The BMW M Performance saga begins way back in the 1980s, at least when it comes to the naming convention. Just think of the BMW M635CSi as a quick example, a car that was a mouthful. Therefore, the BMW M340i xDrive has a pretty easy to understand name.
The M stands for M Performance, which means the car’s driving dynamics have been enhanced by the M division. The “3” tells you this is part of the 3 Series range, the latest, G20 iteration, while the “40i” denotes the top model of the range.
As per BMW’s own representatives, the numbers on the boot of their cars these days don’t stand for the displacement anymore but for the amount of power they make. 40i means anything between 340 and 384 HP, depending on where you live.
The OPF Implications
Therefore, the BMW M340i xDrive is available with two levels of power. If you happen to live in the U.S., you’re in luck, as the car has 382 HP and 369 lb-ft (500 Nm) of torque at its disposal. European-spec models have to follow stricter emission rules. So the European models will include an Otto Particulate Filter, with inevitable implications.
That means, you will lose some power and some of the sound, limiting the output to 374 HP and the same amount of torque. Just 8 horsepower in between them so there’s really no reason to fret.
The more important distinction between the two continents comes in a different area though: transmission. Regardless of where you live, you’ll get an 8-speed automatic gearbox to do the cog swapping for you. But European customers are limited to xDrive models while North American ones can also have their M340i in rear-wheel drive guise. A true treat these days.
The reason behind this decision? Demand. It looks like over 70 percent of BMW cars ordered in Europe these days are all-wheel drive.
Subtle Changes To The Design
Fortunately, regardless where the power goes, the cars look the same from the outside. The BMW M Performance models are separated from their “run of the mill” brethren by a few well picked details. All of these details are colored in Cerium Grey.
You’ll notice that the M Sport package this car comes with is a bit different. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it at first, but then I realized what was different: the air intakes on the front bumper. They lost the LED fog lights and gained a subtle separate intake to the outside, highlighted by the aforementioned Cerium Grey color.
The same color was applied to the surrounds of the kidney grilles and the mesh details inside. Yes, unlike regular models, the M Performance cars are getting a different kidney grille design. This one features a mesh pattern instead of the usual vertical slats.
Moving to the sides you might also notice the Cerium Grey side mirror covers and wheels. The M340i rides 10 mm lower due to its specifically tuned suspension. More on that later. Round the back the M340i badge is a dead giveaway, along with the hexagonal exhaust pipe trims.
Open the doors and step inside and more details will catch your eye. The door sills feature the M340i badge both up front and in the back. The instrument cluster also props the badge in between the speedometer and tachometer.
The M Sport seats come as standard on the M340i and are some of the best in the BMW range today. What I love most about them is that … they are standard! And for no extra money you get really good-looking seats, featuring a very interesting mix of Sensatec and Alcantara.
That looks just great in my book.
The middle section even has some perforations for extra flair and they are really comfy for an M Performance model. Furthermore, the lateral support is pretty great even though for those with wider backs – such as myself – they may feel a bit narrow at first.
You’ll get used to them in no time though.
An Improved Cabin
The rest of the cabin looks just like you know from any other modern-day BMW. The new 3 Series has seriously stepped its game up from the older generations. Everything inside feels like it should in a 2020 BMW. The build quality is impressive, nothing creaks, nothing squeaks and everything feels sturdy. There is a mix of materials with soft plastics on the dash, good quality trims and an overall premium feeling.
There’s also a lot of technology on board. The iDrive 7 system is growing on me, even though I was a bit reticent at first. I still would prefer it to be a bit more colorful. The overall black theme of the center screen being a bit dull by comparison to what other car makers are offering.
That can be solved by using CarPlay though and the fact that BMW is offering support for the Apple software ecosystem wirelessly is definitely a plus. I wish it wasn’t so faulty at times though. My phone would sometimes connect to the car, while other times it wouldn’t.
Sometimes, only the phone would work, CarPlay refusing to pop up on the screen. Using the cable solved all connectivity issues and truly transformed the experience. A bit more tinkering should solve these issues.
I didn’t get to test out Android Auto though, as it wasn’t available on this car. As for the other display, the Live Professional Cockpit, I still think is too busy and that the tachometer and speedometer should’ve changed places.
Thankfully, you have a brilliant and wide head-up display so you don’t have to check out the instrument cluster too often.
A Brilliant Engine
All of that just fades in the distance though, the moment you start the engine. After all, that’s where the magic is supposed to happen, right? Under the hood hides the same 6-cylinder workhorse we’ve been getting used to lately, the last petrol six-cylinder BMW has on offer right now: the B58.
In this configuration, it has only one turbocharger with twin scrolls. But you really shouldn’t be afraid of turbo lag. During my time with the car, I only noticed it whenever I was cruising. In Comfort or Eco Pro mode, the car is laid back. The throttle response does have some lag and the gearbox downshifts rather slowly, as if the gremlins taking care of the drivetrain as simply relaxing.
It’s a whole different feel when you go into Sport or Sport Plus mode.
The suspension stiffens up, the steering gets hefty and, most importantly, the revs instantly go up, as the transmission is getting ready to pounce. That said, the engine is always kept in the optimum rev range, and turbo lag is reduced to a minimum.
The exhaust opens up some valves in the rear mufflers and the sound changes as well. This is when the party starts. The 2020 BMW M340i xDrive drives well. Really well if I might add.
It takes off from standstill in brisk fashion, doing 0-62 mph in 4.4 seconds, thanks to the added traction of the xDrive system. It will keep going like a madman up to a top speed limited to 155 mph (250 km/h) and it won’t let off until you reach around 100 mph. Up until then, you back will be pressed against the seat.
Steering, Suspension and Brakes Tuned By The M Division
Turn in and the car won’t disappoint. According to BMW, the M division had a say in the way the steering, suspension and brakes were set up. To be more precise, they brought forward 4-piston calipers up front and they even moved the actuator’s pivot point to shorten the travel, just for this car.
They also designed different elastokinematics for the front and rear axles, and changed a couple of control arms at the back, to make it all the more planted. Speaking of the rear axle, it houses a standard M Sport differential that locks electronically and makes turning a lot more fun. Even in xDrive guise.
What surprised me the most was the steering feedback. You actually get a bit of an idea of what’s happening up front while pushing this car to the limit. The car is willing to change direction and the new dampers work their magic to keep the weight in check.
Don’t expect M3 levels of control, since this isn’t an M car after all. Some of the power is fed to the front axle (the xDrive system is still heavily rear-biased) which helps out with steering feedback. You will also get a good “soundtrack” to listen to, even though I would’ve liked a bit more bark out of it.
The OPF did ruin the sound a bit after all. It’s still a six-pot though and the only petrol one you can get, so just be happy with that.
Great As A Daily Driver
If you do decide to let off the gas for a while, the 2020 BMW M340i can actually be enjoyed as a cruiser. And it will do that brilliantly, I might add. The 19 inch optional wheels did take away some of the comfort, but overall, I could live with the M340i daily with no issue.
The cabin is well insulated from the exterior with plenty of comfort and a decent Harman Kardon sound system. Heck, even the fuel consumption figures were great for a car with such power under the hood. Around town I saw an average of 12 l/100 km (19.6 mpg US) while outside the city limits things hovered around the 8 l/100 km (29.4 mpg US) value. Therefore, you could squeeze about 500 km (300 miles) out of a full tank.
Should I Buy One?
The main takeway is the comfort the 2020 BMW M340i xDrive brings to the table. Looking at the BMW 3 Series range, you can’t help but notice that the M340i is exactly what it is supposed to be: the middle ground between the 330i and the upcoming M3.
That’s the whole point of M Performance cars, to offer more speed than you need while also not breaking the bank. And the M340i definitely does that. Compared to an M Sport 330i, the BMW M340i xDrive is noticeably better in every way. It has a six-cylinder and is faster, sharper, and even sounds and looks better.
Compared to the 2021 BMW M3, the M340i is more refined around town and easier to live with, while also offering plenty of performance for everyday situations. If BMW’s goal was to fill in the massive gap between the 250 HP 330i and the 480 HP M3 in every way, I think they nailed it.
For most people, the 2020 BMW M340i xDrive is hitting a very sweet spot of comfort and performance.