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With its taut chassis, eager powertrain and sharp handling, the new BMW M340i is a sport sedan that's easy to like.

18 Dec 2018

Wrapped under the lattice of camouflaged lines is a car that will get enthusiasts a little bit excited - it's the new BMW 3 Series M340i, the most powerful interation of the brand new G20 3 Series short of a full blown M model.

To be very clear, the car we drove was a prototype model. Yes, it's very much in the final stages of prototyping, but there are still certain bits that are not yet production ready.

So, M power?

Partially. Under the hood lies a retuned version of BMW's B58 turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six engine pumping out a hefty 369bhp and 500Nm of torque. It's an engine that delivers plenty of kick, allowing the M340i to scamper from corner to corner with urgent pace (full disclosure, we only drove the car on the Portimao race track, but not on public roads).

369bhp and 500Nm of torque from the 3.0-litre engine make for a car with ample and eager pace

The engine responds well to your right foot, with sharp throttle response and a wide breadth of torque. The eager and rev-happy engine also sounds quite good, with the accompanying pops and crackle from the dual-pipe M Sport exhaust.

But it's all-wheel drive?

Yes, the M340i sends power to all four wheels via its xDrive all-wheel drive. However, you really shouldn't be that concerned. The xDrive system is rear-wheel biased, so the characteristic 3 Series agility is very much still present. Jump on the throttle too early mid-corner and the tail will still step out.

The plus side of xDrive is that if you are a ham-fisted driver like this writer is, the car will shuffle power to the front to pull you out of the corner in a straight line instead of backwards. Simply put, it flatters you.

The M340i tackles corners with excellent balance and composure

Around the heavily undulating Portimao race track, the M340i performed impressively. Turn in is sharp and accurate, the car is entirely composed and balanced along long sweeping corners, and it is still undoubtedly engaging to drive.

There's also ample amounts of grip, which is difficult to overcome unless you are purposely trying to. The brakes are also fantastic, shedding speed effectively and aggressively (important when you are hurtling downhill into a slow hairpin). 

Issues? Well, there isn't much in the way of steering feel, and we struggled to feel the steering load up as we trundled around corners. And of course, we can only properly access the car's ride quality once we drive it on proper roads (the Portimao track is smoother than a baby's bottom).

What about the rest of the car?

Based on the official photos we've seen, the exterior looks really busy - we reckon a tad busier that necessary.

There's great accuracy from the sharp steering, though it's still lacking in tactile feedback

The interior of the production car will likely the same as the production 330i, albeit with a scattering of blue and red M Performance trimming here and there. The car we drove came equipped with what appears to be an older M steering wheel, which we personally found more comfortable to use than the one in the 330i (which is really quite fat).

So is excitement warranted?

The M340i is a very capable performance car, though we must admit it's a little light on sheer drama. This feeling is perhaps somewhat exacerbated by the fact that while rounding out our final lap on Portimao, a certain Timo Glock was in front of us holding his M2 Competition in a massive slide around the long sweeping second last corner. Pfft, show off. 

The BMW M340i is a worthy addition to the 3 Series stable

The thing that excites us the most is that this car bodes well for an upcoming M3/M4, and that comes down to one thing - the chassis. Tauter and more composed, the chassis feels much more capable of dealing with the intense power. Hell, we think that in this particular context, the xDrive works, and actually makes a lot of sense.

However, a new M3/M4 is likely still some ways away. Right now (or July 2019 when the car is launched), if you're looking for a rampant 3er to get your adrenaline pumping, the M340i isn't going to disappoint.
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bmw  bmw 3 series  bmw m340i  bmw m3  m3  m340i  m4  bmw m  m performance