2021 BMW M340i review: A just-right sport sedan

This car looks great in Sunset Orange.

Sean Szymkowski/Roadshow

The BMW 330i? Perhaps a touch too soft. The BMW M3? Maybe a tad too aggressive (not to mention ugly). But the M340i? It’s an M3 dressed in business casual, ready to hustle when called upon or carry you through the daily routine with comfort aplenty. Consider it the best of both worlds.

LikeButtery smooth powertrainSurprisingly comfortableLots of standard tech

Don’t LikeInterior is just so-so for the priceAdding options quickly raises the price

Let’s start with the biggest contributing factor to the M340i package: the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine. With 383 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, this Bimmer never lacks oomph. Power heads to the rear wheels exclusively on my tester, though BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive is optional. The low-end torque allows for blissfully easy passing on the freeway and fun-filled rips along backroads, with a delightful soundtrack to back it all up.

Paired with a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, the M340i can really dance. I really like using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to downshift, especially to grab an earful of the snaps and crackles from the M340i’s exhaust.

I spent plenty of time in Roadshow’s now-departed, long-term BMW 330i with its fixed sport suspension, so I expected rough times in the M340i on my winter-walloped local roads. But that never came to pass. This M340i’s optional Adaptive M Suspension turns the worst parts of driving into a tolerable experience, which speaks volumes to the system’s wizardry. Sure, this M340i has Pirelli winter tires, and a car shod with lower-profile summer tires will likely enhance the rough patches, but I’m genuinely impressed by how the M340i keeps things together when bounding over bad sections of road. 

Firmer springs, a torque-vectoring rear differential, revised anti-roll bars and the aforementioned adaptive suspension components make the M340i a true joy on stretches of backroad. Flicking the car into a corner, the nose dives right in. The standard M Sport brakes offer gobs of bite, too. These stoppers are a little touchy and can be challenging to get used to, but they’re a vast improvement over the 330i’s standard brakes. In that car, I was never getting enough stopping power, but the M340i’s upgrade is great.

If there’s one thing that remains a bummer, it’s the 3 Series’ variable sport steering. On paper, it’s nice to have light, easy-to-maneuver steering when parking and then heavier, more direct action when you’re out for some fun. But what the M340i really lacks is feedback and so no matter how nicely tuned the variable ratio might be, it still results in a wholly lackluster experience.

Switching between the M340i’s four drive modes (five if you double press Sport to unlock Sport Plus), the car really changes its demeanor. Comfort provides excellent, uh, comfort around town, while Eco Pro is a champ on the highway, making the most of every drop of fuel. Speaking of which, go easy on the throttle and the M340i should return 23 miles per gallon city, 32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined, which is better than most other compact luxury-sport sedans.

The Adaptive driving mode gives the M340i the OK to automatically make adjustments to different powertrain and chassis parameters as it sees fit, but this isn’t my preference. Personally, I like to leave this sedan in Sport. The exhaust opens, the digital gauges turn red, the transmission holds gears longer and the accelerator responds far more eagerly to your “gotta go fast” urges. A testimony to the M340i’s refinement, even in Sport, the sedan is nicely behaved in stop-and-go traffic. Sport Plus nips some of the driver aids and relaxes the stability control system, making the M340i far more tail-happy.

The interior looks premium, but some of the materials are just meh.

Sean Szymkowski/Roadshow

Inside, the M340i shares a lot with the entry-level 330i, though my tester’s mix of gray and Oyster Vernasca leather looks more premium than other color schemes. Still, the 3 Series’ cockpit in general presents itself as acceptable for the price, but not above and beyond. Ahead of the driver sits a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster with plenty of information, much of which is adjustable from steering wheel-mounted controls. To the right resides a crisp 10.3-inch display, which — hallelujah — supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto without any associated fees.

The M340i features a host of driver-assistance systems that keep you coddled while driving. The roster includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking. An optional Driving Assistance Package adds even more with blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning and parking sensors. And when it comes to the all-important mobile device, there’s no shortage of options to find a place to charge them. Pick the wireless charging pad, USB-A or USB-C ports. Rear seat passengers also receive USB-C ports and a 12-volt outlet, too.

At $66,000 and change, this M340i isn’t an affordable car. But considering it starts at $55,695 after a $995 destination charge, it’s easy to find value in the powertrain when compared to the standard 330i. For example, our long-term 330i rang in at $57,000 after options, but if I had to put a monetary figure on fun, I definitely enjoyed myself so much more in this M340i that it feels worth the added cost. Between its shape-shifting character, lovely powertrain and great looks, the M340i is a just-right 3 Series.


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