The core recipe of the BMW 3 Series has not changed here; This is still the best-driving executive sedan on the market, with a communicative chassis and well-designed suspension that keeps body roll at bay while still being comfortable. It’s shockingly quick in M340i guise, too, for those who can afford it. But across all versions, it’s the cabin and tech upgrades that make the biggest difference, addressing the one area where BMW’s star lacked talent. It’s a much better car to drive and sit in than countless SUVs that outperform it – and that’s more of a sham than ever.
The days when the BMW 3 Series was automotive currency, like the Ford Mondeo or the Volkswagen Golf, are probably over thanks to the unstoppable shift towards SUVs. In fact, sales of the Munich-based manufacturer’s iconic three-box premium sedan have remained stable in recent years, with around 20,000 customers a year in the UK.
That and continued strong sales out of China were good enough to merit new investment in a BMW facelift. And now it’s time to see if the money is well spent.
On the outside, not much has changed compared to the G20 3 Series, which has been available since 2019; There’s another version of the BMW kidney grille – fortunately kept in check by the car’s modest vertical dimensions – plus slimmer headlights. As is usual with a mid-life update, there are no sheet metal changes, but the refreshed front bumpers give the car a more aggressive stance.
vehicle group tests
Inside, BMW has really splashed out – perhaps to match the strongest side of its traditional rival, the Mercedes C-Class – by incorporating some of the technology from the latest i4 and iX. There’s a huge curved display (a pair of screens, actually – a 12.3-inch instrument panel and a 14.9-inch infotainment setup), and it all runs the latest version (8, if you count) from BMW im own house operating system. The company promises that over-the-air updates will deliver bug fixes and new features over time.
Under the skin, the 3 Series is still offered in the UK with a choice of four petrol engines, including a plug-in hybrid, and two diesel engines with mild hybrid technology. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard across the range, and while the traditional rear-wheel drive configuration remains on most models, the top-of-the-line editions get xDrive all-wheel drive as standard.
The trim level has been streamlined a bit, and BMW’s bundled option packages should keep configuration relatively simple for most buyers. There are two base editions; Sport brings 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated front seats, parking sensors, a reversing camera, cruise control and air conditioning. The move up to M Sport means 18-inch alloy wheels, flashing aluminum interior panels, an M Sport steering wheel, sport suspension and variable sport steering.
The above packages include convenience (heated steering wheel, power tailgate and Comfort Access), visibility (adaptive LED headlights with high beam assist), technology (Harman Kardon surround sound system, a wireless smartphone charging pad and a head-up display). , and M Sport Pro, which is only available on M Sport editions and offers upgraded brakes, adaptive suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, sun protection glass and M Sport styling add-ons including a rear spoiler.
The engine range starts with the humble 181PS 320i, but here we drive the top-of-the-line M340i xDrive, whose turbocharged six-cylinder engine delivers a whopping 369PS and 500Nm for 0-100km/h acceleration in 4.4 seconds. It’s priced at £54,805 and emits between 177g/km and 193g/km of CO2. If any of the 3 Series models risks feeling a bit like a “farewell tour” for petrol-powered sedans, this one might be it.
It makes sense to consider the fact that the BMW engineers didn’t really play with the dynamic makeup and start with the new cabin instead. It’s not flawless – witness the cheap-looking, unlined door pockets, for example – but on the whole the transformation is enough to really close the gap with the C-Class in this area. Almost every part you’re likely to touch feels premium, the fit and finish is excellent, and the tech is neatly integrated into the top of the dashboard – although the huge displays dominate the view.
This infotainment system is one of our favorites, and while there’s a lot going on (even learning to appreciate all it can takes an afternoon’s dedication from a new owner), the user interface is slick and the processor behind it all powerful enough to handle fast Provide answers to all inputs.
The cabin itself doesn’t have any more space than before, of course – apart from a bit more fresh air up front thanks to the move from a gear stick to a toggle switch – but this is still a car that can comfortably transport four adults. Boot space is also unchanged at 480 liters – a decent amount for the class, although obviously not quite as roomy as some hatchbacks.
The M340i may be a little out of whack with market trends, from powertrain and eco-friendliness to body style, but once you get moving you realize it’s by no means a bad car. But on the contrary. Even if the fundamentals remain untouched, you still get that exceptional trio of superb body control, direct and meaty weighted steering, agility and comfort. It’s slightly firmer than a C-Class but never feels cracking – although it’s worth noting that BMW’s Bavarian test track was smooth and the M340i comes standard with the Adaptive Suspension for maximum refinement.
The engine is now a jewel; It’s got a characterful growl from low revs and while there’s a noticeable turbocharged hiss around 2,500rpm, you’d never call it sluggish. With a little room to stretch your legs, this car has explosive performance that wouldn’t put a full-blown M model to shame.
Indeed, there’s the kind of duality here that’s so much harder for engineers to achieve with four-cylinder power. Push the M340i hard and it has more than enough power for rapid off-road progress; In sport mode, it even gives you little whoofles when changing gears.
Leave it on Normal and let the smooth automatic transmission slip into a higher gear and you’ll be keeping up with UK motorway traffic at just under 1,500rpm, with only a slight rustle of wind noise from the wing mirror bothering you. B-road gun or long-range cruiser? This is a car that can fill both roles in style.
|Model:||BMW M340i xDrive|
|Engine:||3.0 liter 6 cylinder turbocharged petrol engine|
|Power/Torque:||369 hp/500 Nm|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive|