The BMW 3 Series has long been a mainstay for the German manufacturer. A nameplate rich in history and now in its seventh generation, it continues to be a top-seller for the brand.
We tested the 2021 BMW M340i xDrive sedan – a sporty sedan that offers the optimal formula of power, performance and everyday practicality.
This BMW carries a price tag of $111,900 before on-roads. Ours on test was optioned with black sapphire metallic paint at $2000, plus M high-gloss shadow line with kidney grille and tailpipe finishers in high-gloss black adding $500 to the cost – bringing our test car to a total of $114,400 excluding on-roads.
The M340i is the halo of the mainstream 3 Series range, with the 330i and plug-in hybrid 330e sitting below at $77,900 and $84,900 respectively, and the base model carrying a price tag of $70,900. So, while there are options for buyers who want a sporty, luxury sedan with the BMW badge, the range-topper is the model you go for if you crave that extra flavour of performance on top.
Of course, if that's not enough, there's always the step up to the big leagues in the M3, with that range starting at $144,900.
|2021 BMW M340i xDrive|
|Engine||3.0-litre inline six, turbocharged|
|Power||285kW @ 6500rpm|
|Torque||500Nm @ 1800–5000rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed automatic transmission|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
At times, all of these numbers and letters can be a little perplexing, so let's start with the basics. The xDrive badge indicates all-wheel drive, which comes standard for this model. The numbers you may already be familiar with, as the 340 represents BMW's 3.0-litre inline six, turbocharged engine that is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
When you see this car's numbers on paper, you know you're in for a thrill. Capable of zero to 100km/h in a claimed 4.4 seconds, it spits out 285kW of power and 500Nm of torque. That's only 2kW less than the C43 and 25kW greater than the S4.
Firing it up, there's a sweet sound that pours out from the engine, but it's not too overpowering either – in fact, it's just enough.
We have to stop for a moment and praise this award-winning engine. BMW's B58 signature inline has great response, and when paired with an exceptional eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, you have yourself a winner.
There's plenty of power on offer instantaneously and you don't need to go searching for it. Cruise in Comfort mode and the oomph is plentiful, but switch across to Sport and the added performance is instantly noted – the transmission holds gears longer and the accelerator responds far more eagerly. Everything just becomes that little bit sharper. Oh, and lots more fun.
Speaking of sharp, the M brakes are just that. They have plenty of precision and you don't get any jerkiness either. All-round visibility is decent, and a special mention goes to this car's excellent Parking Assistant Plus camera, which has great resolution from the 360-degree surround camera.
A shortfall, though, is in its handling. The steering is rather weighty – you do get used to this, but once you're past that you'll notice it's not as sharp as you may have presumed, which lowers your confidence at times into tighter corners.
The ride quality is good, and that's something BMW is often criticised for. The active dampers work well at assisting with the bumpy, harsher roads.
This BMW scores plenty of standard equipment highlights including adaptive M suspension, ambient interior lighting, head-up display, Harman Kardon surround-sound system, 16 speakers, electrically adjustable seats with lumbar support for driver and passenger, M aerodynamics package, front seat heating, and wireless charging – to name a few.
The interior is uber chic and screams luxury with all of the top-grade materials you'd expect to see. The standard trim finish is Aluminium Tetragon with the seats dressed in Vernasca black leather with decor stitching, while the remainder of the cabin contains flashes of chrome throughout.
What's more, it manages to be practical too. First and foremost it's comfortable, and you really feel the instant comfort as soon as you get behind the wheel. No complaints either on room for driver and passenger up front.
Front row get access to wireless charging, a USB port, decent centre console, two cupholders you can fit a wider bottle in (it has grip holders too), and generous door bins with additional room to fit drink bottles also.
The BMW M340i, as already mentioned, scores some pretty adequate standard features that were found on the options lists of European manufacturers not too long ago.
Perhaps the standout being the head-up display, which provides not only the speed, but added details like your phone book, which pops up to the right of the speed display. It's a really nifty feature that feeds just the correct amount onto the windscreen without distracting you from the road ahead.
The 10.25-inch infotainment system performs well – with it comes Apple CarPlay and satellite navigation, which provides a split screen with alternate displays.
Depending on what floats your boat, features can be accessed via the touchscreen, the BMW iDrive Controller or by using the shortcuts on the steering wheel. All items are clever and really easy to get used to if you're not familiar with the systems.
Now when people think 'family car', perhaps a BMW M340i xDrive doesn't spring to mind, but you could most definitely have the best of both worlds – fun and family. You’ll find two ISOFIX points along with three top-tether anchors in the back.
Rear seat accommodation gets a tick. It's a smooth and comfy ride in the second row with fairly good leg and head room for adults, but is ideal for two not three.
There are back storage nets, a USB port each, a middle armrest with two cupholders, two large door bins and dedicated climate control. What's more, the boot has 480L of cargo space, and the 40:20:40 folding back seats carry over.
|Warranty||Three years/unlimited kilometres|
|Competitors||Mercedes-AMG C43, Audi S4|
|ANCAP safety rating||Five stars (tested 2019)|
Safety features include eight airbags, forward and reverse autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, parking assist, a 360-degree camera view, an expanded parking assist system, active cruise control, and steering assist.
We have to say that fuel consumption was pretty decent. With a mixture of driving roads and very little carried out in Eco mode, we returned a reading of 8.0L/100km, while BMW claims 7.7L/100km.
BMW, like Audi, remains at a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, while Mercedes is a step ahead in that regard offering five years. A plus – it does boast a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The 2021 BMW M340i xDrive is a flagship of the range – an aspirational vehicle that offers the driving pleasure, performance and luxury, plus also presents as a practical everyday sedan.
It's the perfect inbetweener for those not wanting to take that leap to something as hardcore as the M3 Competition. However, you're almost there, with more than adequate acceleration, and a sharpened chassis that works for the daily commute as well as it does on a more purposeful drive.