BMW M340i

A perfect inbetweener for those who want to taste the hardcore M3 in the usual 3
Photographs by: Tejas Bhagat

I am the eldest son in our family of four and Vinit, the little one is the last born. Now, when you are the firstborn, all the attention is on you and as the last born, you are the baby of the family and usually are able to get away with more stuff. Oh, the stuff he has got away with! Anyway, that’s a story for another time. But you know, sometimes I wonder, what if we had a sister or a brother in between us, would that individual be in the middle of the Oreo or nothing more than just getting lost in the midst of the other two. Later I realised that it isn’t pertinent to earthlings only, but otherwise as well. And what better than the month of Middle Child (August) to cut to the car you see here, the BMW M340i. Now, I don’t want to sound like a parent who plays favorites in between the 3 or who doesn’t keep things equal in siblings all the time; but there’s no need to get too excited about the M badging on it since it isn’t the deep-dyed M3 but a milder version of the animal. Thence, is it better than the usual 3 series range? Or is it a car that borrows a bit from both or is it an individual that has been overlooked or undervalued, like a middle sibling? Well, exactly why we’ve met on paper to find out. Simply put, if the M340i is doomed to life of middle-ness.

(Rubs hands) Oh, and it has to start with performance, to see what and how much it gets inherited from this side of the family. Firstly, let’s chew the misunderstanding of the letter ‘M’ that precedes the number 340i, that it must be a proper M-powered car, and spit it out. ‘cause duh! It isn’t. You see, the M340i is a doorway to M-powered cars. It is where you stand and taste, even test and even prepare yourself for the next level or the otherworldly M-powered cars. Exactly what happens when you’re about to experience something big and an elder sister or a brother takes responsibility, influences you, and provides a piece of more secure and progressive advice. In the M340i, this all comes in the form of honed and portioned tingles since this central kid does not pack any less under the hood. Yes! It mucks you in to experience the fast combination of a 6-cylinder engine that screams - I am back! - coupled to a superb ZF auto ‘box that drives all the four wheels, monikered xDrive, its inordinate carte de visite. Of course, it isn’t the M3 that comes with incommodious power or needs a couple of more governors in it, but it keeps touching that line of control and comes back with an evil smile, everytime you flex your foot and pin it down. That also means that it doesn’t wag its tail or lose grip and keeps giving you real-time feedback. In fact, you will go sideways in the seat more than the car. But hey! Not on the highways, since yours and the car’s composure will be calibrated to zero. Also, unlike an elder sibling’s mood, which decides if she or he wants to pull you out of a situation or not, M340i’s Sport and Sport+ mode tunes the torque back and forth from left to right to pull you out of a corner while counter steering. Thanks to these rear-biased driving modes.

Now, let’s see if there are any hand-me-downs from the usual 3. Firstly, this sits a bit lower than the 3 series in terms of dimensions. In fact, it does get almost everything from the 3 except for a few details here and there that have been sprinkled over the M340i to differentiate and keep it and the aficionados happy. The reshaped grille gets spots of gunmetal on it, which has been carried down to the bumpers and over the wing mirrors as well, while BMW’s Laserlight headlamps come with upscaled DRLs. There are differences on the inside, but only by a nose, since the M340i will keep you engaged with where to keep its nose, especially through a crooked mile. Hence, you will see a mix of both, the M-powered car-like embellishments in the signature M color, as well as 3’s interior plastics and its M Sport version’s gadgets as well. However, what stood out to me was the Harman/ Kardon audio system that kept the audiophile in me busy, when the needle was down at 2000rpm in the city. The audio output was immersive, open, the sound was crystal clear, the highs are transparent, and are beautifully and confidently defined. Best part? Like the M340i, the output is enthusiastic, but not overly aggressive. The vocals make an entrance with engagement, are expressive and only shout at you when the music demands. Sounds like a sibling as well as the M340i, eh?

Anyway, it all comes down to this now. Should you put your hard-earned money in it or not. You see, the faster and louder M series from BMW is coming to India. On the other side, EVs have already started making a swift and silent space for themselves in the country. And the M340i is a gateway for you, to not only get ready for the former, that is the performer, but perhaps squeeze the juice out of it before you go for the latter, that is the EVs. But, whatever your decision is then, whether you are going to buy a performance car or an EV, the M340i works really well since the shift is going to take time and the gap in between them is still significant. Also, the M340i, which is locally assembled now, will be served to you with the benefit of not drilling a huge hole in your pocket, to give you a taste of BMW’s M performance cars, with a new side order of added comfort and accessibility as well. So, until the time performance cars come in India while there will also be plenty of EVs to choose from, you have the M340i that bridges the gap between.