No automotive company lives up to its advertising tag line better than BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine.” We don’t always agree with the way BMW engineers design some controls, but that’s more a matter of personal taste than right or wrong, or good or bad. However, there’s no debate that the BMW handling and performance prowess is top drawer.
Of the 31 BMW variations and four different propulsion types currently offered (gas, diesel, hybrid or electric) on the BMW website, the gasoline powered 3 Series sedan is the most classic of the BMWs. This model makes up 25 percent of the BMW sales volume and since its debut in 1975, there have been 14 million sold globally.
The 2016 BMW 340i sedan is actually one piece of a group of compact model lineup that includes a sport sedan, sport wagon, Gran Turismo (with its coupe-like shape) and a hybrid. Each model filling a specific nitch in the market.
Bill owned one of the first 3 Series BMWs, the 320i, when it debuted in 1975. The concept and execution of that model has changed little over the last 40 years – it’s still a simple design with elegant mechanicals and a car that is used as a benchmark more than anything on the market.
The 3 Series sedan and wagon received a “lifecycle freshening” this year which added a new engine, standard Sport Line trim on several models and a new available track handling package on gasoline powered models. Other changes include an available navigations system which updates the data over the Internet and available LED headlights.
The 3 Series cars come in four rear-wheel drive models: 320i, 328d (diesel), 328i and 340i. The BMW’s xDrive (all-wheel drive system) is a $2,000 option on the 320i, 328d and 340i. The 3 Series is also available as a 328d and 328i Sports Wagon each with standard xDrive.
The xDrive system provides an instantly adaptable system on slippery roads which sends more power to the wheels with the best traction. It also works beautifully on surfaces with good traction to reduce understeer by sending the power to the front or the rear wheels to improve driving dynamics, for example when steering into a corner or accelerating out of a tight corner.
The 2016 BMW 340i is the first model to be powered by the all-new 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine with twin turbochargers. It’s rated at 320-hp with 330-lb.ft. of torque. The new engine has the BMW EfficientDynamics system with TwinPower Turbo technology which uses a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection and variable cam timing along with their Valvetronic variable valve lift system.
A very smooth and positive eight-speed automatic transmission is standard on all 3 Series cars. It shifts quickly up or down either in the automatic or manual mode using the shifter or the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters which are now standard on is now standard on 328i, 328d and 340i models. A six-speed manual transmission with automatic rev matching is a no cost option. The rev matching blips the engine during downshifts to match the transmission and engine speeds for a smoother shift.
With the eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission and the available AWD the 340i accelerates to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds — that’s very impressive acceleration for a standard model. Like most of their cars the 340i has a top speed limited to 155 mph or 130 mph if equipped with all-season tires.
Next to the shifter on the center console is a neat little switch that allows the driver to change driving modes between ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. When the changes are made there is a distinctive change in the car’s mood, from somewhat sedate and economical up to a quite racy feeling. The switch adjusts the accelerator and transmission characteristics and in the ECO mode it even changes how the climate controls work to save fuel. BMW says the ECO PRO Mode will cut fuel consumption by about 20 percent. The EPA rates the 340i at 20 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. We averaged 25.6 mpg during our week of driving.
“The Ultimate Driving Machine” tag line is more than talk; the handling is fantastic from the precise steering to powerful brakes to the turbine like engine revving.
As the top of the 3 Series line up, the 340i Sedan has an extensive list of standard features. Our test car also had an extensive list of optional packages including the Cold Weather Package ($800), Driver Assistance Package ($950), Driver Assistance Plus ($1,700), Lighting Package ($800), M Sport Package ($2,600) and Technology Package ($2,750). Combined with a few stand-alone options like the Melbourne Red Metallic Paint, Rear side window shades and an Enhanced Blue Tooth and Smartphone interface, the base price jumped from $46,795, including the destination, to a bottom line price just over the $60,000.
The base prices on the other models range from $34,145, including the destination charge, for the 320i Sedan to $48,795 for the 340i xDrive sedan. The 328d xDrive Sports Wagon and 328i xDrive Sports Wagon are priced at $45,145 and $43,645 respectively.
There is no question the BMW 3 Series sedans and wagons are Ultimate Driving Machines. We also have to admit that the infamous iDrive control unit is starting to make sense. In one sense it gets more familiar each time we drive a BMW and engineers seem to have simplified the operations which control many of the vehicle, media, navigation and communications functions.