Our 2020 BMW M340i Rekindled an Old Flame (2023)

40,000-Mile Wrap-Up

Ask a Car and Driver editor what vehicles they own, and you'll get answers ranging from an Aston Martin Vantage to a Geo Tracker. Ask enough of us that question, though, and you'll notice which car comes up most often: the BMW 3-series. For decades, when we committed our own money to a long-term purchase, we were repeatedly drawn to the compact Bimmer—across generations, body styles, and engines—for its consistently rewarding character.

That long love affair cooled with the arrival of the sixth-gen (F30 chassis) 3-series in 2012. We felt betrayed as the magic from prior generations slipped away with the adoption of unfeeling electric power steering, a turbo four-cylinder base engine, and a general tuning philosophy at odds with the model's sporting roots. After a 23-year run, the unthinkable happened: The 3-series failed to make the 10Best cut. Despite our disappointment, we held out hope for a reconciliation. Maybe the seventh-generation (G20) 3-series would earn a place in our hearts and homes.

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When that 3-series launched for 2019, our early dalliances with it suggested that this relationship could be rekindled. BMW renewed its attention to the chassis, and we had learned an important lesson. After our long-term test of the 2012 BMW 328i, we knew not to settle for the stand­ard 2.0-liter inline-four this time around. It's a strong performer with impressive refinement, but to capture the spirit of BMW's glory days in its newest vehicles, you have to shell out for the more expensive models. So we waited a year for the debut of the M340i, with a 382-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six under the hood.

"It's hard to imagine wanting the M3 after driving this car. It's that good." —Rich Ceppos, Deputy Editor, Buyer's Guide

In pursuit of the most driver-focused model, we ordered our M340i with adaptive dampers ($700) and the aptly named Cooling and High Performance Tire package ($1500), which includes an additional engine oil cooler, a more powerful cooling fan, and summer tires. All-wheel drive is available for $2000, but we passed; powering all four wheels would be sports-sedan sacrilege. Because we'd be spending 40,000 miles in the M340i, we indulged in several options that drove the bottom line from $54,995 to $67,070. Among them were all the driver-assistance and safety systems, heating for the front seats and steering wheel, remote start, a power trunklid, wireless phone charging, a Harman/Kardon stereo, and Portimao Blue paint, which is worth every penny of $550.

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If you demand a do-it-yourself gearbox, you'll have to stretch further to the $70,895 M3. That's a shame because this car deserves a manual transmission—needs one, really. An engine that's this full of thrust, this quick to rev, and this polished all the way to redline is best appreciated when you're playing an active part in the perform­ance. However, among automatics, the stand­ard ZF eight-speed is superb. It shifts quickly and fluidly and intuits your intentions, making the shift paddles redundant with its excellent logic. With the cylinders' crosshatched finish still fresh, the straight-six shoved the 3827-pound M340i to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 12.3 seconds at 115 mph. Note that those times mean this car keeps pace with or outruns every prior-generation base M3. And remember, this thing makes less than 400 horsepower, if you believe BMW's claims.

Of course, we didn't treasure past 3-series just because they were quick in a straight line. When the road weaves, the M340i feels at home. You might find yourself using trees as braking markers as the chassis sucks you into a faster pace. When you're exiting a corner with the inline-six on boil, the BMW seamlessly maximizes the available traction by automatically varying the lockup force in the standard electronically controlled limited-slip differential. We had hoped for more dramatic improvements with the second attempt at electric power steering in a 3-series, but there's still more information delivered through the seat of the pants than the steering wheel. "It's not that bad," wrote deputy testing director K.C. Colwell, owner of multiple 3-series, in one of the highest compliments anyone paid to the steering. Though the steering is responsive to inputs and the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber sticks to the skidpad at 0.96 g, there's just no feel as the tires break away.

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The M340i has a softer side too. Aided by a longer wheelbase than the previous car, this 3-series maintained its composure on our nation's derelict interstates. It traversed plenty of them over 18 months, going as far east as Connecticut and as far south as Daytona Beach, plus taking three trips to the Rockies or beyond. We refueled in 27 states. Those miles on the open road certainly factored into our stellar 27-mpg average. The inline-six is an absolute ripper when you ask for it and a marvel of efficiency when you don't. In our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, the BMW returned 33 mpg, beating the EPA estimate by 3 mpg.

Throughout its long-term evaluation, the M340i was mostly obedient, but not without flaw. During our first trip out west, the active grille shutters that contribute to the M340i's aerodynamic slipperiness became stuck in the open position, illuminating a check-engine light. When we returned to Michigan, the dealer replaced the lower shutter assembly under warranty. During our 40,000 miles, we also added four quarts of oil to the engine at the computer's direction. While needing to add oil to any modern engine might sound alarming, BMW insists that our car's consumption was normal.

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The digital gauge cluster is hard to read and offers limited adjustability. We’d prefer analog gauges, but bmw doesn't offer an alternative.

The car calls for maintenance as indicated by the oil-life monitor at roughly 10,000-mile intervals, and the cost is covered for the first three years or 36,000 miles. Our fourth stop, outside that window, included cabin and engine air filters as part of the routine service and set us back $539. During the car's final checkup, we had the dealer inspect the climate-control system, as multiple drivers had noted its inability to adequately cool the cabin. The technician discovered that a baffle within the ductwork had malfunctioned and was restricting airflow. Fixed under warranty, the system was back to blowing with polar-vortex force. The dealer also agreed to replace the bubbled trim on the steering wheel, but with the part backordered from Germany, our car was gone before that could happen.

Michigan's cratered roads damaged our landing gear a few times. We blew out three tires and tweaked one of the 19-inch wheels (the latter didn't cause a problem, so we left it). The dealer also destroyed one of the Michelins during a tire change and paid for its replacement.

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For the most part, the M340i's logbook was thick with praise. A couple of staffers complained about the relatively thin, firm seat-bottom cushions. After a 1000-mile day, they'll have you reaching for Preparation H. (To be fair, not many seats leave you feeling fresh after 14 hours at the wheel.) Others griped about the digital instrument cluster, with its limited adjustability and awkward C-shaped gauges. And we could easily live without the driver-assist options. Our drivers took little issue with the adaptive cruise control, but most found the lane-keeping assist too jerky. Nearly every staffer's first move before a drive was to disable all the digital helpers. We were happy to take matters into our own hands; this is a sports sedan, after all.

Our year and a half with the M340i rejuvenated our passion for the 3-series. In times of isolation, having the M340i parked in the driveway meant a welcome escape whenever we needed it. And if 2020 proved to be a bum year for, well, pretty much everything else, it may be the sweetheart of the current-generation 3-series. For 2021, BMW saddles the M340i's inline-six with a 48-volt motor-generator that adds weight and complexity but no perform­ance gains. The 3's sleeper looks and traditional kidney grille are still more appealing than the bucktoothed maw of the 4-series and new M3, and we think it's only a matter of time before that design finds its way to the lesser 3-series models.

For decades, we turned to the 3-series because it was engaging to drive yet practical for daily use. The M340i largely reestablishes that balance, returning much of the excitement that was lost with the previous model. Give it a few years and you just might find an M340i or two among our staff's many 3-series.

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The M340i won us over with its honeyed engine, smart transmission, and well-rounded athleticism.

Rants and Raves

I'm in love with this BMW. It transitions from relaxed to rowdy with simple right-foot adjustments. —Eric Stafford

The seats are fine for short stints, but as the hours tick by, your body starts to ache. —Michael Aaron

The engine is amazingly quiet and smooth, even when starting up in single-digit temperatures. —Joey Capparella

Definitely a 3-series I would enjoy owning. It has the right balance of livability and performance. —Michael Simari

You can't deny the fidelity of the chassis or the body control. This car is so predictable and informative. —Eddie Alterman

The Lexus ES–­ification of the 3 has finally stag­nated. Give me a stick, BMW, and we can discuss replacing one of my E90s. —K.C. Colwell

Most cars become tiresome after logging 5500 miles in eight days. Not this one, though. —Dave VanderWerp

Go ahead and call it a comeback. The 3-series is once again the sports-sedan benchmark. —Eric Tingwall

BMWs used to have elegant gauges. The M340i's digital setup is difficult to read and overdesigned. —Tony Quiroga

Our 2020 BMW M340i Rekindled an Old Flame (7)

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30,000-Mile Update

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When we last checked in on our Portimao Blue BMW M340i, it had emerged from an elongated hibernation and its odometer had once again started to accumulate miles. And what a joy it has been to get back behind its steering wheel. Though Michigan's recent frigid months have been relatively mild compared to previous years, our car's sure-footed Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 winter tires have reinforced our decision not to splurge for the $1860 all-wheel-drive option. While the M340i xDrive is plenty playful, there's a greater sense of driver engagement when its 382-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six is driving only the rear wheels.

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Since our last visit, the M340i has ventured south to Birmingham, Alabama, to visit Barber Motorsports Park and its spectacular museum. From there it was off to the sunshine of Daytona Beach where, sadly, no top-speed attempts were made on the storied sand between there and Ormond Beach. On the return trip, BMW's junior M 3-series traveled to Spartanburg, South Carolina, for a meet and greet with the hotly anticipated new M3. While staff opinions vary widely regarding the comfort of the M340i's front seats, staff photographer Michael Simari took zero issue with them over of the course of 2000 miles. Including the thousands of miles we've logged to the south plus a trip east to Connecticut, our average fuel economy is holding strong at an impressive 26 mpg.

Perhaps our Bimmer's most important journey was to Virginia International Raceway (VIR) for our Lightning Lap event, where we lapped a similar-spec M340i. Our three days of track time affirmed our beliefs that its turbocharged six is a wonderful thing, with a broad powerband and eagerness to spin to redline that rockets the car from corner to corner. We've had zero issue with our example's brake-pedal feel during normal street driving, but laps of repeated abuse made stepping on the left pedal of the Lightning Lap car feel as if we were pressing our foot into a pot of mashed potatoes. Despite the pedal's sponginess, the brakes were still effective throughout its impressive 3:03.2 lap.

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Pushing the M340i to the limits around VIR's 4.1-mile Grand Course also verified our appreciation for the car's excellent chassis—and our discontent with BMW's numb steering. "It's impossible to deny the fidelity of this car's chassis or body control," noted former editor-in-chief Eddie Alterman. "The car is ridiculously easy to place on the road, despite the feel-free steering." A few staffers have come to accept the 3-series's less-than-tactile tiller, with deputy testing director K.C. Colwell claiming, "It's not that bad." His opinion likely was bolstered by a stint in the new M440i xDrive, which was fitted with an even less satisfying variable-ratio steering system.

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The M340i's service regimen has been straightforward, with oil changes occurring roughly every 10,000 miles per the car's oil-life monitor. Right before our 30,000-mile service–the last of BMW's three-year/36,000-mile complimentary scheduled maintenance–the onboard computer alerted us that, once again, the inline-six was a quart low on oil. We've now added four quarts over the course of our car's stay, which BMW claims is a normal rate of consumption. Elsewhere, we haven't noticed any rattles or obvious signs of wear on the heavily trafficked interior bits, save for the delaminating chrome trim on the center of the fat-rimmed steering wheel. We'll address that issue at the car's next service stop before its 40,000-mile term is up, which is a mere 5000 miles away.

Months in Fleet: 17 months Current Mileage: 35,028 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 26 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 15.6 gal Observed Fuel Range: 400 miles
Service: $30 Normal Wear: $3 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $688

20,000-Mile Update

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As criminal as it might be, the exquisite 382-hp turbocharged inline-six beneath the hood of our long-term BMW M340i remained off for most of the spring. From mid-March to the beginning of summer, a mere 1000 miles accumulated on the odometer. From early April through mid-June, we only refilled its tank once with premium. But as you likely have guessed, this had nothing at all to do with our BMW. Now that the normal life has somewhat returned, we're back behind the wheel of the M340i and piling on the miles.

In the past few months, the M340i has taken two trips to the Rocky Mountains. News editor Colin Beresford was first to cross the Mississippi on his way to the Big Thompson River to get his fish on. He appreciated the M340i's docility and quiet demeanor on the straight open roads of the central plains and how quickly the sweet-six will spur to life with a kick of the right pedal. Beresford thinks there's some picturesque scenery near the Rocky Mountain National Park, but he didn't stop to look during his drive. Instead, he hustled the M340i along the twisting roads carved into the hills.

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News editor Connor Hoffman piloted the M340i's second westward adventure. Hoffman went farther than Beresford, crossing Colorado on his way to Utah's Capitol Reef National Park. It was there in the searing 100-degree desert heat he took issue with the 3-series's air-conditioning system.

A few problems have come up. During Beresford's trip, the active shutters in the grille that open and close depending on cooling needs (one of the elements that contribute to the BMW's stellar fuel economy) failed and tripped the "Check engine" light. Thankfully, they stuck in the open position, and no cooling issues happened during his expedition. Once back in Michigan, the dealer replaced the lower shutter assembly under warranty. At the 20,000-mile mark, the dealer performed the M340i's second scheduled maintenance consisting of an oil change, cabin air-filter replacement, and a number of inspections all covered under BMW's 36,000-mile complimentary maintenance program. A "Vehicle Key: battery empty" alert appeared on the dash, and we replaced the dead battery on our own for $3. A Michigan pothole cost us a front Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S leaving us $310 lighter.

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With the halfway marker now in the books, BMW's M340i remains a rocket of a sedan that's capable of gobbling up long stretches of highway. While the stiff and firm seats still garnish plenty of negative comments, we're just happy to be back in them after a long, long spring.

Months in Fleet: 13 months Current Mileage: 23,901 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 26 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 15.6 gal Observed Fuel Range: 400 miles
Service: $13 Normal Wear: $3 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $688

10,000-Mile Update

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There's a lot to love about our long-term BMW M340i. For one, its roofline is below 60 inches and there isn't room for more than five passengers. It's not an SUV and we love it for that. The M340i also has a magnificent powertrain: a potent 382-hp turbocharged inline-six mated to an expertly calibrated eight-speed automatic. But this sedan has more than just a good heart, it has the bones to support it.

As we complete the first quarter of our 40,000-mile evaluation, the logbook is filling up with comments gushing at how much the new 3-series and its G20 platform have improved. Former editor-in-chief Eddie Alterman noted the stiffer structure and sorted body control over the previous 3-series generation (F30), writing, “The ride is firm, but the jolts are not.” He went on to compare it to an E39-generation BMW M5 with only one thing keeping it from its best impersonation. Care to take a guess? If you're thinking steering, you are correct. BMW, the complaint box is getting full. Are you ready to listen to us?

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A handful of staff members have penned a few complaints about the M340i’s seats. The leather-wrapped buckets are as unyielding as a new baseball mitt. We’re hoping that with more use, they'll soften up. Also, the leading edge of the thigh support ends abruptly creating a sharp edge. Those blessed with long legs will likely never notice it, however, shorter inseams will feel that edge go right into the back of a thigh. Others have griped about the digital instrument cluster's strange opposing swings between the tachometer and speedometer and the screen's susceptibility to being washed out by direct sunlight.

Our winter has been mild, but the OE-sized Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 performance rubber purchased from the Tire Rack function adequately when the white gold falls from the sky. With those tires underfoot, we haven't had any regrets about forgoing the $1860 all-wheel-drive option. We appreciated the ability to start the car remotely when the temperature dipped below freezing, but it took some looking to find the feature as it's buried deep in the infotainment submenus. Even without the remote start, the engine gets up to temp quickly and sends useful heat into the cabin in short order.

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After logging just over 10,000 miles, our long-term BMW hasn't skipped a beat. The M340's first scheduled service as indicated by the onboard computer was a simple one: oil and filter swap and a few basic inspections. While in the care of our local dealer, two recalls were also performed. The first recalibrated the rearview camera to conform to federal standards and the second added a spray of wax onto the front axle supports to prevent corrosion. BMW includes the cost of all maintenance up to 36,000 miles. We had to add two quarts of oil over the first 10,000 miles, one at 4500 miles and another just before the service visit. While adding oil to any modern engine might be cause for concern, our dealer assures us it's within normal tolerances. For now, we'll take their word for it, but it's something we'll be watching closely.

Months in Fleet: 6 months Current Mileage: 10,364 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 24 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 15.6 gal Observed Fuel Range: 370 miles
Service: $13 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $378


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We can't deny the market's fascination with high-rise SUVs, crossovers, and trucks. The parking lot at our headquarters is full of the things. But, like a cinnamon roll needs icing, the world still needs sports sedans. Having subjected nine previous versions of the BMW 3-series to our long-term, 40,000-mile torture test, this iconic sports sedan is no stranger to our professional, and personal, lives. From deputy editor Tony Quiroga's time-capsule 1991 325i, deputy testing director K.C. Colwell's high-mileage 2007 328i, and road warrior Keoni Koch's 2001 325xi wagon, no car outside of a Mazda Miata is more common on the we-bought-one-ourselves list than the 3-series. Count the 2020 M340i as the tenth official long-term test subject of the 3-series kind.

When the 3's current G20 generation debuted for 2019, it initially only came with the 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. Although that four-banger is a stellar powerplant, it left us yearning for more. With the next iteration of the full-Monty M3 a year or so away, we ordered up the hottest version of the current 3-series to date, the 382-hp M340i, complete with BMW's B58 turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six mated to ZF's excellent eight-speed automatic transmission. Sadly, BMW no longer offers a manual transmission option for the 330i and M340i in the United States.

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We specified our M340i, which carries an enticing base price of $54,995, with a coat of Portimao Blue paint for $550 and a black leather interior with blue stitching for another $1450. Things escalated quickly from there. Safety systems such as lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, and forward-collision detection seemed like reasonable add-ons for $500, but the mandatory upgrade to the $1700 Driving Assistant Professional package for adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist did not. The $2100 Executive package adds adaptive LED headlamps with Laserlight (which provide variable illumination), automatic high beams, and a parking assistant, and our frosty mornings will be more tolerable with the $1400 heated seats and steering wheel, as well as with the $300 remote-start feature. A power-actuated trunk? That'll be another $250.

To complement the M340i's standard M Sport brakes and electronically controlled limited-slip differential, we selected the $700 adaptive dampers and the Cooling and High-Performance tire option for $1500. That clumsily named package provides an additional engine oil cooler, a more powerful cooling fan, and, obviously, summer tires. Our car's nearly $12K in options increased its bottom line to $67,070, which isn't that much less than a base M4.

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After trudging through BMW's 1200-mile break-in period, our 3-series hit the test track to stretch its legs, rather impressively so. While the M340i features a launch-control system for hasty getaways, we found that taking matters into our own hands and managing the turbo-six's silken thrust ourselves was the quickest way off the line. Ultimately, the M340i ripped off a 3.8-second zero-to-60-mph sprint and tore through the quarter-mile in 12.3 seconds at 115 mph. If you are wondering, those times are on pace with the last-generation M3.

We've griped about the 3-series's steering since the previous F30 generation launched in 2012. Although the G20 represents an improvement in that area versus its predecessor, the dull off-center movement and its numb connection to the road is not the steering feel that the M340i truly deserves. The chassis, however, is well-balanced and the optional 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires are hooked up, clinging to the skidpad with a stout 0.96 g of grip and returning a 155-foot stop from 70 mph.

The M340i isn't just a numbers car, though. On the street, the adaptive dampers provide a smooth ride over the open road yet can firm up nicely when the pavement begins to twist into the shape of a rattlesnake. The Bimmer's cabin is hushed at cruising speeds, and its stonking engine has a quiet side that's buttery smooth around town. As of this writing we're averaging 24 mpg in mixed driving, just 1 mpg shy of the EPA's combined estimate. Within the first few weeks of taking delivery, we sacrificed a front tire to a Michigan pot hole, requiring a tow to the local dealership and $378 out of our pockets for a replacement.

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Perhaps our emotions have been dulled by the onslaught of SUVs and crossovers that have taken over our long-term fleet. Or, the onset of winter has just turned the ink of our long-termer's logbook pen to jelly, as only one comment lives within its pages thus far. "I look forward to spending more time with the M340i,"scribbled senior editor Joey Capparella. Undoubtedly, his words speak for the entire C/D staff. A powertrain this sweet is a solid foundation to a lasting relationship. But will the disconnectedness between human and road provided by the M340i's helm result in a soul-less affair? Stick around, we've got roughly 36,000 miles still to go.

Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 3606 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 24 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 15.6 gal Observed Fuel Range: 370 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $378



2020 BMW M340i

front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

$67,070 (base price: $54,995)

turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
183 in3, 2998 cm3
382 hp @ 6500 rpm
369 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm

8-speed automatic

Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 13.7-in vented disc/13.6-in vented disc
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, F: 225/40R-19 93Y ★ R: 255/35R-19 96Y ★

Wheelbase: 112.2 in
Length: 185.7 in
Width: 71.9 in
Height: 56.4 in
Passenger volume: 95 ft3
Trunk volume: 17 ft3
Curb weight: 3827 lb

60 mph: 3.8 sec
100 mph: 9.1 sec
1/4 mile: 12.3 sec @ 115 mph
130 mph: 16.1 sec
150 mph: 24.2 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 4.7 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 2.1 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 2.6 sec
Top speed (governor limited): 156 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 155 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.96 g

60 mph: 4.0 sec
100 mph: 9.4 sec
1/4 mile: 12.4 sec @ 114 mph
130 mph: 16.2 sec
150 mph: 23.7 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 4.7 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 2.4 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 2.9 sec
Top speed (governor limited): 156 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 155 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.93 g

Observed: 27 mpg
75-mph highway driving: 33 mpg
Highway range: 510 miles

Combined/city/highway: 25/22/30 mpg

4 years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper
12 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection
4 years/unlimited miles roadside assistance
3 years/36,000 miles scheduled maintenance


Our 2020 BMW M340i Rekindled an Old Flame (22)

David Beard

Senior Testing Editor

David Beard studies and reviews automotive related things and pushes fossil-fuel and electric-powered stuff to their limits. His passion for the Ford Pinto began at his conception, which took place in a Pinto.

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