Best Test 2020 No 1: BMW M340i xDrive – performance shock just the cream on top
Suppose we’ve become used to not believing our eyes or ears among all this lockdown nonsense. But this was a surprise I really appreciated. I’d taken the images of this BMW M340i xDrive. And stopped in the village for an illicit masked chat with some mates on the sidewalk before setting up the VBox.
From there I trundled down to the spot where I usually do the first of one or two pre-runs. To get the hang of the launch and to get in sync with what the car best wants. I fingered the DSC off, killed the aircon and clicked it into sport. Then stood on the gas and brakes, slid the left foot off the brake and it really bolted off the mark.
M340I Was Far Better than Expected
I stopped for a second pre-run to better sync the release point as I always do. And peeked at the VBox readout on my iPhone. No, that can’t be right? I looked again. S’true’s Bob, the 100km/h readout was 3.97 seconds!
But hang on a second, the claim is four-point-four — I’d checked before I left? That first run is always a tad quicker being on a slight downhill, but my second and third pre-runs were four-point-oh-something, so that 3.97 was no fluke.
The run off our official strip is the one in the data below. And it repeated that number within 0.02 seconds twice after too, just to be sure.
Just to put that into perspective, my run down the same stretch in the then new M3 on 12 August 2014 delivered a 3.98-second 100km/h run. It did the quarter in 12.2 seconds at 193 km/h and pulled from 80 to 120 km/h in 2.2 seconds. And from 80 to 120 in 3.3. Of course that car was only rear-wheel drive, so trickier to launch. That much is clear in the data too.
This new 3-Series performance flagship sits above the 330i in the new G20-generation 3 Series and M340i xDrive is the first Three to have its numerals preceded by an M. It earns it for sure.
all-new aluminium 3-litre straight-six
And it shows too — M340i’s all-new lightweight aluminium 3-litre straight-six gets revamped turbocharging to improve fuel efficiency and turbine response. It delivers a significant 275kW and 500Nm. 30kW and 50Nm up on the old 340i to deliver that claimed 4.4-second 0-100 to even beat the M2 Competition. As mentioned it is in reality more of an old M3 competitor.
Packing BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive and a tuneable M Sport differential, M340i sits 10mm lower. It also has a wider track than other 3 Series . M tuning extends to the monster 348mm front and 345mm rear disc brakes with M-branded big blue callipers. Quite understated 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in a choice of performance-oriented tyres.. Electronically controlled dampers come as part of the optional Adaptive M suspension system.
It is sublime on the road — poised, balanced and precise. Pressed hard on my backyard Franschhoek Pass, it responded to driver inputs brilliantly. It retains poise to the limit that your balls allow and splendidly reported everything I wanted to know through that wonderfully weighted steering. It’s taken time, but they are getting this new steering tech to feel like it did at the acme of those brilliant mechanical old days.
Some may find it a touch too hard over less than ideal surfaces, but to the purist driver that’s a well earned compromise. And fuel consumption is a boon versus what the likes of a 335i would devour just ten yers ago. Uncanny, actually.
Looks Good Too
It’s pretty good looking — sharper in style yet softer on the eye with a cool new grille treatment, while those 530m range Full Adaptive LED headlights are handsome and work a proper treat. You’d however be excused for confusing it for an Audi or Jaguar when approaching from the rear.
Packing a literal kitchen sink full of spec around BMW’s quite astounding Operating System 7.0 with fully-digital instrumentation and interface. Its controlled by your choice of touching the screen, the iDrive Controller, steering wheel buttons, gesture or voice control. Some may never even get to exploring all the tricks this car can turn – it really does have it all. And even more.
Add level 2 automated driving plus the Driving Assistant Professional’s complete comfort and safety package. 3 Series can drive even quite eerily drive hands free on properly marked roads. But the system will slow the car, pull over and stop if the driver fails to respond. It will even demand assistance if there is still no reaction!
And then the clincher
All of those plusses, however significant they may be, are still moot points in this case.
The really astounding point of this car is that it offers everything you would ever expect in a sublime package. With performance to more than toast BMW’s incredible sheer driving pleasure pedigree. Makes one wonder why even bother with the M3 — will you ever really need any more than this…? — Michele Lupini
Images – Michele Lupini
ROAD TESTED: BMW M340i xDrive Engine: 285kW 500Nm 3-litre turbo petrol I6 Drive: 8-speed automatic AWD TESTED: 0-60km/h: 1.87 sec 0-100km/h: 3.99 sec 0-160km/h: 9.16 sec 400m: 12.1 sec @ 184km/h 80-120km/h: 2.60 sec 120-160km/h: 3.73 sec CLAIMED: VMax: 250km/h Fuel: 7.7 l/100km CO2: 177 g/km Warranty/Service: 5y 100K/2y unlimited LIST PRICE: R1.006M RATED: 9
Gumtree Auto Best Tests 2020 sets out to find our best road test of the past year. The Auto team will select 20 of our best road tests conducted since mid 2019. (The extra six months is to make up for the lockdown months) through December. Once all 20 are posted, we will run a poll for our social media audience . So you can vote for your favourite between 20 and 22 December, to determine the top three finalists. We will announce those three on 23 December. Then theauto.page Team will pick the Best Test of 2020 out of that top three. We will announce the winner on Christmas Eve. So follow the daily road tests, pick your faves and don’t forget to come back and vote. May the Best Test win!