2016 BMW 340i: Answers from the Road
by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on August 30, 2016
Got your answers right here.
1) "How's the steering feel/feedback? This has been criticized in the F30, and I was appalled at the numb steering in a couple of early 328i's I tested, but supposedly it's been improved." — nedmundo
Tough question. Let me start by noting that the track-test impressions mentioned by s197gt are based on a very different kind of driving. Out there, our guys are pushing cars up to and past the limit of adhesion, because that's the point — it's how you evaluate lateral grip and emergency handling and so forth.
So when one of our track drivers reports that the 340i's "steering has excellent weight, and a good amount of feel from the electrically assisted steering rack. It's one of the more natural-feeling electric steering systems I've experienced in a while," I just nod and take mental notes, because I haven't taken the car to those extremes myself. Their use case, if you will, is one that I can't speak to based on driving to Seattle and back.
What I can tell you is that I spent a lot of time in "E90" (roughly 2006-'12) 3 Series cars on public roads, starting with the very first road test I ever wrote, which involved driving a sport-packaged 2008 328i sedan up Highway 1 to Monterey. On the Seattle trip in our 340i, I didn't consistently encounter twisties like those, but I did go through a number of winding, high-speed passes on Interstate 5 near Mt. Shasta. Not a scientific comparison, in other words, but if memory serves, the non-electric E90 rack had less on-center vagueness (I want to say virtually none at all) and a reassuring, locked-in firmness that the F30 rack subjectively lacks. I never felt less than secure in the 340i through those Shasta passes, and I wasn't taking it easy, but the E90 steering just had a preternatural composure and precision to it. I think it was pretty much perfect. Introduce electric assist into that equation and it's no surprise that you get something less than perfection, supposed improvements for 2016 notwithstanding.
I tried activating the 340i's Sport mode, by the way, and the steering effort went up noticeably, but I felt the other issues were not resolved. Just my interpretation of the situation, but there you have it.
2) "How is the noise isolation on highway at um 'speed limit'? On par with the current gen C class, or quite a bit noisier?" — speed12sil
This would be another tough question if I'd only been driving in Oregon and Washington. The roads up there have got to be the noisiest in the country. Best theory I've heard is that they use studded snow tires in the winter, and the studs dig up the pavement. That squares with the quietness of the freshly paved sections I occasionally encountered — makes sense that they'd be hushed initially and then degrade with each passing winter.
Anyway, if I had to judge the 340i's road noise based on those two states, I'd tell you it's terrible, forget about hearing the radio at highway speeds, and you might consider wearing ear plugs. But in California and I would assume other non-Northwest states, it's a pretty quiet car for the most part. Doesn't much matter how fast you're going. On some surfaces, it's like there's almost no noise at all, and the 340i morphs into the perfect transportation pod.
Regarding the specific C-Class comparison, my memories of the Merc aren't clear enough to pick a winner, but in our instrumented testing the 340i registered 63.2 decibels at a steady 70 mph cruise, slightly louder than the C300 4MATIC (62.6) and the short-lived C400 (62.9). For reference, the new 2017 Audi A4 threw down a 59.8 in this test, so apparently BMW has room for improvement. But I'd hardly call the 340i's noise levels problematic.
3) "How is the ride with the run-flat tires relative to competitors that don't use them. I used to own a 2007 335i (without the sport suspension) and the impact harshness from those tires was terrible. I now drive an S4 and the ride is much smoother." — kennycs4
It's not great. Multiple passengers remarked on how firm the ride was, and I couldn't argue with them. I've learned not to expect a plush ride in a European sport sedan, but this borders on not good enough. It would be interesting to try non-RFTs on this car to compare. Anecdotally, I've heard BMW drivers say it's night and day, and I remember being struck by how well the E90 M3 rode on its standard non-RFTs.
4) "How composed is the 340i at high speed? For context, I'm an E90 M3 owner who recently completed an 800 mile road trip in a 2016 320i xDrive. While the car was deeply impressive in many respects, its high speed composure left something to be desired. Above 80 mph, the soft rear suspension's deep strokes combined with the low-friction steering to reduce confidence in situations that wouldn't have raised an eyebrow in either the M3 or my previous E46 325i ZSP. TL;DR: Is the 340i more of an autobahn monster than the lower-spec F30s?" — smittync
I wouldn't say the 340i is more of a monster, but aside from the steering quibbles mentioned above (#1), I can't really complain about the F30's high-speed comportment. I know what you mean about the "deep strokes" of the rear suspension. There's a lot of down-and-up travel back there by sport-sedan standards, and given the poor impact-absorption of the RFTs, I'm not sure there's much benefit in terms of comfort. But in my experience with a variety of F30 models, if you push them, they still reward you, and that's going to be more than enough for most drivers.
Of course, if you're in the group that's not fully satisfied, you can buy a nice low-mileage E90 M3 right now for the price of a new 328i (about $40,000 to start). That doesn't sound like a bad idea.
5) "As a daily driver and road trip car I would like to know more about the everyday aspects of the car. How well do the wipers, lights and climate control work? Are the seats comfortable for long rides and is there enough storage space for cups and other junk that accumulates on road trips? How is the instrument lighting at night? These are things you'll never find out about on a test drive." — allthingshonda
I'd say "just fine" to most of that. One thing I really like is the adaptive cruise control interface — there's a handy rocker switch that adjusts the speed up or down in either 1- or 5-mph increments (just rock harder for 5 mph), and the following-distance controls are similarly intuitive. I also like how the head-up display shows the current speed limit next to the speed you're going and artfully integrates the cruise-control speed when one is set.
Storage space is the only weakness on your list, as BMW stubbornly refuses to provide any open nooks or bins on the center console beyond the two standard cupholders in front of the shifter. That's barely enough room for the driver's phone, wallet and sunglasses case; the front passenger is out of luck, and so are you if you get a coffee. I ended up putting my sunglasses case on the passenger seat or in the door pocket in order to keep one of the cupholders free. Not a big deal, really, but with this car you can't do much more than nitpick.
Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor @ 9,201 miles