Over the years I’ve made a few conclusions about cars and I’m more than happy to share one of them with you now.
If you’re after a fast, exciting car, run your finger to the most powerful end of a showroom price list and slide it down one notch. That’s right, don’t buy a BMWM3. Buy a 340i.
The same is true for big Jags, diesel Volvos, some doublecabs and AMG Mercs. Even the humble Volkswagen Golf proves my point as the Golf R is expensive, hard and – dare I type it – too fast.
The lesser GTI is far more balanced and feels like one of those performance cars which have just the right amount of power.
To get back to the 340i that was delivered to us recently, it follows this example by lending its amazing engine to the top model.
(Ed: Also note that it used to be called 335i)
The 3L turbo-petrol straight six engine not only drowns in international awards, it also took residence under the new M3 sedan’s bonnet; albeit in highly modified form.
This author bemoans the loss of naturally-breathing counterparts ( think 330i) but mere minutes behind the helm of this version will definitely crush withdrawal symptoms.
My notes speak of fantastic power and linear delivery, a fizzy six-cylinder noise with that trademark BMW hum, negligible turbo hesitation and amazing torque with two exclamation marks.
Up to 240kw or 450Nm are available through a highlyresponsive eight- shooter automatic sports gearbox with shift paddles and drive selection.
Last-named ranges from a lethargic fuel saver “ECO Pro” over the well-balanced Comfort mode to an edgy Sport and very rapid Sport Plus settings; the last one offers reduced ESP, rude gear shifts and even more rude exhaust noises.
In case you still don’t believe me that this is a good M3 substitute, we took this car to quiet stretch of tarmac, fired up our GPS testing equipment and engaged the launch control function. The result? This 340i repeatedly managed 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds and 400 metres in 13-odd seconds.
That is faster than some older M3’s and AMG’S, also giving hot hatches and other fast sedans something to think about at the lights.
Not that many punters will be stupid enough to take you on, especially if your 340i is fitted with the M Pack; as our test car was.
The big rims and bumpers, wide tyres and twin exhaust pipes not only give your game away but also equip the car with a rather firm ride which, in fairness, is probably necessary in a fast car like this.
Happily, this BMW’S direct steering and brakes are also up to the task of stopping the efforts of occasional performance driving.
BMW claims average fuel use of 6.5L/100km and we got an admirable 10,5 when driving like a grown-up.
Not only is that figure quite amazing ( considering the 340i’s fire power), it’s also highly variable in either direction.
The 340i’s base price of N$739,000 includes many safety and comfort features but you would do well to consult your nearest dealer for detailed specs and a l ecture about the many high-tech options which are available.
Our press car carried the sporty M Pack (N$25,000), Adaptive LED headlights (N$19,400) and a heads-up display (N$15,400) - among quite a few others.
A recent “facelift” of the F30 3-Series range brings the car up to date with available technology and, as we have mentioned before, it retains the edgy good looks of these vehicles.
Passenger comfort is superb with plenty of luxuries and excellent climate control but rear space can get cramped for tall adults.
The boot takes up to 480L of cargo and every 340i buyer also receives a five year or 100,000km motorplan.
Most importantly though, the 340i makes a strong case for itself if you can’t afford an M3 or its superior power makes you nervous.
Yes, the proper M version is faster and more exciting but it also requires N$357,000 extra from your wallet.
That’s plenty of consolation for buying the model that’s more sensible, comfortable and economical.
It’s my pleasure.
Looking for a high-performance compact sedan? We recommend the BMW 340i.