We’ve been waiting for the upcoming BMW 340i for quite some time now. With the 3 Series LCI coming this year, the 340i is now replacing the 335i as the top trim 3 Series that doesn’t wear an ///M badge. For 2015, the 340i comes with an all-new 3.0 liter turbocharged inline-six engine, making 326 hp. It also comes with some revisions to the front and rear ends, new headlights and taillights, some new interior bits and, most importantly, some revised suspension bits.
Recent driving impressions have come out from some motoring journos and have reported some mixed feelings about the latest big 3er.
Firstly, as usual, the engine is a gem.
From what we’ve read, the engine is smooth and punchy, leading the class in refinement yet again. Apparently, the engine loves to live between 3,000 rpm and its 7,000 rpm redline. It also makes the current 340i about as fast as an E46 M3. That’s properly quick for a standard executive sedan.
The engine is paired to either a six-speed manual or an optional eight-speed ZF automatic, which has been revised for LCI duty. The shifts of the latter are, as usual, near perfect. The testers that were reviewed only came with the automatic, but were given rave reviews for it. It mates perfectly with the new 3.0 liter engine and gives the 340i a smooth and effortless wave of power.
The exterior is definitely an upgrade, however so slight. While the LCI treatment doesn’t do much to the exterior, it’s enough to make the 3 Series look just that little bit better. The new LED headlights, slightly different grille and new taillights make the 3 Series seem a bit tighter and of higher quality.
Though I feel as if BMW didn’t do enough, especially with the stiff competition from Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar. The interior also receives some upgrades, by the way of some new trim and nicer materials. Nothing drastic or revolutionary, but a nice evolution of what was already a very nice interior.
But now comes the part everyone’s been waiting for. The handling. BMW did some revising to the chassis and suspension, as 3 Series customers were demanding more comfort with better handling, which is no small task. So BMW set out to give the customers what they wanted. To do so, BMW replaced the three-link suspension setup at each corner with a five-link setup. This stiffened up the chassis a bit, allowing for stiffer springs and dampers without any penalty to ride comfort. BMW also fitted a revised electric power-steering system, which is meant to give better feedback and response.
All of this suspension tuning sounds great, but it seems as if it might have fallen short, just a bit. From the drive reviews we’ve read, many are complaining that it feels to soft in Comfort Mode and too firm in Sport Mode and that the steering feels too light in comfort but artificially heavy in Sport. There are claims that this new 340i just doesn’t have that Goldilocks feeling that all 3 Series’ have in the past. However, they’ve all tested the cars with the optional adaptive dampers and variable ratio steering, so maybe the standard fixed suspension and steering might serve better as a perfect solution. I’ve always been an advocate of making one suspension setting only and do it the right way, instead of having to switch all the time, but maybe that’s just me.
Though, despite the negative remarks, the new 340i still has the moves a 3 Series should. It turns in sharply and corners with the typical 3 Series grace and precision. However, it still rides fantastically and probably better than the pre-LCI. And the engine makes it go like a bat out of hell. So it’s still a 3 Series. It would be interesting to get the pre and post LCI back to back to see the improvements.
So the post-LCI 340i seems to be better in most areas but may have gotten worse in others, like the suspension tuning and steering. But the engine, transmission and chassis dynamics all seem to be a significant improvement over the pre-LCI. Maybe the standard non-adaptive dampers and non variable steering will make this 340i handle and feel like the perfect 3 Series again. Or maybe the lighter 330i will be the better feeling of the two, much like the 328i was to the 335i. One can only hope.