2016 BMW 340i XDrive Sedan: More fun in the family sedan?
Price: $59,920 as tested ($47,800 base price for a base xDrive, and $33,800 for a base 320). Rearview camera and park distance control added $950, while blind spot detection, active driving assistant, and side- and top-view cameras cost an additional $1,700. Active cruise control added $1,200. More options mentioned throughout.
Marketer’s pitch: “The icon lives on.”
Conventional wisdom: Edmunds says the 3 Series “balances sharp handling with a ride quality that won’t beat you up; engine choices that offer power, smoothness and fuel efficiency; upscale, spacious interior with logical and easy-to-use controls” but that the “automatic stop-start system is intrusive; limited feature availability on base 320i.”
Reality: A wild ride, perhaps a tad untamed, but pure BMW.
What’s new: BMW says the 2016 model received a “lifecycle freshening,” which sounds like something we all could use as we age.
But this freshening, in addition to prettying up the exterior, gives birth to the 340, with a new 3.0-liter Twin Power turbo inline six.
How to solve the BMW numbers game: The 340 gets the inline six as the base engine; the 320 and 328 get the four.
Up to speed: Anyway, Mr. Driver’s Seat should be so refreshed. Getting onto highways and beyond legal speeds is as easy as any BMW. With 320 horses available from the six cylinders, of course it’s easy.
The 340 did lurch a bit in sport mode, especially when turning off the cruise control.
On the road: The handling is all BMW, and this is where Mr. Driver’s Seat goes for his own refreshing. Winding roads become a real delight.
Shifty: BMW sedans still come with six-speed manuals as a no-cost option. Yay.
The eight-speed Sport Automatic transmission I suffered through worked as close to manual as it could, as BMW intends. Shifting was clear and had good feel.
In addition, the 340i xDrive offered eco, comfort, sport, and sport plus driving modes. But unlike other BMWs I’ve tested, this was not broken down separately for steering, suspension, and throttle.
In comfort and eco modes, I felt a definite hesitation on corners before the power fully engaged.
Driver’s Seat: Think of the seats as “muscular,” as one would expect from an athletic, manly German vehicle.
But the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat and I agreed that the front seats were quite firm, much more so than the X5, M4, or X6M (all jillions of dollars more).
The interior maintains a classic look; BMW is hanging on to the radio and heater controls, and the white-on-black gauges work. Why mess with success?
Friends and stuff: The saddle-brown leather seats and dash bring BMW’s luxury A-game for a mere $1,450.
All four corners were heated (part of an $800 Cold Weather Package that also heated the steering wheel). But cooled seats remain a tough option to find in BMWs.
Turning the other cheek, the rear seat punishment inflicted on passengers for not owning their own BMW. The corner seats feel snug in the leg area. The center seat is brutal, with a tall hump and intruding front console only allowing kids to sit there. Head room is good, though.
The trunk offers 17 cubic feet of space.
Play some tunes: The infotainment system’s button-dial controls become almost as intuitive as a computer mouse. Buttons in front control radio, media, navigation, telephone, and then allow operators to dial through the menu.
As for sound, the Harmon Kardan speakers are aided by a 10-point equalizer. Listeners can arrange the audio just so, although other systems do offer similar richness without such fussiness. The screen is also clear and easy to read.
Night shift: The inside ambient lighting provided a bright but subtle glow worthy of such a luxury vehicle. The headlamps shone brightly, and the adaptive headlights even directed themselves as the steering wheel turned. The automatic high beams cost $800.
Fuel economy: I averaged 23 mpg in a range of driving from highway to suburban to city. It’s a Bimmer; feed it premium only.
Where it’s built: Munich, Germany.
How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the 3 Series will have average reliability, much like the previous four years.
BMW Ultimate Service means for four years or 50,000, factory-recommended services are free.
In the end: Perhaps I’m growing jaded, but the beautiful 340 sedan didn’t fulfill my expectations for fun and excitement. It’s certainly a fun package, but the occasional hesitation dampened my enthusiasm for the nearly $60,000 car.