Driven: BMW 340
BMW’s longtime slogan is “the ultimate driving machine,” and thankfully, it still has a number of models to carry on that tradition. Specifically, the 340 four-door sport sedan is a true driver’s car, especially with its manual transmission.
Starting with a familiar, if bigger, 3-series profile, the 340 retains traditional styling cues and mechanicals, like a conventional pull handle parking brake, while simultaneously offering the latest in automative safety and convenience technology.
First and foremost, the 340 is a blast to drive. In an era when all of the emphasis seems to be on reducing driving input, it’s refreshing to drive a car that engages you and offers tactile and visceral pleasures. There are very few cars available today that offer the same performance and practicality as the 3-series. The engine offers up gobs of power, even in high gears, and with almost no turbo lag. It has tight, communicative steering, good brakes and a taut suspension, staying flat in aggressive cornering while simultaneously maintaining a comfortable highway ride. Adding to the sensory pleasure, it lets loose a melodious snarl from the exhaust when you rev it up. If you find the right winding road, the 340 is more fun than any ride at Six Flags.
Greatly adding to the fun and interaction is a slick-shifting, 6-speed manual transmission operated by a smooth clutch and precise gear lever that includes a hill holder feature so you don’t roll backward on an incline, and rev matching on downshifts so you don’t have to heel and toe to downshift smoothly. Throttle response can be selected from sport, sport+ or eco, with similar choices for driving dynamics. Sport+ was a wise choice for spirited driving. Fortunately, the automatic stop/start feature can be easily defeated. Numerous driver aids include blind spot detection, park distance control, dynamic stability control, collision mitigation (automatic braking) and active blind spot detection.
The interior is clearly premium European, with rich leather, a heated steering wheel, dual automatic climate control, quality materials on the dash and doors, electric moonroof, and more. The I-drive system, revolutionary when it was introduced almost 20 years ago, is now basically the interface system in every vehicle, and it also serves as the screen for the back-up camera. Fortunately, BMW has kept the audio controls a separate group of hard buttons with a rotary volume knob, and the ventilation system has its own dedicated buttons and knobs as well.
Front seats are well bolstered, heated and swathed in leather, with adjustable side bolsters and lumbar support. There’s generous (heated) rear seat room, including plenty of leg room and decent head room; the rear seat is much bigger than in previous generations of the 3-series, removing one of its biggest complaints. The trunk is fairly deep, and the rear seat folds down 40/20/40. A convenient feature is the ability to open the trunk lid by swiping your foot under the rear bumper, as long as the key fob is on you. A surround view camera makes navigating tight spaces and parking a breeze.
According to Gerd Petermann, salesman at Autohaus BMW, “The great thing about the 340 is that the handling, cornering and power are all so controlled. It’s like the wheels are on tracks. It’s also wonderful that BMW still offers a true manual transmission option.”
>> base | $52,000, including delivery
>> as driven with options | $62,500
>> 19 | city
>> 29 | highway
>> front engine, all-wheel drive
>> 3.0-litre, inline turbo, 6-cylinder engine
>> 320 horsepower
>> 6-speed manual transmission (automatic available)
Robert Paster (robertpaster.com) is also an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.