2020 BMW M340i Review: All The M You Need

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2020 BMW M340i

3.0-liter turbocharged inline six (382 hp @ 5800 rpm, 369 lb/ft. @ 1800 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive
22 city / 30 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
27.1 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $54,995 US
As Tested: $67,070 US
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States.

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.

[Get new and used BMW 3-Series pricing here!]

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]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

More by Chris Tonn

Join the conversation
2 of 41 comments
  • Hans007 Hans007 on Mar 28, 2020

    I’ve had one of these for about 3 weeks now. Granted I haven’t been able to drive it as much as I would like given I live in los angeles, and coronavirus lock down. Dealers if you take advantage of bmw loyalty etc and every incentive you can get 18-19% off. Compared to my previous audis and bmws this is a great driving car. When i was younger a roomate had an E34 and I do agree it is starting to get a bit large. Still though, its just about the right size and power. I feel like it would be difficult to really use another 90-100hp that the M3 will have, and this car won’t have that terrible new grill design. Love the car, and got it under $50k pre tax even with bmw individual paint. $50k…. these days isn’t really THAT expensive for a new premium brand car, I bought mine and its only a little bit more than my last car cost

  • Vehicleimageediting Vehicleimageediting on Jun 07, 2020

    Wow nice BMW car,I like it,Thanks for sharing your photography!!! https://bestphotoediting.com/car-photo-editing/

  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys dudes off the rails on drugs and full of hate and retribution. so is musky.