2016 BMW 340i xDrive: Monthly Update for February 2017
by Will Kaufman, Associate Automotive Editor
Where Did We Drive It?
This month our 2016 BMW 340i xDrive did plenty of commuting, but it also took a few breaks for weekend getaways. A trip to San Francisco saw the all-wheel drive come in handy during a torrential downpour, although the adaptive cruise control system's sensors didn't fare so well. After that adventure, the 340i probably appreciated being taken to a spa in the desert near Palm Springs, even if it couldn't relax in the natural thermal baths.
Whatever the destination, the 340i remains much in demand for its comfort, poise and speed. However, not everything is wine and roses with our Jatoba Brown Bavarian. Concerns have emerged that the 3 Series feels less special than it once did, even as it gains features that should make it more competitive on the market.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
February's miles included two longer freeway journeys, which bumped up fuel economy a bit over January. Alas, the daily L.A. slog and periodic dips into the louder end of the 3.0-liter engine's rev range kept us from getting close to our lifetime best.
Still, our average in February was 24.8 mpg, which is right in line with EPA estimates. The BMW has done remarkably well here despite that marvelous engine, which continually tempts us to misbehave.
Average lifetime mpg: 23.9
EPA mpg rating: 25 combined (22 city/32 highway)
Best fill mpg: 34.6
Best range: 518.4 miles
Current odometer: 21,025 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
"Perhaps a day will come when we're all zipping around in electric pods and the closest thing to an engine note is whatever's being pumped through the speakers. But we're hardly there yet, so I still have certain expectations for how a high-performance engine ought to sound. BMW, of course, has historically made some of the sweetest-sounding sixes in the business, and even its first turbocharged inline-six — the twin-turbo N54 — had a satisfyingly silken growl. I'm a little concerned about the company's latest efforts, however, including the admittedly potent lump under the hood of our 340i.
"To me, this turbo-six is the ultimate performance appliance: It's astonishingly capable and fuel-efficient, but it sounds hollow and uninspired, like a world-beating vacuum cleaner. Before you tell me that no one cares, let me tell you about Ferrari, which built its peerless brand in significant part on the music its engines emit. Between the 340i's underwhelming acoustics and the current M3's need for synthetic enhancement (see 'pumped through the speakers,' above), I'm afraid the F30 3 Series will be known as the generation when BMW's music died." — Josh Sadlier, Content Strategist
"It's strange to drive a car with a communicative chassis and uncommunicative steering. My rear end tells me that I just hit a midcorner bump, but as far as the steering wheel is concerned I might as well be on a glass-smooth track. That said, it's a pleasant commuter car. Eco Pro mode has a function that allows you to coast like you would in a manual, where neutral is easily accessible. It's very intuitive and makes negotiating midspeed traffic much easier. But for sitting in summer traffic, I'd want to reconfigure Eco Pro to allow for full A/C." — Will Kaufman, Associate Automotive Editor
"Trunk space is deep but narrow, and rear seat space is borderline marginal, but that's OK because the front seats are comfortable and very adjustable." — Calvin Kim, Road Test Editor
"I find it a little odd that there isn't a 'sync' button for the A/C system, so you always have to adjust driver and passenger temps separately. Or am I missing something?" — Jonathan Elfalan, Senior Road Test Editor
Audio & Technology
"I'm disappointed anew every time I fire up the 340i's standard 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, which is the optional premium upgrade on lesser 3 Series models. If I didn't know the specs, I'd guess it was the entry-level stereo instead. The bass isn't rich, the highs aren't crisp and the soundstage isn't full. I've played with all the settings; it just sounds flat no matter what. This is in stark contrast to the early E90 (previous-generation) 3 Series, which came standard with a dual-subwoofer 10-speaker setup that genuinely cranked. Also, the E90 M3's optional stereo was a high-powered beast, as I recall (it was in our 2009 long-termer). But BMW removed features from the standard stereo toward the end of the E90's run, and it sounds to me like that approach persists today. Pity. I used to look forward to the listening experience whenever a 3 Series came around." — Josh Sadlier
"Although the 3 Series is showing its age, the modern tech is all there. During my 200 miles with the car, I became very familiar with the radar cruise control and real-time traffic display on the navigation screen, as many of the miles were spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic going down to visit family and run errands in Orange County. On top of the iDrive controller is a small touchpad surface, and I found myself writing the letters to find destinations and input addresses far more often than using the scroll wheel to make selections. The iDrive system reads back the letters to you, so you can legitimately enter text without looking at the display." — Calvin Kim
"While it might be objectively one of the best-performing cars in the fleet, I just can't seem to connect with our 3 Series. Yes, it's fast; yes, it handles extremely well; but it feels so devoid of character. Maybe it's the brown-on-brown-on-brown color scheme of our car, but this thing just doesn't stand out. At least in black, our old ATS stood out a bit. It was more aggressively styled, too. This Bimmer feels like one of a million here in L.A. And that certainly doesn't help the vibe I get while driving it." — Travis Langness, Automotive Editor