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Kuyper: Rivals gain ground on BMW in sport sedan market

A 3-liter, 320-horsepower inline turbocharged six-cylinder engine can be mated to a manual six-speed, or a shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission, in the 2018 BMW 340i sports sedan.
A 3-liter, 320-horsepower inline turbocharged six-cylinder engine can be mated to a manual six-speed, or a shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission, in the 2018 BMW 340i sports sedan.

BMW excels in sports car masterpieces, but so do Cadillac, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

A legend in that market is the BMW 340i, known as the 335i before the name changed in 2016. For a four-door sports sedan, the 340i is quick and powerful. Inside, owners are treated to luxury amenities and soft leather seats. Outside, a streamlined look graces hood, sides and rear.

The legend has aged and upstarts have appeared on the scene to challenge the 340i. Competitors include the Cadillac ATS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Jaguar XE and the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia.

The BMW 340i compact luxury car comes with the bells and whistles and the powerplant expected in a sports sedan that costs $48,950. Unlike the three 2-liter turbo models in the 3-Series, the 340i as well as its M3 variant have an inline six-cylinder engine. The M3’s is tweaked to produce 425 horsepower. The ordinary 340i’s engine develops 320 horsepower.

Even so, that engine can take the car from zero to 60 mph in a media-tested 4.7 seconds. This is the factory time for the dual overhead cam, twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

During a test week with two adults aboard in combined city and highway driving, the 340i averaged 24.1 mpg. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the car at 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.

Since the 2016 name change, suspension struts are more rigid to reduce body roll. Mounting hardware has made the 340i a quieter beast inside the cabin. Cabin decor has strips of metal to accentuate the leather upholstery. Headlights (more angular in 2016) and taillights are LEDs, and bumpers are more integrated into the vehicle. The ride is impeccable. Steering is tight and that is a plus. Balance is maintained while going through ordinary curves, so there is no need to do any braking.

Comforts abound. Standard power includes foldable and heated exterior mirrors, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, moonroof, front leather seats and door locks.

A rear-wheel-drive 2018 340i model was tested recently. Impressions were favorable. On cold weather days, the heating system gets to the chosen temperature before one can navigate to the end of a 100-yard driveway. With an advanced traction control system, there was no slippage on icy or wet roadways.

The sound system is a Harman Kardon 600-watt sound system with 16 speakers serving AM-FM-satellite radio, auxiliary and USB ports plus the Bluetooth hands-free phone. The smartphone port is in the center console, which is not as convenient as placing it under the dashboard’s sound system. Apple CarPlay compatibility is a $300 option.

The standard hill start assist technology actually works. This is to say, when pausing on an incline due to a red stop light, the car does not roll backward. This performance is not always true of some cars supposedly outfitted with hill start assist.  

Notable standard features are zoned climate controls front and rear, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, smart start, rain-sensing windshield wipers, rear view camera and automatic dimming of interior and driver’s side exterior mirrors.

Huge disc brakes can bring this heavy (almost 4,000 pounds) small sedan to a stop from 60 mph in 115 feet. This is impressive.

BMW has 225 runflat performance tires mounted on the standard 18-inch wheels in front and 245s in the rear.

The 340i is the flagship of the company’s 3 Series. Sedan, hatchback and wagon prices for the 3 Series range from $34,900 to $65,500. A facelift is coming, probably for 2019.

FAST FACTS

Vehicle: 2018 BMW 340i sedan with M sport package

Type: rear-wheel-drive compact luxury four-door, five-passenger sedan

Price: $48,950

Delivery: $995

Engine: 3-liter, 320 horsepower inline turbocharged six-cylinder

Transmission: six-speed manual

Performance: Zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds

Braking: 60 mph to zero in 115 feet

Fuel: premium

Fuel tank: 15.8 gallons

Wheelbase, length, width, height, ground clearance in inches:  110.6, 182.8, 71.3, 56.5, 5.5

Weight: 3,803 pounds

Trunk: 17 cubic feet

Leg room: 42 inches front, 335.1 inches rear

Turning circle: 37.1 feet

Tires: 225 18-inch front, 245 inch-inch rear

Wheels: 18-inch alloy, five twin-spoke

Safety: four-wheel antilock braking system, airbags in front, front sides and overhead, dusk-sensing headlights, stolen vehicle tracking assistance, five headrests, park assist, individual tire-pressure monitoring system, stability and traction controls

Assembly: Germany

Warranty: 4 year/50,000 miles with roadside assistance, free scheduled maintenance first 3 years/36,000 miles

Information: www.bmwusa.com

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