BMW has always ensured that it kept up with the needs and expectations of its customers, and the all-new 3 Series is no exception.
Apart from looking super sophisticated yet sporty, the new 3 Series has become a lot bigger and more suited to its customer profile of a young executive who may need a little more space than a hot hatch. These customers also require a lot more comfort and levels of connectivity, all of which the new 3 Series delivers perfectly.
As with its predecessors, there is an expectation of a wild, outright Q-car which is usually the M3. However, since the launch of the 4 Series, many buyers have been looking for a performance 3 Series that stands out but is more comfortable than the M3. Once again BMW has listened to its customers and has launched the M340i. This is a true best of both worlds’ car.
It has a distinctive look, with an all new diamond mesh design within the front kidney grill. This is the first time that BMW has moved away from the traditional vertical line grill. The front and rear bumper and side skirts all have the M treatment as standard. The rear-view mirrors are covered in a gunmetal which as a complete package makes this unique from any other 3 Series on the road.
On start up, the car gives off a growl before settling down to a silky smooth idle. This may not go down well with the true petrol heads who always want to hear the car before they see it, but this M340i is not meant for them. As mentioned above, this is a unique vehicle aimed for the person who wants all the performance but does not want the big show or sound and, most importantly, wants a softer ride.
The interior of the M340i is very similar to the standard 3 in M sport guise, except for the sports design seats with the stitching resembling a spine running down the centre. It is a well-designed interior with everything within easy reach. The new speedo cluster is digital and has moved away from the traditional round dials to a more square oval design. The i-drive has been taken to a new level and the car now also features voice command. The one interesting part though is that for the first time you can change the name of the voice command from ‘Hey BMW’ to ‘Hey xxxxx’ or to the now famous ‘Hhey Jarvis’. The car will then respond to tasks like setting navigation, radio/media requests and interior lighting,which can be cool and sometimes comes in handy. The one really cool feature though is the last 50 metres memory drive. The car actually remembers the last 50 metres it drove and will reverse back in exactly the same way it came in. This makes reversing out of your driveway or tricky parking spot as simple as a touch of a button. What’s even more cool is the look from bystanders as the car drives itself and you just smile and wave.
On the road is where this car really comes alive, as for the first time in South Africa we have a 3 Series with the x-drive system. This makes the vehicle all-wheel drive with the ability to shift between all four to two and anything in between depending on the traction of the tyres. Driving on slippery surfaces is now safer and easier than ever. The 3,0-litre motor has a fantastic growl as it passes the 3000 rpm mark that just begs you to depress the accelerator ever so much more. No matter what the road does, sharp bends or all out straight this car takes it in its stride. The steering feedback and responsiveness are as expected from a BMW M, but the smooth soft ride was most welcome.
On the whole this car will not appeal to everybody and many would still go for the full-out M vehicle. But there definitely is a market for the car and for once BMW has made a vehicle that is substantially different to the pack for this niche segment of the market. In my books, it’s another winner for the Bavarian car maker.
AUTHOR | Torque Talk is a member of SAGMJ