2016 BMW 340i xDrive review: Uh-oh

2016 BMW 340i xDrive

2016 BMW 340i xDrive

“How are you today, sir?”

“Not as well I think than I was doing a few moments ago.”

The cop almost apologized for pulling me over. I was actually quite a bit over the posted limit but, as Officer Friendly pointed out, there was a short section of road that was posted at 30 mph. And I was going…oh, well, enough for true confessions.

2016 BMW 340i xDrive interior

The 2016 BMW 340i xDrive interior is plain to a fault. (click to enlarge)

And well, really, it wasn’t my fault. I was driving the new 2016 BMW 340i xDrive, powered by BMW’s all-new 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six. The only 3-Series that’s faster is BMW’s equivalent to a light saber, the M3, but that has two turbochargers for its three-liters of straight six. The 340i has just one, albeit a twin-scroll turbo.

The 340i’ssix-cylinder in the 340i is part of BMW’s new modular family of engines, including the four-cylinder used in other Stateside 3-Series models (and in the 3-Series in Europe) and the new 1.5-liter three-cylinder we recently tested in the 2016 Mini Clubman.

Satin? Silk? Velvet? Chose the smooth fabric of your choice and that will describe the engine’s silky, satiny velvet feel. And oh, did we mention power. Ah, no, we didn’t. The engine is the boss 3 Series gasoline line-up. It’s rated at 320 horsepower between 5,500 and 6,500 rpm. Better yet, torque comes in low, 332 lb-ft barely off idle at 1380 rpm, and goes all the way to 5000 rpm.

2016 BMW 340i xDrive engine

The all-new 2016 BMW 340i xDrive engine has max torque beginning just above idle. (click to enlarge)

As we said, the engine is all new, down to the block. It’s a closed deck design. The water jacket is isn’t open at the top of the block, allowing the engine block to be thinner and lighter without losing any rigidity. High-strength cylinder liners are twin-wire, arc-sprayed coating which saves weight compared to a conventional liner, but allow greater thermal transfer thanks to the thinner cylinder wall thickness. Another benefit is reduced internal friction.

Like its predecessor in the 335i, the 340i’s six has a 3.0-liter displacement, and the new engine has direct fuel injection, a single twin-scroll turbocharger, double-VANOS variable camshaft timing and Valvetronic fully variable valve lift, as did it the previous three-liter six. BMW engineers, however, gave the new engine a 0.19 ins. (5 mm) longer stroke and a bore diameter that is .08 ins. (2 mm) smaller. The compression ratio was raised as well.

2016 BMW 3-Series multi-information screen

The 2016 BMW 3-Series multi-information screen is tablet-style, on top of the dash. (click to enlarge)

The bump in horsepower comes from the turbocharger’s turbine wheel increased by 6 percent, and the compressor wheel diameter is 10 percent bigger. As a result, boost pressure goes up by 20 percent. A water-to-air intercooler integrated into the intake plenum is new, saving space under the hood. It decreases the volume of compressed air between the turbo and intake valve, giving quicker response and maintaining more even temperatures in the incoming air.

The 20 horsepower jump from its predecessor is worthwhile, but the spread of torque is more important from just driving around town or on the road or track, where there’s always twist for acceleration regardless of rpm.

The 2016 BMW 340i also gets an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission as standard equipment. A six-speed manual (the Save the Manual Club members say huzzah) is a no-cost option (and when’s the last time you heard “no-cost option” in a sentence also including “BMW”?). The manual transmission has a dual-mass flywheel with centrifugal pendulum absorbers. BMW says this technology “counteracts uneven running on high-torque engines so that the driver can change gears smoothly>”

2016 BMW 340i xDrive

2016 BMW 340i xDrive

We can’t say. Our test 340i had the Steptronic gearbox, and in addition to the BMW-specific shift lever that returns to center rather than the conventional PRNDL, the transmission has the expected paddle shifters. Some vehicles, even those with sporting pretentions, have paddle shifters that you’re not inclined to use, there mostly for looks. Not the 2016 BMW 340i. Our personal default was manual mode, using the paddles for driving much as we would with a manual transmission. Beyond the personal involvement, there’s a bark from the exhaust even on upshifts. Gotta love that.

One warning. It encourages going faster.