What Did We Get?
Compact SUVs are moving off dealer lots as though their cargo holds are packed with free bacon, but they haven't pushed sedans into irrelevancy just yet.
To the contrary, even as those tall wagons gain popularity, the longtime benchmark among entry-level luxury sedans — the BMW 3 Series — is enjoying a streak of record sales over the past few years.
The 2016 BMW 340i is BMW's attempt to further stoke that success by introducing a range of enhancements that reside mostly under the skin. Chief among them is an all-new, more powerful twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, but there are also revisions to the suspension and steering said to make it sharper without sacrificing comfort.
Manual transmissions now have a rev-matching function for smoother downshifts, while the automatic transmission has become more efficient, resulting in an upward bump in fuel economy. Subtle styling tweaks have been added inside and out, and options availability has been rejiggered, too. There are now automatic remote updates for the navigation system and a new, optional Track Handling package.
Rather than being made new from the pavement up, this 3 Series is incrementally altered in the pursuit of performance, agility and efficiency. A year with the 340i in our long-term fleet will reveal whether these measures make a tangible difference or if they're too modest to notice.
What Options Does It Have?
The 2016 BMW 3 Series is available as a sedan with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, or as an all-wheel-drive wagon.
Once you decide how many driven wheels you want, the engine comes next. Sedans are available in three gasoline-engine guises (320i, 328i, and 340i) or as a diesel (328d). The bottom-floor 320i sedan comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and starts at $34,145 whether you choose a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission.
We skipped right to the newly minted 340i (which replaces the outgoing 335i) because we wanted to sample the all-new 3.0-liter, 320-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine. And as much as we love manual transmissions, the eight-speed automatic is the more popular choice among 3 Series buyers, so it got the nod. Finally, our test car has xDrive all-wheel drive because, well, we've never had an AWD 3 Series sedan in our long-term fleet.
Base price of the 340i xDrive is $48,795. That comes with LED headlights and foglights, keyless entry, 10-way power front seats, a power rear sunshade, premium audio and a moonroof.
From there, our test car was equipped with a heaping helping of option packages: the Technology package ($2,750; includes navigation and head-up display), Driver Assistance Plus ($1,700; includes side and top view cameras, blind spot detection); Driver Assistance package ($950; includes parking alert and a back-up camera); Lighting package ($800, includes automatic high beams) and Cold Weather package ($800; includes heated steering wheel and front and rear seats). Stand-alone options include adaptive cruise ($1,200), rear manual side window sunshades ($575) and enhanced Bluetooth smartphone integration ($350). Its Saddle Brown Dakota leather and dashboard added $1,450, while the Jatoba Brown Metallic paint accounted for $550.
All up, our 2016 BMW 340i xDrive rang in at $59,920, which is about as expensive as a 3 Series gets these days.
Why We Got It
Every automaker has been gunning for BMW's 3 Series for nearly as long as there has been a 3 Series. It has provided an enviable combination of comfort, style, performance and driving enjoyment for decades.
In the meantime, the competition has introduced all-new models like the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class and 2017 Audi A4 that have ratcheted up the pressure on BMW.
With the 2016 model's dose of revisions, we aim to determine if the 340i is a worthy successor and a convincing foil for its newly invigorated crosstown rivals. BMW says there is no downside in comfort for its enhanced driving character, and we were impressed with our earlier drive in the 2016 3 Series.
Over the next 12 months and 20,000 miles, we'll determine if the new 340i withstands closer scrutiny by commuting in it, taking it on road trips, bending it through our local canyons, running our instrumented performance tests on it and more.
Read along on ourlong-term road test blog to see daily updates on its progress.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds with this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.