2020 BMW M340i Review: All The M You Need
2020 BMW M340i
Do you consider yourself a responsible, wholesome driver? Are you a driver who maintains control in all driving situations? Or are you tempted to leave each stoplight in a snarl of revs and a haze of vaporized Michelin?
At the moment, BMW does not offer its flagship sports sedan, the M3. We are left with this, the 2020 BMW M340i. While the M3 – when it comes – will likely offer a batshit crazy amount of horsepower, I’m reminded when I drive this sensibly-powered M340i of Lord Acton’s chestnut: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
I’d like to think that I’m a decent, incorruptible fellow, thus 382 horsepower is enough for me. It’s probably enough for you, too.
Say, what’s the pachyderm doing in here? The astute will note that, no, a manual transmission is not available on any current BMW 3 Series, including this otherwise-sporty M340i. It’s certainly missed. That said, I don’t hate the ZF eight-speed backing up the twin-turbo inline six here. It’s always in the right gear, shifting with the appropriate force and speed for the situation. I’d be happier with a manual, but since just this side of nobody buys cars with three pedals these days (scientific data pending) I’ll learn to manage. This BMW does a traditional automatic right.
Of course, this G20-generation M340i is big, at least compared to the traditional ideals of 3 Seriesness – the E30 and E36. At a bit over 3,500 pounds curb weight, this compact sedan carries nearly nine hundred pounds more than the E30 M3, and around three hundred more than the E36 generation. It’s actually very close in exterior dimensions to the E34-chassis M5, with overall lengths right around 185 inches.
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This is no longer a small car.
The styling hides the size well, however. The ever-growing dual kidney schnoz, while stretching wider and wider through the years, has mercifully resisted the drooping flared nostril look we keep seeing on the company’s larger SUVs and in spy photos. The grille, front fascia, and hood are a bit too adorned with gashes and creases for my tastes – the look is a bit busy. Get past the face, and the rest of the car looks much more reserved.
These 19-inch alloys, in a medium gray that should color-match brake dust, nicely fill out the wheel wells. And I’m truly besotted with this Portimao Blue Metallic paint (it is absolutely worth the $550 upcharge), though if you want anything beyond white paint you have to pay extra.
The interior, for the most part, works quite well. A few of the materials – including the door panels and dashboard top – feel rather cheap for a car that starts well over $50k, though the optional ($1,450) leather seating looks and feels marvelous. The feel of the door ahead of the shifter that covers a pair of cupholders and the cellphone charger is a bit chintzy, as well. If you’re anything like me, however, you’ll never close that cubbyhole unless you’re taking photos to sell the car or, perhaps, write a review about the car. The seats fit me nicely, with plenty of bolstering for spirited driving and enough comfort for a long day of windshield time.
The rear seat was similarly comfortable for the kids – at well over six feet, I wouldn’t want to spend all day behind myself, but my rear seat testers are five-seven and five-four (for now) and I had no complaints about their knees in my back.
This may not be the case with shoppers looking at a $349/month lease special on a four-cylinder 3 Series, but once someone steps up to something with an M badge buyers are generally looking for something that brings a smile to the face when driving. Here, the M340i does not disappoint. Steering, while not quite as communicative as in the “old days” of E36 and E46 chassis, is certainly improved over the outgoing F80 generation.
The ride quality is remarkable, though, with incredible body control and noise damping over rough tarmac. The ride is firm, like a sports sedan should be, but surprisingly compliant. That’s if you choose the “comfort” mode on the center console for the ($700) adaptive suspension. Switching it up to Sport or Sport+ firms up the shocks, tightens the steering, and enhances the responsiveness of both the engine and transmission. It’s still not boy-racer unpleasant even in Sport+, but neither would you confuse it for a limousine ride.
The three hundred eighty-two horses shoving at the backside with a muted snarl will also remind you that you are indeed in a genuine sports sedan.
My only real gripe with the M340i is the price – really, the price one must pay to get all of the options that really should be included with the base price. Beyond paying extra for any color beyond Alpine White, BMW really seems to nickel-and-hundred-dollar-bill the shopper. Perusing the build-and-price tool at bmwusa.com, beyond the base price of $54k I’d likely add the $700 driving assistance package (lane departure warning, blind spot detection, frontal/pedestrian collision warning, park distance control), the $1,500 cooling and high-performance tire package, and the $700 adaptive M suspension. This gets me the minimum viable sports sedan at $56,900 delivered – a serious pile of cash.
Or I could wait for the M3.
I dunno. While what is likely to be something approaching 500 horsepower and (crosses fingers) a real manual transmission would be so incredibly fun, this 2020 BMW M340i is more than adequate for 99 percent of real-world drivers. That 382 hp is merely adequate says something about how spoiled modern drivers are. This is plenty for me, and is probably plenty of M for you, as well.
[Images: © 2020 Chris Tonn/TTAC]
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