If you've ever wondered why the BMW 3-series sedan became a thing---it's the engine. Or it was. A silky-smooth inline six-cylinder, capable of propelling BMW's small (now mid-size) sedan quickly with seemingly endless reserves of both torque and horsepower. You would pin the speedometer, lose your license or both long before you ever felt you needed more from under the hood.
As technology has evolved and fuel economy has become a matter of law, automotive engineers have found that they can achieve that kind of power from a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. And BMW has adopted them in the 330i. It's a fine engine---among the best of its type. But it doesn't have the same feel, the same sound as that glorious BMW straight six. If you want that in 2020---and can't quite justify the leap to the hardcore twin-turbo 425-horsepower M3, you want the BMW M340i.
The M340i is a single-turbo 3-liter inline six making 382 horsepower and routing it through an eight-speed automatic transmission. BMW says that'l get you from a standing start to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds, and I have no reason to doubt that number. You'll absolutely feel the difference between this and the 255 horsepower in the 330i.
Fuel economy is reasonable for this level of performance---an EPA-estimated 22 city/30 highway.
It's more than just the engine, though. The M340i comes with a lot of goodies from the M division to enhance that power:
- Driving Dynamics Control with ECO PRO, COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+ modes.
- M Sport differential.
- Dynamic Stability Control.
- Brake fade compensation.
- Start-off assistant.
- Brake drying.
- Brake stand-by.
- Dynamic traction control.
- Four-wheel lightweight ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock.
- M Sport brakes.
- M Sport suspension.
- Aerodynamic kit and M rear spoiler.
- LED headlights and cornering lights.
- 3-spoke, leather-wrapped multifunction M Sport steering wheel.
- 19-inch wheels.
There's a good deal of non M-specific standard equipment as well:
- 14-way power front sport seats with four-way lumbar support and driver memory.
- 40/20/40 fold-down rear seat with pass-through.
- HiFi sound system with HDRadio.
- One-year SiriusXM All Access subscription.
- BMW Live Cockpit Professional featuring navigation with iDrive 7.0.
- 10.25-inch touchscreen.
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- Apple CarPlay compatibility (one-year trial).
- Rear-view camera.
- Two-way power glass moonroof.
- Automatic dimming interior rear-view mirror and driver's side exterior mirror.
- Comfort Access keyless entry.
- Variable sport steering.
- Universal garage door opener.
- SensaTec dashboard.
- Aluminum Tetragon trim.
- Active Protection.
- Active Guard.
- Automatic climate control.
- Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Shadowline exterior trim.
- Anthracite headliner.
Which brings us to the base price. Again, with all the above standard. $54,000.
Yes, that's a chunk. And as they say in the late-night commercials, "But wait. There's more."
Our test vehicle came with several extra-cost options, as well:
- Portimao Blue metallic paint: $550.
- Black leather interior with blue stitching: $1,450.
- Driving Assistance Package ( Active Driving Assistant Pro, Active Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning): $500.
- Drivers Assistance Pro Package (Extended Traffic Jam Assistant): $1.700.
- Premium Package (Heated steering wheel, heated front seats, head-up display): $1,400.
- Executive Package (Automatic high beams, Icon Adaptive LED with LaserLight. Parking Assistant Plus, Gesture Control): $2,100.
- Cooling and High Performance Tire Package: $1,500.
- Remote engine start: $300.
- Adaptive M Suspension: $700.
- Power trunk lid: $250.
- Ambient lighting: $250.
- Wireless charging: $500.
- Harman Kardon surround sound: $875.
With $995 destination charge, the bottom line on the window sticker reads $67,070.
Now, I could, with justification, point out that a chunk of what BMW charges extra for (Apple CarPlay, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, heated steering wheel, automatic high beams, ambient lighting, wireless charging) can be had for free in any number of Japanese and Korean cars with price tags half that of the M340i.
But then I drive it.
Man, it's good. And if you don't take apart the cost of the parts but look at, feel and enjoy the M340i as a whole, you end up realizing that anything close to its performance that costs less is only "close to its performance". A compromise.
From the first BMW I ever drove (a friend's 1972 2002tii), the one thing that they've always been better at is their no-compromise cars. The ones that simply set out to deliver on a promise of performance, solidity (it's like driving a bank vault that moves like a race car) and experience. And the 2020 BMW M340i absolutely does that.