For the better part of four decades, BMW’s 3-series has been regarded as one of the best attainable driver’s cars around. No matter which outlet tests it, the entry-level luxury sport sedan remains a favourite and thus, it has been the winner of hundreds of awards worldwide. Even in our own awards, the M3 has been an overall favourite two years in a row. This year, after we drove it on the track at an American press event, the 2016 BMW 340i xDrive was a contender for the same award, nominated to be an Overall Favourite in this year’s awards.
BMW Canada provided us with a fully loaded example, a 340i xDrive with a bunch of M Performance goodies and unique BMW Individual options. First things first, I’ll take a few quick seconds to explain the new naming scheme. The new 340i is the replacement for the 335i, a name change that comes with a facelift (or, in BMW speak, “LCI”). The 328i and 320i retain the same naming structure but will also get a series of minor upgrades. The entire 3-series lineup gets a new front fascia, styling tweaks in the rear, and new lighting all around. LED headlights are now standard on the 340i, and BMW’s adaptive lighting system is one of the best in the industry.
I like to think of myself as a BMW purist, having grown up in a family that has owned a plethora of 3-series’ over the years. The F30 (2013-onwards) model never really sat right with me – the 335i’s powerplant was fantastic but the car overall had just become considerably softer than the E90 it replaced. The LCI (Life Cycle Impulse) introduced here is the solution to my incessant complaining. Aside from a new engine, the suspension geometry is completely reworked, as is the steering. What we have here is a 340i that may appear to be just an LCI at first glance, but in reality has gone back to the personality that made the 3-series special in the first place.
A 3.0L inline six-cylinder engine powers the new 340i, and this displacement will undoubtedly confuse most. This is not the same motor in the outgoing car – it’s all-new and packs more than just slightly increased power numbers. The motor is all aluminum and hails from BMW’s EfficientDynamics family. Output is 320 horsepower at 5500RPM, and 330 lb-ft of torque at 1380RPM. On paper, the numbers are only up a little bit, but the engine response is vastly improved. Midrange power is improved most, with more available ‘breath’ at lower speeds. A dash to 100 km/h takes just 4.6 seconds on this xDrive tester, and the car feels significantly faster from the seat of my pants.
The xDrive all-wheel-drive model is actually faster than the rear-drive thanks to the brilliant traction available. Our tester had both xDrive as well as the eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF, also featuring some small tweaks to make it a little bit more perfect. Canadian purists can opt for a six-speed manual in both rear and all-wheel-drive models of the 340i, meaning all hope is not lost for the third pedal. The eight-speed automatic has unique calibrations in Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport modes, also packing paddle shifters when the driver desires immediate shifts.
Our car was equipped with the M Performance Package. This package, priced aggressively at just $1,900, adds unique 19” wheels (this car was on 18” winters), M-Sport brakes, adaptive M suspension, variable sport steering, and my personal favourite, a performance exhaust. This package transforms the already-sporty 340i into a spectacular sport sedan that has easily risen to be my favourite in its segment. The steering is heavy and though not as analog as the hydraulic setup in the E90, provides enough feedback for my liking. Thanks to the new dynamic dampers, the ride quality is top notch and there’s a noticeable difference between Comfort and Sport modes.
The interior gets some mild tweaks too for this refresh, which is a welcome change. This car included some pricey BMW Individual interior specifications, which most buyers will opt out of, but the fundamental setup is still the same. Ergonomics are fantastic, and the M-Sport steering wheel is meaty and great to hold. BMW’s quirky shifter has grown on me considerably over the past few years, and there were no complaints here. Interior materials are particularly sublime, with Cohiba Brown Extended Merino Leather throughout the cabin as part of the BMW Individual packaging. There is nary a cheap trim piece anywhere in the 340i.
Adding to the $54,500 base price of the 340i xDrive (the rear-drive model starts at $54,900), our car was equipped to the tune of $64,350. The Premium Package Advanced, at $6,500, and adds most of the luxury niceties that the 340i buyer would prefer to have. This package includes an alarm, garage door opener, reverse camera, power rear sunshade and side window shades, heated rear seats, Park Distance Control, heads-up display, Harman/Kardon sound system, BMW ConnectedDrive, surround view camera, and high-beam assistant. The BMW Individual paint (Tanzanite Blue) is $1,450, and the BMW Individual interior is $1,900.
The iDrive infotainment system receives minor software updates for 2016, mainly in the ConnectedDrive features that I didn’t make much use of during my week. It’s quickly become one of my favourite automotive infotainment setups in the premium segment. iDrive’s split-screen layout is customizable and offers plenty of features, and the menus for vehicle settings are intuitive and user-friendly. The Harman/Kardon sound system is simply spectacular though – this surpasses Bang & Olufsen in the Audi S4 and is equivalent to the Burmester audio in the latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The full digital equalizer provides more customization than other audio setups, and the USB and Bluetooth connections are seamless.
I spent a week driving the 340i, trying desperately to find flaws. I came up almost empty-handed, because this car is so close to perfection for its segment that it’s unbelievable. I wish the two zones for the climate control were capable of syncing with one another, because my OCD was in full force here. The button for the heated steering wheel is in a very forgettable location, and said location also makes it hard to see whether it’s on or off. Thankfully, there’s now an indicator on the instrument cluster that tells you if this feature is activated or not. I would also forego the faux-wood trim cleanly located throughout the interior. It looks decent but the gloss finish is prone to hairline scratches; our car had just over 3,000km on it and there was already evidence of wear on the wood.
With new contenders in the segment including the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the forthcoming Audi A4/S4, and the brilliant Lexus IS350, the 3-series finds itself amidst some serious competition. However, through this latest refresh, the Bavarians have brought their best efforts to the table in creating a near-perfect sporting sedan. The 2016 BMW 340i xDrive with all of the M Performance goodies is easily one of my favourite new sedans on the road right now, and has rightfully earned its title as our magazine’s Overall Favourite for this year’s award season.
2016 BMW 340i xDrive Gallery