BMW M340i xDrive: Our observations after 3 days of driving

The X-Drive (AWD) system is a first for BMW India in a sedan (non-proper M, of course). And it did remind me of its bigger brother (or maybe, father?) the M5 in the way it allows the M340i to accelerate off the line.

BMW M340i xDrive Driving the 3.0L Turbo-Petrol AT Review

This is what most of us have been waiting to get the word on = how the M340i drives. The newer B58 engine packs quite a punch with 382 BHP and 500 Nm, and it sounds slightly better than the previous N55/S55 engine too. We've already had this motor here for a short while in other cars like the X5/X7, but in a vehicle of this size, it is something special. The power on tap makes it an "almost M3", because the ratings & performance are comparable to earlier-gen M3s. What's more, a simple remap will take the M340i to 440 BHP (do it after the warranty though).

Upon coming to life, there is a nice muted roar from the mufflers, which stays for a couple of seconds until the cold start is completed. You immediately realise there is something special lurking under the hood. The engine then settles down into a smooth idle, characteristic of a BMW straight-6. The M340i has a pleasing sound, and it makes us want to slap on a louder exhaust ASAP. The engine screams towards the redline, has a few burbles on deceleration and liftoff, and gives out a sporty sound on upshifts.

The gearbox is the renowned 8-speed ZF, and not much needs to be said about this AT, because just like Porsche, BMW almost always gets it spot on. This is no exception. It's near perfectly matched to the engine, shifts up quickly, and doesn't hesitate to downshift with just a jab on the A-pedal. I couldn't find a reason to complain, and I did look hard for areas of improvement! The way that BMW tunes its engines & gearboxes is the best in the business (matched only by Porsche).

The car has a very Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dual personality. It's an angel when you need it to be, and an absolute monster when you floor the pedal. Within the city, the low end torque is great and with imperceptible turbo lag, the 340i was easy to drive around in Bombay. The steering is light, the engine happily chugs along at low RPMs and the gearbox upshifts early, riding the torque wave. It's very similar to the 330i to drive slowly, except that it's a bit more effortless due to the larger displacement + the ride is noticeably firmer. Once there is a bit of place to open the engine up, you realise that gaps get closed quickly, and overtaking maneuvers are done way too easily. Simply tap & shoot.

But the true fun of the B58 is pushing it, and pushing it h-a-r-d. A long open road with this car is driving pleasure redefined! The engine makes a throaty & sporty sound, which gets amplified as the revs rise...and the soundtrack gets better and better till the redline. Throttle response is instantaneous, the 6-cylinder eagerly revs to 7000 rpm and loves to stay in the red zone. The mid-range too gives you a solid shove into the seat, and the pull doesn't taper off even at high RPMs, and then you're onto the next gear, and the next! The 340i gets to seriously crazy speeds without much effort, and the acceleration will give many more expensive cars a run for their money. 100 gets demolished in 4.4 seconds - this is probably quicker than the M3 from 2 generations ago, and that's saying something. Highway and expressway driving are truly enjoyable with the big reserves of power & sorted handling. Acceleration from even beyond 100 km/h is strong, with the turbo-petrol being relentless. I can't imagine how much fun this would be on an unrestricted Autobahn or race track.

The X-Drive (AWD) system is a first for BMW India in a sedan (non-proper M, of course). And it did remind me of its bigger brother (or maybe, father?) the M5 in the way it allows the M340i to accelerate off the line. Competitors like the C43 and S5 are all wheel drive too, but the 340i just has the edge in terms of how "the feeling" is. It makes you want to push harder, and the X-Drive is calibrated such so as to remove understeer which is characteristic of such systems. You can feel the bias onto the rear wheels, and the feeling is similar to a RWD, with the front wheels getting torque to just assist with traction. That being said, it does grip like a proper AWD in corners, making you carry through speeds you wouldn't normally do, with complete confidence. It sticks like a damn leech to the tarmac! This also has to do with the M-Sport rear differential, which is capable of fully locking. The M-Sport diff is a great addition and can be felt working its magic when the M340i is being hustled. The steering is direct & accurate enough. While you know what's going on with the front wheels, it's not as communicative or feel-some as the old BMW pure hydraulic units on RWDs. Maybe it was me, but the weight of the steering felt a tad bit more than in the regular 3.

The M-Sport suspension is what comes on the M340i, and it is lowered by 10 mm with stiffer springs + differently tuned dampers. While the ride is noticeably stiffer than the regular 330i, it is quite useable on a daily basis. Ride quality is acceptable for a 4.4 sec 0 - 100 sports sedan, although it is firm and you do feel everything on the road. You as a petrol-head will eventually come around to it, but your parents will tell you to go easy on bad roads. Liveable, albeit not plush at all (not even close). At high speeds, the stability is exceptional and the M340i is rock solid. Even quick lane changes are taken without fuss. In fact, it is very surprising what all one can do with this car, and how much it can be pushed into corners without any fuss at all. The Michelin Pilot Sport 4 ZP runflats are the first to give up, screeching away, far before the suspension is near its limits. Mid-corner bumps weren't scary either, and even the largest of expansion joint bumps on the expressway didn't manage to shake the car off its course. She literally "sticks" to the road. On the flip side, the car can feel skittish on typically Indian broken roads.

What will really drive you up the wall is BMW's 80 / 120 km/h warning system which is indisputably the worst in India. It's loud and it interrupts the music playing. Enthusiasts will surely go to a tuner and get this disabled.

The M-Sport brakes are larger with 348 mm rotors at the front and 345s at the rear. The front calipers get 4 pistons each, and provide ample stopping power to slow the car down from high speeds, multiple times, without any sign of fade. I tried high speed braking and the car stopped on a dime. What I also liked is the tuning of the brake pedal; it feels sharp & very enthusiast-oriented. These brakes are needed with such a capable drivetrain and chassis, and help in extracting the most from the M340i.

Continue reading the discussion on the BMW M340i xDrive on our forum.

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