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M Performance models are the middle children in BMW's portfolio, yet they often represent the best of what this German automaker offers. These M-lite cars deliver much more excitement than their mainstream counterparts while being far more livable than full-M vehicles, which usually trade too much comfort and livability for modestly enhanced speed and grip. In contrast, M Performance models are all about balance, and thus the best overall experience in the 3 Series range is the 2022 BMW M340i xDrive, an engaging and refined luxury sports sedan with all-weather grip.
The current-generation 3 Series is getting on in years, and the car certainly feels it in some areas. The interior is nothing to write home about, with its humdrum soft plastics and aluminum accents. The backseat is also unreasonably tight and difficult to get into and out of because of the narrow door openings and wide sills. Compared to rivals like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and even Genesis' G70, the M340i's cabin is pretty mediocre, but at least its front seats are supportive and ergonomic. This example also features black leather embellished with blue stitching, a $1,450 extra that adds some much-needed visual pop to an otherwise dour interior.
Still, this upgrade is hardly my tester's most expensive option -- that honor goes to the Daytona Violet Metallic paint job, a $4,500 special-edition color that looks great and totally stands out from surrounding traffic. Seriously, how often do you see purple cars?
There is, however, at least one advantage to this model line's age: It hasn't been afflicted by huge-grille-itis. This cosmetic illness is spreading throughout the BMW range, from the 4 Series to the X7 to the new iX EV. If you want a 3 Series with a grille that doesn't take up most of the front end, you should probably act fast.
When it comes to tech, this Bimmer comes standard with BMW's Live Cockpit Professional, which includes a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster augmenting a 10.3-inch central touchscreen. That second panel looks particularly good, with bright colors and excellent viewing angles, though BMW's iDrive 7 infotainment system is far from my favorite. It's super speedy and responsive, but it also has quite a steep learning curve, with a few too many menus and settings. Simplifying things, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both supported, and each smartphone-mirroring system can connect wirelessly.
As for safety features and aids, this particular M340i is fitted with plenty. The $700 Driving Assistance Package includes blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning. Beyond that, the $1,700 Driving Assistance Professional Package throws traffic-jam assist and a whole mess of other features into the mix, like adaptive cruise control with lane centering. That last item works as advertised and is smooth, though the lane centering feels a little soft, it doesn't lock the car in the middle of its lane quite as strongly as systems from competing automakers. Rounding out the tech, this BMW also benefits from parking sensors, an ever-helpful 360-degree camera system and a head-up display.
When it comes to nuts and bolts, a 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 augmented by an eBoost 48-volt mild-hybrid system makes the magic happen, cranking out 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. That's enough to scoot this four-door to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, three-tenths quicker than its non-xDrive twin and just as swift as a standard M3.
But this engine isn't just some knuckle-dragging brute. Quiet, free-revving and buttery smooth, it's simply a pleasure to use, whether you're trundling down Main Street or ripping through corners on your favorite backroad. An equally astute eight-speed automatic transmission works hand-in-glove with this straight-six, delivering timely and typically imperceptible shifts. We all know electric cars are the future -- and have numerous benefits -- but a good internal-combustion powertrain is still highly enjoyable and extremely effective, as the M340i xDrive proves.
Expect 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway from this car. Combined, the number-crunchers at the EPA rate it at 26 mpg, though I'm getting 28.9 mpg in mixed driving, an impressive score that is undoubtedly aided by that mild-hybrid tech and the engine's ultra-slick and super-quick stop-start system.
Like other BMWs, the M340i xDrive feels light and nimble, yet it's still plenty polished – refined rather than raw like the hard-edged M3. It dives into corners with enthusiasm and makes you feel almost directly connected to the road thanks to its precise, well-weighted steering. The $700 Adaptive M Suspension, which includes electronically controlled dampers, provides a ride that's taut but never harsh. This car's chassis transmits almost no roadway coarseness to the passenger compartment, even when you hit a large pothole that seemingly came out of nowhere.
The well-balanced M340i is available with either rear-drive or BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which costs $2,000 more. Completely transparent, this traction-enhancing system provides an immeasurable confidence boost in snow and ice, especially when paired with winter tires. And this car's 19-inch wheels are indeed wrapped in just such rubbers: Pirelli Sottozero 3s, which look suitably aggressive but are surprisingly quiet, only speaking up when rolling over expansion joints.
Like most high-end German cars, if you want features in the M340i you've got to pay for them. Even commonly available amenities like parking sensors, butt warmers, a heated steering wheel and even a spare tire all cost extra. Accordingly, this well-optioned example stickers for $71,570 including a modest $995 in delivery fees. That means the base price of $56,700 is padded by nearly 14 grand in options. Of course, if you can live without fancy purple paint, you'll knock that figure down by about a third.
As pricey as it is, this 2022 BMW M340i xDrive is still a compelling car, one that's plenty engaging yet still totally livable. Despite its middle-of-the-road positioning, that blend of attributes is more than enough to make this sedan stand out from its lower-priced siblings and even the M3. It may be a middle child, but the M340i is hands down my favorite version of the 3 Series.