BMW calls a model’s mid-life update a Lifecycle Impulse – the latter a strange choice of word considering the changes are rarely sudden.
But changes couldn’t be better timed for the latest 3 Series. It has been pulverised in local sales by the C-Class, faces another challenger in the form of the Jaguar XE, and will be wary of a soon-to-land, all-new A4.
Three years after the F30 gen was released, Munich has beefed up the suspension and introduced a new modular petrol engine family, while BMW Australia, for the second time this year, has toyed with the equipment and price lists.
At the top of the all-new engine family is the 3.0-litre six-cylinder in the 340i, which is our focus here. Whether as a twin-turbo or single turbo, the 335i offered 225kW and 400Nm – the 340i ups the game by 15kW and 50Nm. That knocks a tenth off the 0-100km/h time, to 5.1sec.
Not bad for a model that is also cheaper yet again, at $89,900, despite more goodies and an interior upgrade. Press hard on the 340i’s organ pedal and there’s no doubt you’re only a rung down from the M3. Some lag is still evident at lower revs, though otherwise torque quickly swells into a bulging mid-range.
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The engine’s harmonics might leave you wondering if you accidentally left your noise-cancelling headphones on, but the muffled growl still has appeal. BMW’s Variable Sport steering, which is standard on the 340i, has no such appeal. If it’s talkative, then it speaks in a language foreign to us.
On typical country roads, it’s so overly sensitive to bumps and cambers that it see-saws around the straight-ahead, before unexpected sticky patches appear when more consciously directing the steering. It was better through some smoother-paved twisties, though we preferred the more fluid, if less-than-perfect, standard steering of the 320d.
The rest of the chassis is terrific. The M-tuned suspension with adaptive dampers is standard on all 3 Series models except the base 318i, and even if your model is sitting on 19s, the damping is well-judged and the handling entertainingly agile.
The 340i is another strong sub-M3 offering, with a greater bang-to-buck ratio than its most recent forebears. Our initial feeling is that its steering will cost it dynamically against an equivalent XE, but only a comparison test will reveal whether that’s impulsive or not. Until then…
4 OUT OF 5 STARS
Engine: 2998cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, turbo
Power: 240kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 1380-5000rpm
0-100km/h: 5.1sec (claimed)
Like: Turbo six deserves two thumbs up; entertaining handling
Dislike: Awful variable steering; strong competition