M3 vs 340i
Before I decided to purchase my 2016 BMW M3, I almost purchased the 340i instead. The 340i was scheduled for production before I decided to pull the plug. I’m going to give some initial impressions about the 340i since I’ve only test driven the car.
The 340i has 320hp and 330lb-ft of torque so it’s no slouch by any means. The acceleration was good with minimal turbo lag as it has a single dual scroll turbocharger. It pushes you back into your seat but it’s not brutal. The shifts are nice and nothing too much to complain about. It seemed stable but sound insulation is not the best. But hey, it’s an entry level luxury car so not too terrible at all.
On the inside, it comes standard with the SensaTec faux leather or for an upgrade you may purchase the Dakota leather. I personally don’t like the feel of the Dakota leather as it is rough and simply doesn’t feel all that great. It cost over 1k and I don’t think the price is justified. The SensaTec feels nicer to me. However, it is personal preference. The M sport package comes with the sport steering wheel which is larger in size than the standard wheel and comes with paddle shifters if you go with the 8 speed ZF transmission. The steering wheel however does feel cheaper in build quality and material compared to the M3. This is expected but the stitching is not very well done and the leather on the wheel is not the best. It’s definitely better than the standard wheel that’s for sure. The seats are more adjustable on the 340i since the headrest can be adjusted for angle and the thigh support is adjustable. The seat length can be extended or retracted depending on the driver’s height. The interior looks similar to the M3. The 8 speed automatic transmission does have a park button which is appreciated and to go into manual mode you pull on the lever to the left instead of the right on the M3. There’s also an adaptive M suspension that is optional on the vehicle. It is nice that BMW has this feature crossed over from the M3 but the M1/M2 buttons are not included on the steering wheel. Another thing to note is that on the 340i is that there are only 4 adjustable settings from Eco-pro, comfort, sport and sport+. If you include the adaptive M suspension that give you 16 adjustments available. The M3 if optioned with the adjustable suspension has 243 combinations of adjustments to the way your vehicle handles. Another thing to note is that on sport+ in the 340i, it gives the harshest throttle response but also puts you on MDM. I’m not a big fan of that because the traction control is not fully turned on and for the inexperienced or new buyer of the 340i, that might cause some problems. On the M3 however, with the M1/M2 buttons you can fully customize the settings and have the harshest throttle response with traction control fully enabled. The heads-up-display on the 340i is also not able to display the rpms. The M3 has two modes for the heads-up-display, one of which does all the rpms to be displayed.
The 340i looks like your typical 3 series vehicle from the outside. However, underneath that hood, it packs a lot more punch than your common 328i or 320i. The styling should be more aggressive to show that extra hp. That’s where you M sport package and track handling package come in. The M sport package gives you that aggressive front end look with 3 additional meshes in the lower part of the bumper. The back of the vehicle gets some subtle lines across mimicking the M3. Pretty much the entire M sport package mimics the M3 but everything is toned down. It looked like BMW wanted to make the vehicle stand out more but not look as good as the M3. They seemed to be stuck with what to do and seemed to just make every detail less flared and dominant. Sure it looks better than you typical front end but I think BMW can be better than that. The track handling package gives you M performance brakes. It’s going to be a better suited for track use while the brake calipers are changed from a very mundane metallic look to a nice blue metal covering. They look pretty good I’d say. The track handling package removes the front lights mounted on the left and right hand side of the air intakes below the kidney grills.
The 340i cost significantly less than the M3 with a base price around 45k. To make it look nicer, you need the M sport package and maybe the track handling package as well. Add in a few more options like the technology package and the premium package and you are looking at over a 50k car. Fully loaded it’s going to be about the same price as a base M3. Many buyers including me are stuck between the two, so which is better.
The 340i has enough horsepower for everyday use. If it’s going to be a daily driver I think it’s going to be fantastic as long as you are not that power hungry for more. The interior quality is not as good as the M3 but if you can live with it then it’s all good. It’s hard to justify buying a 340i when the price is so close to an M3 with much more to offer. I would say if you think you are going to track the vehicle or want the extra power out of the vehicle, the 340i is probably not going to cut it for you. The M3 is built to a different standard and simply by sitting in the vehicle, you notice how much nicer it is. Once you go behind the wheel it’s like a whole another animal. The M3 is going to be more exclusive as well if you care about that type of thing. Most people tend to option out their M3’s to around 70-75k whereas you can get a 340i optioned out around 50-55k. That’s still about a 20k price difference, so if cost is a factor then the 340i is going to be a better economical choice. Or perhaps just save up for a little longer and buy something that you won’t regret. However, the most important thing to realize is that I cannot determine which vehicle is the best for you. You need to go and try both cars out and see if the 340i is enough fun for you. If not then the M3 is the way to go. Otherwise just save yourself an extra 20k.