Skip advert
Advertisement
Long term tests

BMW M340i xDrive Touring Fast Fleet test – 6000 miles in the six-cylinder estate

The six-cylinder M Performance estate departs the evo Fast Fleet, confirming a renaissance for the everyday BMW

In 2016, the then new BMW M2 put in a rather lacklustre performance at eCoty, finishing plumb last. Not a great result for a rear-drive M-car that should have been a more polished and finely honed version of the already excellent 1M. That its contemporary M3 and M4 cousins hadn’t blown our driving shoes off either started to cast doubts over not only the direction M was heading, but BMW as a whole.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Each new generation of car felt like it was doing enough to stay ahead of the competition, but only by margins so slim you had no hope of slipping an overly plump M Sport steering wheel in the gap. The lustre was gone, the polish fading and the ultimate driving machine morphing into a that-will-do machine. 

> New BMW M4 CS: faster, sharper coupe has the Porsche 911 in its sights

The comeback started with the facelifted F80/82 M3 and M4, when what should have been a regular mid-life facelift resulted in a thorough overhaul of the car’s chassis settings. No more torque spikes fighting with the rear axle, much less fuss and fluster from a front end. And then came the M2 Competition, finishing fifth – and ahead of the Ferrari Pista – in 2018’s eCoty, and the CS taking the glory in 2020. 

Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Now there’s the new M3 and M4 models crowning a spectacular return to form, with the M5 Competition equally, er, competitive once again. But what about the BMWs that don’t go through the M division workshops? Models for those who don’t want or can’t stretch to a full M variant, but who still want a car that has received more investment in how it drives than how the infotainment system can tell you the weather? This is where our M340i xDrive came in. 

For generations a six-cylinder-engined 3-series Touring was a full-on rolling cliché. Frankly it’s remarkable dealers didn’t emblazon the side of their demonstrators with the words ‘The only car you’ll ever need’ in vinyl letters. But during the aforementioned period when M had misplaced its polish, so too the regular models lost their way, and like many in the line-up the compact, big-engined Touring was merely competitive rather than class leading. The new G20 series looked to address this. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

And my word it has, especially in M340i guise. Painted HMS battleship grey and with black wheels our 340i did its best to be anonymous and was therefore the least conspicuous car on the road. Which is a good thing. The total opposite of its interior, with its bright red leather and piano black trim, a combo you probably wouldn’t pick on the configurator, yet on seeing it you nod appreciatively. 

Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Which is what you also do when you realise BMW has rediscovered that good ergonomics matter. A G20 sits you in the car, rather than on it. The seat’s electric controls provide infinite adjustment (the manual seats are a retrograde step and best avoided), the steering column moves to where you need it. When you sit in a car that gets the basics right it brings to mind the many that get such crucial things wrong. 

This theme of everything being more than just right permeated throughout the M340i, giving you a genuine sense that good wasn’t good enough during its development and if an improvement could be made it was. Everything from the steering’s rate of response and weighting, to the body control and the dampers, regardless of the setting selected, felt engineered to a higher level than required. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

And its powertrain always left you impressed with its breadth of ability rather than merely satisfied. No, it’s no S54 M motor, but the B58 performed with an equal level of sophistication and quality. It revved with a willingness that’s becoming less common with every new generation of turbocharged engine, but in the 40i the crispness to throttle inputs was as welcome as it was unexpected. And yes, a six-speed manual would have raised the nostalgia levels, but the eight-speed ZF felt perfectly matched to the straight-six engine’s torque and power delivery (369bhp and 369lb ft incidentally). Regardless of whether your essential travel resulted in 500-mile days or 50-mile cross-country runs, each ratio was just right. Crisp shifts in Comfort became sharper still when you switched between Sport and Sport Plus to match your enthusiasm, the paddles were an okay size and the transmission’s willingness to change down when you needed it to rather than when it wanted was a breath of fresh air. 

Every mile in the M340i, whether by me or a colleague, resulted in the same feeling: that someone at BMW has taken back control of how its cars should and need to drive. Contributing editor Steve Sutcliffe, who is running the same car but in coupe form, has been equally impressed by this sharp return to form, commenting: ‘An individual at BMW has made this happen. And it will be one person who has done it. They have made BMWs desirable as driver’s cars again. We need to buy the person responsible a stein or two.’

After seven months and 6000 miles in all weathers, the moment our M340i left us I missed it. It was a car that was always on your side. Not the most exciting, nor one to set your hair on fire, but on any given day it truly was the only car you ever needed.

Date acquiredOctober 2020
Duration of test7 months
Total test mileage6011
Overall mpg31.7
Costs£0
Purchase price£58,735
Value today£43,390

This story was first featured in evo issue 286.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Porsche Cayenne GTS 2024 review – the SUV that might get you out of an RS6
Porsche Cayenne GTS – front
Reviews

Porsche Cayenne GTS 2024 review – the SUV that might get you out of an RS6

The new Cayenne model offensive continues with the introduction of the GTS, the sweet-spot in the line-up.
18 Jun 2024
Lotus Elise S2 v Toyota MR2 Mk3 v Porsche Boxster S 987: The best affordable mid-engined sports cars
Used mid-engined bargains
Group tests

Lotus Elise S2 v Toyota MR2 Mk3 v Porsche Boxster S 987: The best affordable mid-engined sports cars

Everyone should own a mid-engined car at least once in their life, and the S2 Elise, Mk3 MR2 and 987 Boxster S are brilliant places to start
15 Jun 2024
Mercedes-AMG E53 Hybrid 4Matic+ 2024 review – AMG’s first long-distance hybrid tested
Mercedes-AMG E53 Hybrid 4Matic
Reviews

Mercedes-AMG E53 Hybrid 4Matic+ 2024 review – AMG’s first long-distance hybrid tested

There won’t be a new E63 for the foreseeable but there is a new E53 range-topper – and it’s AMG’s first long-distance PHEV
18 Jun 2024