2019 BMW M340i - Not Quite an M3
But it’s not far off, this new M340i. BMW has been missing a trick for the past few years with no direct foil to the AMG 43 cars or the S4/5 from Audi, and so the new 3 Series model line will include an M3-lite in the form of the M340i Xdrive.
These M Performance models bridge the gap in the line-up between the regular range and the all-out M cars, in this case the 330i MSport and the yet-to-be-released M3. For the 340i, they have fettled the 3.0-litre straight six turbo, now with an aluminium block and head design and a new blower set-up.
This still consists of a big single turbo, but it has a lighter, lower inertia impeller and the turbo itself is now cast as one with the steel exhaust manifold, both of which help get the boost ramped up more quickly.
There’s an upgraded fuel injection system and they’ve also improved the engine’s ability to spin, or ‘over-rev’ as they call it, with a redline of 7000rpm. To aid emissions, there’s a more efficient electrically controlled wastegate, and BMW reckons it’ll return 7.5L/100km overall.
Output now tops out at 275kW with the help of 500Nm. Like the intended competition, there is all-wheel drive via BMW’s variable xDrive system and with a tuned version of the eight-speed Sport auto (optimised hydraulic control) and help from a launch programme, BMW says it’ll reel off the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.4sec.
Other M bits for this vehicle include variable dampers, bigger brakes (348mm rotors and four-pot calipers on the front) and the M locking diff.
We sampled this briefly with a few hot and hasty laps of the undulating Portimao Circuit with its mix of bends from fast and flowing to tight and gnarly with plenty of elevation changes and blind corners. It’s challenging, to say the least, but a good playground to show off the traction and stability of the new car.
The straight six engine wails good even if the sound is digitally enhanced, and the fettled eight-speed auto is quick with the changes. We were led around the roller coaster of a course by a BMW factory driver in an M2 Competition and the tractive ability of the xDrive system working in unison with the rear diff at least helped us keep pace.
Well sort of, he’s clearly faster but the occasional wag of the M2’s tail says it’s working pretty hard out of the corners while we’re able to tread more forcefully on the gas.
Too much throttle haste on the exit could induce a whiff of power-on understeer in the tight bends, just enough for the ESP to get excited. We would have liked to be in ESP Sport but that was verboten.
It’s around the fast sweepers and particularly onto the front straight where the AWD and rear diff work so well together.
They glue the car to the track, and even with the power on the nose is kept from slipping wide. It’s very stable and doesn’t feel unbalanced by the six cylinder, or overly weighty.
It’s fast enough too, pulling 230km/h along the short front straight, but more impressive was the 150km/h through the scary downhill right-hand turn onto the main straight, working the left front tyre hard and also the wrists with the steering loaded right up.
In fact most of the bends were hard work, none of them easily mastered but it was all made a little safer and simpler by the talented M340i.
Expect it here midway through 2019.