2020 BMW M340i at Lightning Lap 2021

2020 bmw m340i

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

Lap Time: 3:03.2

Class: LL2 | Base: $57,195 | As Tested: $64,545
Power and Weight: 382 hp • 3792 lb • 9.9 lb/hp
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, F: 225/40R-19 93Y ★ R: 255/35R-19 96Y ★

Years of testing BMW’s 3- and 4-series allow us to measure the pace of evolution through generational comparison. For example, the M340i arrives at the Turn 1 braking zone traveling 142.3 mph, a mere 2.4 mph shy of the 425-hp 2015 BMW M4’s speed. And the M340i’s 3:03.2 lap is 10.0 seconds quicker than that of the last-gen 2012 BMW 335i Sport Line and just 2.5 seconds off the M4’s time.

The M4’s 43-hp advantage over the M340i helps it pull away on VIR’s foot-to-the-floor sections, but the lesser Bimmer’s 382-hp turbocharged inline-six charges relentlessly to redline and never exhibits a bad vibe or any perform­ance degradation during hot laps. Its sidekick, the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic, upshifts and downshifts as if it had the VIR track map programmed into its brain.

2020 bmw m340i

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

In the slower sections, the M340i’s grip and handling allow it to keep up with the full-blooded M car, but its steering feels disconnected. Responses to inputs are often nonlinear—with the car steering too much or too little—and that unpredictability makes turning in and holding the line trickier than it should be.

The chassis takes aggression in stride. Pound over the curbing and the adaptive dampers forgive your transgressions. The rear tires squeal with excitement during corner exits, but with some help from the electronically controlled limited-slip differential, the car’s torque is masterfully orchestrated into acceleration. VIR’s many big slowdown events transform a once firm brake pedal into mush and leave the wheels looking like they were just pulled from a campfire. Despite the long pedal, the brakes still haul down the M340i from speed with unerring reliability.

Progress has the M340i closing in on the old M4’s lap time. The new M3 and M4 should widen the gap, but we’re hoping BMW does a better job with the steering in its upcoming M cars than it did in the M340i.

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