3.0L I6 TwinPower Turbo
320 hp @ 5500 - 6500 rpm
332 lb-ft @ 1380 - 5000 rpm
9.4 lt/100km Average (Tested)
When BMW announced that the 3.0L TwinPower Turbo (code name N55) motor was going to be replaced in 2016, I personally got nervous as I was worried that the successor would never match its performance and characteristics. You see, the N55 engine made a great noise, pulled like a horse and sounded like a true BMW in-line six; a naturally aspirated six.
The new engine is the B58, and even though it carries over a significant amount of technology from the N55, it is totally new. It follows the 500cc per cylinder and uses a water-to-air intercooler integrated into the intake plenum. This reduces the charged air volume between the compressor and the intake and increases performance by maintaining more even temperatures inside the intake. BMW has also incorporated an engine-mounted encapsulation system, which allows the engine to retain much of its heat for up to 36 hours, which helps to reduce emissions and wear and tear during start-up, especially in colder climates. Pretty impressive stuff so far.
Along with the new engine came the need for a new model number, and as such, the 340i was born and it is the highest model number ever seen on a 3-series. The exterior has seen next to no changes, with the reverse lights moving lower and the headlights changing only internally. Other changes include wheels, colours, seats and some extra options to pick from.
The 340i starts at $51,900 but combined with xDrive it is $54,500. Our test vehicle was the all-wheel-drive model equipped with the Enhanced Premium Package and the M Performance Package, combined with Individual Paint and Individual Interior, leading to a final price of $64,350.
Inside the cabin nothing has really changed; it is the same old F30 3-series we know and like. The design is modern and the layout is very ergonomic, but the materials used around the gear lever are hard plastics that feel out of place. Our tester’s reddish wood trim looked hideous together with the individual brown leather seats. With a dark ash or piano black trim, the interior would have been a lot nicer. The iDrive controls are very easy to use and continue to set the industry standard. The screen stuck on top of the dash looks sharp and the system responds quickly with its nice simple graphics.
In terms of technology, there is nothing new and fancy to showcase. Our tester had not been equipped with any of the latest tech gadgets like blind spot monitors, lane keep assists or adaptive cruise control. It does have a high tech heads-up-display unit and a kick-ass harman/kardon stereo, but that’s about it.
The seats are very supportive and comfortable and can be adjusted even for thigh and side support. The steering wheel is nice and thick and even though it is an M-Sport wheel, the heating element is still present. Roominess is really good and most drivers will appreciate how properly everything has been distanced, including the placement of the arm rest. The rear heated seats are a bit tight when it comes to legroom, but headroom is very good and with the centre arm rest deployed two adults will sit very comfortably. Also, the rear manual sunshades are appreciated. The trunk might be 480 L on paper, but the irregular shape compromises its loading ability quite a lot. The pockets on the sides and covered hinges might look nice, but take up too much space and prevent you from trying to squeeze in larger suitcases.
The new B58 engine, miraculously feels exactly like the N55 engine but with even more power. The 20 HP increase is less obvious than the gain of 32 lb-ft of torque that simply takes acceleration from rapid to exciting. In any gear, power is immediate and linear with no turbo lag whatsoever. The engine revs up to the red lines without hesitation and remains silk smooth the whole way there. The exhaust note is a tad throatier and the gear changes happen so fast, it feels like someone is punching you on your back at every full speed upshift. The surge of power following every gear change is truly addictive and in sport mode, the 340i is the most rewarding car to drive in the segment. With the help of launch control, zero to 100km/h comes in less than 5 seconds and with the M Performance Brakes in place, 100km/h goes to zero in 44m, a good score considering the worn winter tires on the test vehicle. What is even more impressive than these performance figures, is the fuel economy returned; we averaged just 9.4lt/100km, using the very well implemented ECO-PRO mode when stuck in traffic. That mode, allows coasting and it is more aggressive with the Auto Start/Stop system and it also adjusts the climate control to work as efficiently as possible.
The adaptive M Suspension, as we have noted before, is one of the most effective suspension systems we have tried to date. The difference between Comfort and Sport modes is ideal leading to one of the comfiest rides in the class being able to stiffen up and race around a track. When cruising at regular paces, set the driving mode to comfort and you will enjoy class leading shock absorption and refinement from the drivetrain. Everything happens as smooth as double cream brie.
In Sport mode, without becoming rock hard and susceptible to fierce shocks, the chassis showcases incredible agility levels and is as athletic as a pro sprinter. The Variable Sport Steering gains the weight it lacks in comfort mode, returning better feedback and helping you carve corners with hair-splitting precision. There is almost no-body roll and the xDrive system sends torque to the right wheels quicker than any other all-wheel-drive system the segment has to offer. Handling, as expected, is thrilling and confident at the same time, blowing up the driver’s ego by making everything seem easier. It is so hard to describe how well this car drives, which is probably the reason no one has been able to match it so far. The ATS and C-Class might only be a hair’s breadth behind, but still a share second place.
The 3-Series has been the king of the segment for for far too long but this year, the king has fallen to an incredible Mercedes C-Class. The 340i is an excellent power and efficiency improvement but these were areas the car was not suffering. With better materials around the centre console, more technology as standard and with a more usable trunk, the 3-Series would have secured its championship title for overall best in class, because for driving pleasure alone, it still is the best.
M Adaptive Suspension
Some cheap materials