BMW is still betting on the sport sedan as an essential part of its lineup even though the general public seems to have forgotten about them
. Sales of the 3 Series, which was once BMWs best-selling model, have dipped year after year despite it being one of the best driving sedans you can buy today. Within the current 3 Series lineup, the M340i sits at the top and for the 2023 model year it gets a big list of upgrades including a hybrid power boost.
The 382 hp from the 3-litre turbocharged inline-6 is unchanged but a 48V mild hybrid system integrated into the 8-speed automatic transmission add an 11 horsepower kick during acceleration. It works with the gasoline engine to eliminate any semblance of turbo lag (not that there was much to begin with), increase efficiency, and refine the auto stop/start system to the point where it’s seamless.
While this might seem like a minor change the effects of the system are immediately noticeable. Throttle response is immediate and the M340i feels like it’s taken notes from its electric sibling the BMW i4. The wave of torque from this powertrain is so linear and so relentless, it must be the closest thing to surfing a tsunami. Capable of blasting from a 0-62 mph in just 4.1 seconds, this M340i xDrive is astoundingly quick.
The M340i has standard all-wheel drive, so all that power has no problem finding the ground. With so much traction and power at your disposal, my immediate impressions are that it’s basically an M3 without the wide body kit
, quad-exhaust tips, and extra fuel consumption. The M340i also gets a limited-slip differential something that was exclusive to M models at one time.
The performance might bring to mind the M3, but this is a 3 series and something the 3 Series has always done well is keeping a low profile. Most will think it’s a perfectly fine sedan, not really anything special. Its styling is inoffensive, and purposeful, there are no aero appendages or massive cooling ducts, and even the exhaust note is rather muted. If you only went about your day using 25 per cent of the throttle, never really venturing away from the “Comfort” drive mode, you’d still be perfectly happy with your refined luxury sedan. And that’s because the 3 Series in any form is just a really good all-rounder. It can carry up to 5 passengers in comfort, has a big trunk, and gets good gas mileage.
It has a really nice interior too. Like the i4, the 3 Series now gets a giant curved display as standard equipment. It’s actually 2 separate screens housed under a pane of glass and they look spectacular. The driver’s display measures 12.3-inches and the central display is 14.9-inches of pin sharp graphics and rich colours. The latest version of iDrive called BMW Operating System 8 is intuitive and a pleasure to use. I’m happy to see that BMW is sticking with the iDrive control knob first introduced over 20 years ago on the 7 Series. It makes using the system easier and safer when on the move as you don’t have to take your eyes of the road for as long as you do with a touchscreen. I’m less enthusiastic about the climate controls having migrated over into the screen as well, meaning that turning on the A/C or the heated seats requires you to dive into the infotainment, which isn’t ideal, at least for me.
The seats are comfortable, supportive and great for long drives. Even the driving position is just about perfect with great visibility all around. These are 3 Series hallmarks and it sets the stage for the drive, which doesn’t disappoint. It’s not the outright power but the balance of all the controls that sticks with me. Everything is in harmony. The brakes, steering, and throttle have a similar weight and feel to their operation and it makes the M340i a predictable and easy car to approach, regardless of driving skill.
For those that want to push it a bit, the M340i is more than capable of compressing your kidneys into the back of the seat under acceleration but prodigious brakes keep things from getting away from you. With sharp turn in, a finely balanced chassis, and minimal body roll this is a sedan that thinks it’s a sports car.
There’s no getting around the stiff ride, which is the price you pay for the sharp handling. You will feel the road in any of the drive modes but that’s sort of the point of the 3 Series. It’s not uncomfortable by any means but it does help you form a better connection to the road. It’s one of the reasons why sport sedans like the 3 are so engaging to drive.
On the highway it swallows miles like free beer with effortless passing power and a solid composure that makes it feel like it’s on rails. When it’s done being a commuter, taking the long way home in a 3 Series is reason enough to justify your purchase over just about any luxury crossover.
You do have to pay a lot. My tester was just over $80,000 and that’s basically last-generation M3 money and while things have gotten much more expensive it’s hard to look at that figure when we’re only talking about a 3 Series here.
The chances are that most customers entering a BMW showroom will end up leaving with a new crossover, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the exceptionally good to drive 3 Series will speak to those who put driving pleasure at the forefront. In the sport sedan segment the 3 Series has always been the yardstick by which the competition is measured. The new updates we see here will ensure that it holds that title for years to come.
2023 BMW M340i xDrive
BODY STYLE: 4-door, 5 passenger compact sedan
CONFIGURATION: -Front-engine, all-wheel drive
ENGINE: 3.0-L turbocharged inline-6 ; Power: 382 hp @ 5000 rpm Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 481 litres
FUEL ECONOMY : (Premium-grade Gasoline in L/100 km): 10.3 city; 7.4 highway; 9.0 combined
PRICE: $ 66,000 (base); $80, 925 (as-tested)
Website: BMW Canada