The tricky part of the monitor is shaped like a heel. This time, in the 2020 BMW M340i, I push the teacher, as ordered. After braking hard to a left, I shift the M340i into a fast right until the 120-degree angle left around the bulbous heel. In analyzing the Z4 and M8, I’ve begun to appreciate the need for late apexes. This moment, but I apex a little too late and the car stinks then slides toward the wall in the furthest section of this track. The electronic locking rear differential helps me fix the slide and I’m back online, cursing the growing gap into the teacher’s M5.

“I wish to realize your grille maybe not your doors,” the teacher cracks over the walkie talkie wedged in the door pocket.

BMW M340i Performance

Now we’re at the long straightaway before the corkscrew at the BMW Performance Center’s track in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The throttle is mashed, drawing the entire force of this updated B58 3.0-liter turbo-6 that currently churns out 382 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 369 pound-feet of torque from 1,800 through 5,000 pm. It is my favorite part of the track, where I can keep the quick-shifting 8-speed automatic in fourth and then hit the redline of my soul. BMW claims that this auto starts to from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds, however, on this stretch, it is nearing 100 mph quicker than I could detect.

BMW M340i Design
BMW M340i Design

The corkscrew is where the M340i’s bevy of M performance bits make the car feel at home. Brake hard to the corkscrew left along with the initial pedal journey surprises methe M Sport brakes don’t push back till I apply a little more force, then these four-piston front calipers get to operate on the 13.7-inch rotors. The standard version includes 18-inch brakes and all-season run-flats that turn the M340i to a rock skipping across the trail. Don’t get the all-seasons if you are going to push it.

2020 BMW M340i at BMW Test Fest, November, 2019

The corkscrew notches left, up a mountain, then left to right at the crest. I don’t understand how fast we are hitting it, but I push it harder each subsequent lap because the car changes its weight laterally almost and it goes to back with its near 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution. It remains centered, the steering sensitive and precise to each tic of the wheel. It’s amazing how little sideways travel there’s in the four turns of this corkscrew. The wider track and longer wheelbase aid, as does the almost half-inch lower ride height with the M suspension, but mostly it is the optional adaptive suspension with electronic dampers individually controlling each wheel. For just $700 more, it is a must-have for anyone considering track days or days driving. It makes me forget my slip up and build more confidence that the longer I’m on the trail.

Back in the paddock, I do not need to remind the teacher that I’m no pro and he is too much of a pro to frighten me. He compliments the correction, cites the too-late apex, and leads out another group in an infinite collection of BMW performance cars. As much as I want the heavy assurances of the blistering M8 or the tight bundle of this whipsaw Z4, I leap back into the M340i.

Each succeeding lap teaches me more about the track and the car’s nuances. That correction was about the M340i’s hardware and software lending a hand.

We had been monitoring from the Dynamic stability control setting, which is one tic away from having ESC shut off. When the system detects the wheels losing grip, it taps the digital parking brake to use the back brake calipers to assist the motorist to correct the line.

Better motorists flog it in the tighter, most technical areas of the track, and most of the drivers are BMW merchandise specialists. This is only one of the joys of tracking the 2020 M340i in BMW’s North American house in Spartanburg: the people in charge of the automobiles are more than simply marketers, they’re drivers. The best times from the autocross overwhelmingly belonged to them, not the journalists. You can cite a home-track advantage, but it’s more about the Bavarian blood rushing through their veins. For most, if not all of them, the enchantment with all the brands started before the job with the 3-Series.

For years, the 3er was the paragon of the streamlined performance sedan. It brought race day thrills to a new generation of drivers that could commute with style and comfort, its performance possible only a fur tap away. That double duty stays the essence of this 2020 3-Series, even as it grows to almost mid-size proportions and is laden with enough tech to confuse an engineer.

Every other automaker has used the 3-Series as a benchmark, even though the softer outgoing F30 generation could not match the standard of its predecessors. The seventh-generation G20 is not the same as the F30, nor should it be. It doesn’t seem much different at first glance, but the long nose appears to dip a bit more as the twin-kidney grille combines body parts into a larger, chrome-wrapped bit. It is still muscular in the means of sport sedans buttoned for these cross-fit times. It is almost three inches longer and a half-inch wider, it’s a 1.6-inch longer wheelbase, and the M Performance components have included at least 150 pounds within the old 340i.

In back-to-back laps with all the Z4 roadster, the M340i’s dimensions are clear. Even the larger but lesser M8 felt more ready to attack the trail, as it should for more than twice the cost. Nonetheless, the M340i can get in and out of corners in a rush, straight-line acceleration is an adrenaline shot, and the lateral and longitudinal movements stay focused.

The 2020 M340i excels from the trail in everyday usage, too, especially on undulating single-lane streets that twist and bend in a natural manner that matches the car’s athleticism. Few manicured automobiles can soak up road imperfections in one manner, then on another turn tighten up with track-car equilibrium, M8 and Z4 included. The M340i enables you to drop off the kids at school, visit the meeting like a responsible adult, then hit the track.

Following the launching of this 2019 330i ($41,195), the 2020 M340i ($54,995) straddles the divide between the fashionable regular driver along with the full M performance version due next year. The B58 engine is shared with the X3 M40i, X4 M40i, and Z4 M40i. It gets pricey and BMW has creative strategies to extract performance and pocketbooks alike.

Conveniences like sports chairs and the considerably enhanced Live Cockpit Pro infotainment system dampen the upcharge on the M340i, however, heated seats and a heated steering wheel still cost additional (Premium Package for $1,400). As analyzed, the M340i conducted $67,070.

Although the majority of the upgrades are performance-oriented, which range from the M steering wheel to the rear differential and brakes, the M340i comes loaded with cutting-edge technology. BMW contains five approaches to adjust the audio platform, from steering wheel controls into enlarged gesture controls.

The centerpiece of Live Cockpit Pro is a brand new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that propagates the tach and speedo out as framing devices, so the center is a map view and the right side can be configured to demonstrate everything from what’s playing on the sound system to horsepower and torque gauges.

BMW’s smart personal assistant features Siri-like voice commands. “Hey BMW, why not simplify the menus on the 10.3-inch touchscreen so you don’t need to use the console controller or the display, once you learn how to talk the language” There is even an optional self-parking feature (a portion of the 2,100 Executive Bundle with Gesture Control).

Comparing it to the past would be to reside in the past. It’s larger and manages bigger. Yet it is unquestionably trackable and it is also the type of sexy everyday driver that instills a sense of privilege and gratitude that you’ve arrived, not so much into adulthood but more into a new world of driving. Following the M340i, it is highly unlikely you’ll ever return to a normal driver.


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