The new BMW 340i brings more than just a change of badge over the old 335i...
The 2016 BMW 3 Series range has seen some new model derivative numbers joining the ranks, including this car – the BMW 340i. This model replaces the BMW 335i and it sees not just a change in the badge, but also in the engine.
Under the bonnet is a new version of the brand’s six-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which produces 240kW of power and 450Nm of torque. These are pretty healthy numbers, and up notably on the old 335i’s grunt count by 15kW and 50Nm.
The 0-100km/h time of the 340i has dropped, too. On the previous model, it was 5.5 seconds, and now it’s down to 5.1sec. Claimed fuel use is down 0.4L/100km from the outgoing 335i model, now consuming 6.8L/100km.
While this 340i is fitted with the Luxury Line trim package (and it is very luxurious), there’s no denying that this is a potent powerhouse of a car.
At the moment there’s a surprising dearth of competitors to this model in the luxury segment, as only the more performance-focused Jaguar XE S could be considered a rival. However, in 2016 that will likely change with the arrival of the new-generation Audi S4, and we’ll also see the Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG arrive early next year, though likely at a considerably higher price.
On that topic, the BMW 340i starts at $89,900 plus on-road costs, which is a full $20,000 over the extremely impressive 330i, although that unit is powered by a four-cylinder turbo petrol engine instead of the six-cylinder in the 340i.
So, is it worth the extra spend? No. It isn’t.
Well, unless you’re 100 per cent set on a six-cylinder BMW.
We would certainly understand why you might be. The brand has a strong history of offering some of the best sixes ever made, and this new powertrain in the 340i is another impressive piece of equipment. Well, for the most part.
Under light and medium throttle the engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox work to provide swift progress, with the transmission defaulting to higher gears to allow the engine to operate with the aim of using as little fuel as possible. There’s a decent amount of low and mid-range torque to call upon if you need to move a little faster, but stomping the accelerator for a sudden surge of speed leads to a second or so of hesitation as the engine and gearbox decide which cog to choose for the situation. Quite frustrating. With eight gears in the 'box, a shift from eighth to fourth is not unusual in that sort of situation.
It isn’t any better in the most hardcore Sport+ mode, either. If you ease off the throttle it will shift up, and then when you get back on the throttle 10 seconds later, it hesitates.
Having said that, anytime that you want to be driving hard, it should be done in Sport+. When in manual mode, the paddleshifters are excellent, reacting quickly to shifts and allowing the driver to explore the capability of the engine on their own terms. There’s plenty of capability there, too, as this is a lovely refined powerplant with enough torque on tap for most people’s needs. It’s particularly sweet from 2500-5000rpm, and that’s where the engine sounds at its best, too.
Over our time with the car – which included a few traffic-clogged runs in and around Sydney but also a few hundred kilometres of highway and country driving – we recorded a very high average fuel use of 13.7 litres per 100km; just over double the claimed consumption.
Six-cylinder engines may have been a long-held strength of BMW, but so has steering. However in the new 340i, that’s not such a strong point, with this model’s Variable Sport Steering system – which adjusts the steering ratio to “enable a direct and agile driving style” – falling short of expectations. The steering system is simply too twitchy at highway speeds on the straight-ahead position, with multiple drivers in the office stating they found it fidgety. There is quite a lot of adjusting the tiller in order to maintain a steady line.
In corners it doesn’t get any better. The steering is dull and lifeless when you’d most want it to be the opposite, and it leaves the driver lacking confidence in what is actually happening at the front axle. Colleague Tony described it as “remote”.
It’s a shame, because the balance of the chassis and the adaptive M suspension fitted to this model enables it with plenty of cornering capability.
That suspension works a treat in most situations, featuring dampers that firm up for extra dynamism in Sport and Sport+ modes, and soften in Comfort mode for a more cosseting ride. The ride in Comfort is (unsurprisingly) comfortable, and the handling in the more focused modes is certainly very good. Sport+ even disables the traction control to an extent, allowing some real driving enjoyment.
Inside, the 340i’s Luxury trimmings give it serious amount of wow factor on first impressions, but our car had a few very uncharacteristic issues in terms of interior presentation, particularly around the glovebox. There was a massive discrepancy in the shut line, and the aluminium finisher above had a bow in it.
Further, the leather trim – though stunning to look at – marks very easily, and with just a few thousand kilometres on the clock our car’s rear seat was already grubby. The manual handbrake is a bit downmarket, and a surprising inclusion in lieu of a space-saving electronic toggle.
Those issues aside, the 340i is a very luxurious and comfortable place to be. There’s enough rear seat space for a pair of adults, with only a slight shortage of toe room. There are rear air-vents, decent door pockets and mesh map pockets, and the 340i also gets pop-up sun-blinds, which is a bonus for family buyers. There are outboard ISOFIX points, and the 480-litre boot is decent, aided by 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats.
With the recent range revisions, the 340i does a lot better than the 335i in terms of equipment.
Some of the highlights include adaptive LED headlights with cornering lights, a head-up display, and plenty of safety goodies such as adaptive cruise control (exclusive to the 340i), semi-autonomous parking (also only available on 340i), forward collision warning with “light city braking function”, pedestrian warning system, lane departure and blind-spot warning systems, and front and rear parking sensors backed by a 270-degree around-view camera system.
The media system is driven by the superb iDrive controller, and is simple to use and easy to learn. The 8.8-inch screen is clear and crisp, also serving as a monitor for the cameras. The satellite navigation includes three years of traffic updates.
Audio is a highlight of the 340i, which gets a 16-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system, while DAB+ digital radio is standard.
BMW offers a $1280 “Service Inclusive” package for 3 Series buyers that covers five years or 80,000km of travel. It includes engine oil and filters, air, fuel and micro filters, spark plugs, brake fluid and vehicle checks. The Bavarian brand’s cars are all covered by a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
As this review has made clear, the 2016 BMW 340i isn’t the one we’d buy. It is luxurious, but it doesn’t have the dynamic ability that we’ve come to expect from a top-end 3 Series. In fact, the 330i ticks more boxes than this car at a lower cost, and if you can live without the six-cylinder engine, it would be a better Bimmer to buy.
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