2016 BMW 340i: Great Transmission, But ...
by James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor on May 19, 2016
The eight-speed automatic transmission in our 2016 BMW 340i is excellent. Like virtually every BMW model in which it resides, this transmission is refreshingly quick to respond to throttle inputs, happily downshifts at moments when other gearboxes would be slow on the trigger, and is just generally less hell-bent on saving fuel despite the driver's acceleration intentions.
Despite all that, however, it's the wrong transmission. I'm sorry (not sorry), but I want the no-cost optional six-speed manual transmission in a 3 Series.
Even as the 3 has grown softer in the suspension and less acute in the steering over the years, it still feels right when there are three pedals in the footwell. I drove the 340i's predecessor — the 335i — with the six-speed last year and I walked away wondering why I'd really want or need to drive anything else. The well-rounded current 3 Series is still a driver's car, the big turbo six-cylinder still represents its best foot forward and the manual is the best way in which to control it. Not only does the manual gearbox enhance driver engagement, but both the shifter and clutch are pleasantly easy to use. It doesn't kill you in traffic and even with my murderous West L.A. commute, I'd still get the stick.
So, as much as I thoroughly enjoy our new long-term 340i, there won't be a time behind the wheel when I won't instinctively put my left foot to the firewall or wish for that classic BMW shifter whenever I want a lower gear.
I suppose it's just hard to teach an old dog new tricks.
James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor @ 2,519 miles