In 2015, BMW may be getting ready to improve its offering of sporty entry-level sedans with the inclusion of an M-Performance variant of the 3 Series reportedly named the M340i. Strangely-enough, the Bavarian automaker has so far avoided making a standalone M-Performance version of the 3 Series, despite the fact that its best-selling sedan in top trim was missing quite a few ponies in relationship with its two biggest competitors, the Audi A4/S4 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Audi’s quattro GmbH has been building sporty sub-RS models for years and Mercedes-Benz announced that it will also introduce a sub-AMG sports brand starting with 2015, so those are the probably the reasons behind the unveiling of the M340i in 2015, after the 3 Series’ mid-cycle facelift is launched. The new sedan will become the new top-of-the-range variant of the non-M 3 Series lineup, and will be situated in terms of performance between the current 335i and the bonkers M3.

Despite not having any history in the BMW stable, the future M340i comes well prepared in terms of both brand pedigree and performance, so its establishment as an independent model in the lineup shouldn’t take too long in the minds of customers. Not to mention the fact that it will essentially be part of the ever-increasing M-Performance sub-brand, which is a stop-gap between regular BMWs and M-models.

Note: BMW 335i pictured here.

Click past the jump to read more about the BMW M340i M Performance.

  • 2016 BMW M340i M Performance
  • Year:
    2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-6
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    350 (Est.)
  • Displacement:
    3.0 L (Est.)
  • 0-60 time:
    4.6 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    45000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

Judging by how the other M-Performance models in the current BMW lineup look compared with the regular ones, the future M340i is expected to have a more subdued exterior design compared with a full-on M-car, most of its features being already previewed by the optional M-Sport line of the current model.

No less than 18-inch wheels will standard, along with a lowered stance, aggressively-styled bumpers and side skirts, plus a hefty amount of "M" badges on nearly every side of the car should make for a more confident-looking 3 Series. As the model is set to be launched after or at the same time as the 3 Series facelift, it may also feature some other styling details as well, but more on that after BMW releases the first official images. Still, the overall look of the M340i M-Performance should be be rather subtle, especially when compared with the full-blown M3 variant.

Interior

The subdued, sporty look should also continue to the interior, where the BMW M340i will probably greet its owners with more sculpted front seats and an assortment of sporty details such as an M steering wheel and gear shifter and other M-badged accessories. While the previous E90 generation of the 3 Series was sometimes criticized for the quality of some of its interior plastics, the F30 sits much better in this area, with the M-Performance variant likely taking it up a notch, especially since it will be unveiled after the model’s mid-cycle refresh.

Keep in mind that the M3 isn’t exactly opulent from this point of view, so its little brother should be even more focused on sporty functionality and not sumptuousness, with the only visual eccentricities being represented by the occasional strip of aluminum or optional carbon fiber on the dashboard.

Drivetrain

Those expecting something truly novel under the hood will probably be disappointed to find out that the tried and true, N55 straight-six is not yet dead, as the BMW M340i will likely be powered by a more powerful variant of this three-liter legend. Fitted with direct injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger, the well-known BMW mill is expected to deliver around 350 horsepower, give or take a few, mainly thanks to an improvement in boost pressure and/or new exhaust system. This would make it slightly less powerful than the upcoming Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG but way more powerful than the Audi S4. To give it credit, the S4 is slowly but surely heading toward a new generation, so the huge horsepower discrepancies with the other two shouldn’t last for long.

Just like its compact brothers, the BMW M340i will come standard with a six-speed manual, while the fabulous 8HP automatic from ZF will be on the options list. It is not yet clear if it will also receive an all-wheel-drive xDrive variant, but considering that both the S4 and the upcoming C450 AMG send power to all four wheels, the M340i could very well do the same. On the other hand, the addition of all-wheel drive would also bring it mighty close in terms of straight-line performance with the M3, which BMW will likely try to avoid.

Either way, it should be a pretty good performer and should also end the reign of the current fastest-accelerating 3 Series, which believe it or not is powered by a diesel engine in Europe. A mid four-second time from naught to 60 mph and around 13 seconds for the quarter mile are expected — a little bit faster than that if equipped with all-wheel drive.

Prices

With the current 335i xDrive starting at $45,750 MSRP and the mighty M3 at a hefty $62,000 MSRP, the M340i isn’t expected to sit exactly in the middle but closer to the 335i. If we take a look at how Audi prices the S4 against the RS4, the M-Performance 3 Series should start at just under $50,000 to keep it competitive, but we will have to wait and see.

Competition

Audi S4

2014 Audi S4 Exterior
- image 512412

The original in this niche segment, the Audi S4 is now at the end of its fourth generation and will probably be left in the dust by both the BMW M340i and its competitor from Stuttgart. Powered by a 3.0-liter V-6 with a supercharger and also using direct injection, its 329 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque are enough to propel it from 0 to 62 mph in five seconds flat.

Since until recently it didn’t have any direct competitors, the S4 had a rather easy life as far as its performance evolution goes, even though some of its previous generations were erroneously compared to the BMW M3 or the AMG variant of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Now that both the three-pointed star and the white and blue propeller are coming after it, this segment should make for a rather interesting fight in the upcoming years. All in all, the current S4’s only advantage from some points of view is probably its understated design, with a sleeper look that is becoming increasingly hard to find in cars with sporty credentials nowadays.

Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG Sport

2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 Exclusive Renderings
- image 489554

Unlike BMW, Mercedes-Benz is stepping for the first time in this sub-brand battle, and the upcoming C450 Sport will apparently be the first of many other similar models in the future. Powered by a twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter V-6 with 367 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque, it should hit 62 mph in under five seconds whether paired with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Just like the future BMW M340i, the C 450 AMG Sport’s main raison d’être is also the Audi S4, but it will also help bridge the somewhat large gap between the C400 and the bonkers AMG C63, which now starts at 476 horsepower. Since performance figures for both the BMW and the Mercedes-Benz are yet to be divulged, we can only speculate as to which one will actually be better, but we have a feeling that the C450 AMG Sport will probably have points deducted for its 7G-Tronic transmission and steering feel, while its suspension will probably be stiffer than on the Bimmer.

Conclusion

The BMW M340i was bound to happen sooner or later, especially since the sales battle between the three German giants is starting to heat up again. Personally, I’m surprised BMW didn’t come out with this model sooner, especially since it had more than one precedent in both its lower and higher segments. Not everyone has the money for an M3 but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t welcome a sportier 3 Series into their lives.

Sure, you can fit your 335i with a number of M-Performance parts — including suspension, brakes, a body kit and even a factory power kit which adds 20 horses — but the fact remains that the fastest-accelerating, non-M 3 Series model in the current lineup is the Euro-only 335d xDrive. Not to say that diesel doesn’t deserve its chances, but there is a reason why the M3/M5/M6 have always been powered by gasoline engines. Not to mention the fact that both the 4 Series and the 4 Series Gran Coupe will most likely get a similar version, translating into many more choices in this segment for enthusiasts everywhere.

  • Leave it
    • A bit late to the game
    • Not a true M model

Source: Motor.es

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