitement may want to look at the M2 Competition but you do not want to be living on the edge all the time. That is where the BMW M340i xDrive excels- you can drive it around town on a daily basis in its Logan avatar but call upon the Wolverine too as and when you like.
Long live Modes and Mode Selectors!
P.S: I do feel that if they place it right, this can be the ‘Mustang’ for BMW, at least in India. It would be a killer in BMW M GmbH colours too! And if you ask me, I pray for the day when BMW can sell this car at a price tag in the tune of sub-50 lacs in India. I know. I know. If wishes were horses, so many of us would have dared to have almost 400 of them under four wheels that we drove here.