Reviews2020 BMW M340i xDrive Prototype Review: Almost an M3, With AWD
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Patient folks who wait a few months after the launch of the 2019 BMW 330i will be rewarded with the arrival of the M340i—the nearest thing to an M3 you'll be able to get for a while.
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After a day of driving the redesigned 330i in M Sport trim on the scenic roads of southern Portugal, BMW cleared the challenging, technical racetrack at Portimao for us to blast around in early-build versions of the M340i xDrive.
Yes, xDrive. Although you can get a rear-drive version of the M340i, BMW is also making a sport sedan for those who deal with inclement weather—or who want that extra layer of protection on track days.
Our group of journalists hustled around the track, chasing BMW factory test driver and dynamics czar Jos van As, who was flogging an M2 Comp as hard as he could. BMW says the torque-splitting AWD (with an electronically locking rear differential) allows for some initial drift on corner entry, which then gets caught by the AWD system as it transmits more power to the front wheels out to corner exit. The result is some initial drift and slip but likely not the lurid slides achievable with just the rear-drive version.
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I'm pretty conservative when it comes to drifting unfamiliar prototype cars around high-speed racetracks (writing apology notes is such a hassle), so I didn't explore the ultimate limits of the system. That said, I found that on tight corners, being hesitant upon initial slide was rewarded with a rather aggressive snap-back and a lost line through the corner.
The xDrive much preferred it if I kept my right foot applied harder, rather than feathering. I seemed to get better feedback on lengthier drifts through broader-angle corners requiring less steering input and correction, as opposed to hairpins that require more interaction between driver and car. Also, as the day wore on and the tires wore out, initiating drift became easier, and intriguingly the xDrive became more tolerant of my shenanigans (or maybe I was expanding my comfort zone to better match the abilities of the car). Obviously, as you select Sport and Sport+ drive modes, the system provides more freedom to play.
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When I wasn't trying to get the back end out, I found the steering to be far more responsive and direct than that of the outgoing F30 model. Sure, the M340i ain't the point-and-shoot of the second- or third-generation models, but then again, you weren't contending with keeping 382 hp under control back then.
Yes, I said 382 horses. Just as impressive as the chassis dynamics is the retuned 3.0-liter twin-scroll single-turbo inline-six, which punches 369 lb-ft. (The outgoing version of the engine makes 320 hp and 332 lb-ft.) That translates to a claimed 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds when run through the eight-speed ZF Steptronic automatic. Sadly, no stick shift will come to America.
A hot car is only as good as the brakes that slow it down, and the 13.7-inch discs and four-piston calipers in front and 13.6-inch discs with single-piston calipers at the rear are firm and sturdy.
Priced at $54,995, the M340i XDrive is not the screaming performance deal of the Genesis G70 3.3T, which is a solid 10 grand less. But if I were wailing around Portimao in a race for pink slips, my gut (and buttocks) say the BMW's suspension, brakes, and AWD system would carry the day.
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Under pressure from zippy rivals like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, BMW knows it needs to win back the hearts of enthusiast compact sedan drivers. Until the next M3 arrives, the M340i goes a long way toward achieving that goal.
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