One of the greatest, most entertaining things that have resulted from the rise of AI-created content has got to be those “Harry Potter by Balenciaga” videos. Garnering millions of views and subsequently replicated with a bunch of other movie and TV subjects, they depict reinterpreted versions of every millennial’s favorite witches and wizards with a subtly hilarious high-fashion parody slant. Stylishly unpleasant, gaunt, completely ridiculous yet insufferably self-serious, these artificially generated characters made me think one thing: These are the sort of people cars like the BMW XM are made for.
Thankfully, however, BMW indeed still makes cars for people with reasonable taste. Let me introduce you to the 2023 BMW M340i, the mid-performance version of BMW's ubiquitous compact sedan that comes with good news: not only is it pleasantly palatable on the eyes, but it's also quite an agreeable thing to drive and live with every day.
2023 BMW M340i Specs
- Base price (xDrive as tested): $57,395 ($67,920)
- Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 382 @ 5,800 to 6,500 rpm
- Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 1,800 to 5,000 rpm
- Curb weight: 3,951 pounds
- Seating capacity: 5
- Cargo volume: 16.9 cubic feet
- 0-60 mph: 4.1 seconds
- EPA fuel economy: 23 mpg city | 32 highway | 26 combined
- Quick take: Staunchly solid sport sedan.
- Score: 8/10
Much like how the Porsche 911 and Toyota Camry are archetypical examples of their respective segments, the BMW 3 Series is arguably the main character of the compact luxury sedan class. The M340i is the most powerful version short of the full-on high-performance M3.
The 3er got a facelift this year consisting of a slightly more chiseled front end, a more gaping grille, new headlights, and a new rear bumper. Exterior-wise, the current 3 Series remains one of the more conservatively handsome cars in both the BMW lineup and among its competitive set. Reasonably sized kidney grille? Check. Hofmeister kink? Check. Hockey stick-shaped taillights? Check—it’s a BMW, alright. Overall, it’s a nice, almost innocuous-looking luxury car although the miserably small winter wheels this tester happened to come with really aren’t doing it any favors.
Inside, this car has been updated with the company’s new, curved-screen interior. A 12.3-inch instrument display and a 14.9-inch touchscreen in the center share bezels and make the place look a bit like the office of a professional Counter-Strike player, complete with customizable LED mood lighting. I wrote an entire dedicated review on this, but iDrive 8 remains one of the better infotainment systems out there—nice to look at, reasonably easy to learn, equipped with a handy control knob, but a bit too reliant on touch compared to previous iterations.
Under the hood of the M340i sits BMW’s much-lauded 3.0-liter B58 turbocharged straight-six making 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque hooked up to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and, as of 2022, a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Per BMW, the rear-drive model gets from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds but opting for xDrive like this tester has cuts that down to 4.1 seconds. For 3 Series buyers who don’t need as much speed, the base 330i is powered by a 255-hp turbo-four while the plug-in 330e makes 288 hp.
Driving the BMW M340i
I feel like the gooey winter tires that came on this particular tester had a bit to do with this, but setting off in the M340i, the steering felt heftier than expected at parking lot speeds even by semi-serious sport sedan standards. Once your forearms acclimate to the added resistance, though, the 3er is nimble and accurate around town while remaining adequately comfortable. This being the M Performance model, it’s not exactly a cushy cruiser. Damper and suspension tuning definitely err on the side of communication even in Comfort mode while the seats are well-sculpted but firm. Sound insulation is quite well done in that outside noises feel distant when driving around town, but highway road noise could stand to be quieter—another suspected byproduct of the cold-weather tires I happened to drive this car on.
Even on winters, though, the M340i does the sport sedan thing more than admirably on a twisting backroad. Direction changes happen with a deliberate, calm fluidness while the steering—even though it may not transmit a whole lot of feel through the rim—is accurate, quick, and well-weighted. Par for the modern BMW course, it’s still a little clinical-feeling but overall very capable even on skinny winter rubber.
Arguably just as impressive as the handling (if not more so) is the straight-six powertrain. Believe it or not, the 382-hp M340i xDrive's 4.1-sec 0-60 time matches that of the previous-gen F80 M3 when that car first came out. Apart from its no-nonsense accelerative abilities, the M340i sounds quite nice, emitting a whirry straight-six noise complete with subtle burbles in Sport Plus mode. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly, but manual, paddle-operated shifts don’t happen quite as snappily as they do in full, red-blooded performance cars like, say, its own M3 stablemate.
If I had one major complaint about the driving experience, it’d probably be the way it comes to a stop in traffic. M Sport brakes with the tuner-tastic red calipers are strong and intuitive to use at speed, but coming to a complete halt is jerky due to the way the auto stop-start system works. It’s an odd flaw especially given that the M340i now uses a 48-volt mild hybrid system that usually smooths out this sort of thing. Making things worse, there’s no way to turn start-stop off outside of setting the entire car to Sport mode.
The Highs and Lows
One aspect of the modern BMW experience that I feel goes underappreciated is the audio quality. Even outside of the brand’s top-shelf Bowers & Wilkins Diamond systems and whatnot, one can expect music to flow out of the Bimmer’s Harman/Kardon with decent clarity, accuracy, and bass. The visual and tactile experience of being inside the M340i is also quite enjoyable. That new LED-lit, battle station-style interior is admittedly very esport, but I happen to quite like it. Material quality is high while the dark red leather in this tester added a splash of flair to the seats and door cards. Speaking of seats, the 3 Series is fairly practical, too, with a rear seat that’s admirably usable with a more than fair amount of headroom for the segment. No, don’t expect super tall rear passengers to be happy being there for hours on end or anything, but legroom is generous for this class.
This seems to be a recurring thing with new BMWs, but whoever is supplying its wireless charging pads is fucking up. Placing my phone on there for any significant amount of time causes it to heat up to the point where you can’t actually hold it regularly without slightly burning yourself. On one long drive, it actually caused my iPhone to go into high-temperature mode, locking all functions bar an emergency call until it cooled down again. Flipping it over, I also noticed that my rubber case appeared to be inexplicably wet. Of course, phones don't sweat, so I’m assuming the case was simply in the early stages of melting.
Other random gripes include the new nub-style gear selector. Visually, it cleans up the center console, but I missed the physicality of a lever. More than once, I found myself reaching to rest my hand on a gear lever that wasn’t there, instead having to awkwardly place my hand … elsewhere. Also, the high-pitched sound the driver’s door makes as it slams closed is straight-up tinny—unbecoming of a German luxury car like this, which should have doors that shut with a solid thwump.
BMW M340i Features, Options, and Competition
In standard rear-drive guise, the M340i starts at $57,395 and includes the full curved-screen iDrive 8 infotainment system, a heated steering wheel, M Sport Differential, M Sport Suspension, and an M aero package. The xDrive all-wheel-drive version tested is a Canadian market car but building a similar-specced car on BMW's U.S. website—rocking the Parking Assistant Plus, Harman/Kardon audio, and red brake calipers, among other things—yields a car that costs $67,920. Per BMW Canada's price sheet, this exact car costs $78,345 CAD.
The BMW M340i finds its chief competition in cars like the Audi S4, Mercedes-AMG’s new C43, and, believe it or not, the V8-powered Lexus IS500. Having driven an early model-year version of the current S4, this BMW feels like a more capable performer all-around than the Audi, although Ingolstadt stans may have a case on the back of the S4’s design and more laid-back, dailyable demeanor. The M Performance 3 Series is also objectively sharper in the bends than the fuel-gargling dinosaur that is the IS500, but—and it’s a predictable conclusion, I know—I kind of prefer the Lexus overall thanks to that car’s ridiculous-sounding, soon-to-be-extinct engine. On the other end of the spectrum, Mercedes' redesigned C43 now uses a hybrid 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 402 hp. If AMG can fix the regular C300’s wonky-ass brake pedal for the C43, then it should be a well-rounded foil to this BMW.
According to the EPA, the M340i gets 23 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined. This makes it an objective winner among its competitive set, cleanly boasting better numbers than its aforementioned Mercedes, Audi, and Lexus rivals.
Value and Verdict
Comparing starting prices, the M Performance 3 Series is priced right in line with the C43 and IS500 but a handful of grand more than the S4 which, naturally, comes with AWD standard.
If you have the cash, the 2023 BMW M340i is a solid daily driver with a refined, modern hot rod lurking underneath. Quick, capable, luxurious, tech-filled, comparatively efficient, and still styled with restraint and dignity. Of course, it’s still a bit robotic in its drive as modern BMWs often are, but if you’re into that sort of thing, this car more than deserves to be on your shortlist.
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