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JOHANNESBURG – “Lite”. It's a term used to describe products lacking in certain aspects. Foodstuffs, such as low-fat margarine, are often labelled as such in relation to their similar but higher-in-calorie counterparts. This tag has also been applied to the new BMW M340i xDrive, with some dubbing it a “lite” version of the upcoming, full-fat M3. At the build-up to the second BMW M Festival, hosted in the City of Gold, we had the chance to find out whether this description was suited to the current range-topping Three (until the aforementioned halo M model arrives in 2021, that is). 

Press start

I grip the thick leather-clad M Sport steering wheel and with the press of the start button, the digital instrumentation cluster lights up. Sited near the top of the crisp 12,3-inch BMW Live Cockpit setup, an "M340i" logo is displayed, flanked by the speedometer and rev-counter, which arch towards the model designation. The LED daytime running lights wrapped round the headlamps mirror these concave gauges.

Although some (myself included) miss the contemporary round gauges, which mimicked the traditional analogue items found in previous BMWs, the futuristic arrangement frees up pixels to relay myriad additional information to the driver. In this case, the navigation system indicates a straight piece of tarmac followed by a left- and then a right-hand turn. The location: Kyalami International Grand Prix Circuit.

Ready, set...

Granted, a racetrack is not a place the M340i will often frequent. That’s a task much more suited to the upcoming M3. However, driving the only six-cylinder 3 Series in the current local line-up does give me the opportunity to test its limits ... or try, at least. I switch to sport plus and nudge the shifter into drive. The sports seats (a no-cost option on this M Performance model) are comfortable and supportive.

Riding on optional (R11 000) 19-inch cerium grey alloy wheels (18-inchers are standard) shod in Pirelli P Zero rubber (sizes 225/40 fore and 255/35 aft), the M340i makes its way to the starting line. “When you’re ready,” the says instructor. Without hesitation, I plant my foot firmly on the accelerator.

...Go!

The midsize sedan launches from standstill, its 275 kW and 500 N.m of torque sent to all four corners via BMW’s rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. The speedometer reads 100, 120 and then 150 km/h before we reach the marker at which the brakes should be firmly applied. The M340i’s claimed 0-100 km/h time of 4,4 seconds certainly seems possible.

With the vehicle now pointed in the direction of the second corner, the eight-speed automatic swiftly shifts up a ratio as I increase speed. Foot on the brakes, the digital rev needle jumps counter-clockwise. Steering response is direct, sending ample feedback from the road to my palms. Equipped with M Sport suspension, the M340i’s 10 mm reduction in ride height is perfectly suited to the billiard-smooth circuit. Although I prefer a firmer steering and suspension setup, round town (where this BMW will be driven most) those prioritising comfort over dynamism might find such a setup irksome.

However, I think long journeys are this BMW’s bread and (high-in-fat) butter. It will devour every kilometre as it cruises towards the desired destination, while its occupants are treated to a six-cylinder symphony each time overtaking is required ... which I suspect the M340i will do with aplomb.

Exiting the final right-hander, applying the throttle with (admittedly) too much verve, results in a touch of oversteer. The xDrive system, however, quickly steps in to keep the rear in check.

Summary

The M340i is distinctive, with its M Performance kit and model-specific cerium grey finishes lending it striking yet subtle exterior design cues. Sporting a generously endowed turbopetrol mill, the newcomer slots neatly between the 330i (which received the second highest road test score from the CAR team so far this year) and the still-to-arrive M3, which BMW says will employ the "most powerful engine" in its segment.

The six-cylinder sophisticate is not “lite” by any means. With stellar perceived interior build quality, dynamic capability and eagerness to be driven hard, all while providing peace-of-mind with its xDrive system, the M340i is just right, balancing outright performance with comfortable cruising ability.
CAPE TOWN – Its safe to say the G20-generation BMW 3 Series is one of the most highly anticipated new cars to arrive in South Africa so far in 2019. Still, the venerable 3 Series is these days facing a threat from within its own Bavarian stable, as the buying public continues its migration away from sedans and towards SUVs, with the high-riding X3 even replacing the saloon on Plant Rosslyns production line in Pretoria.

That said, there is certainly still a local market for the compact executive sedan, particularly if it happens to wear a German badge on its snout.

As associate editor Gareth Dean pointed out when he drove the petrol-powered 330i in Portimao, Portugal late in 2018, the new-generation 3 Series takes an evolutionary approach to exterior styling (and a revolutionary one to cabin design, given the requisite options are selected). Interestingly, the 320d I drove in the Western Cape was not equipped with the M Sport package, but rather the Sport Line kit, which nevertheless provides a fairly aggressive front and rear treatment, and a suitably athletic profile. In fact, from some angles, I’d argue this simpler spec looks more attractive than the M Sport kit.

Under the bonnet of the 320d youll find the latest version of the Munich-based brands 2,0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, which here delivers 140 kW and 400 N.m of torque to the rear axle. Interestingly, the torque figure is the same as that of the 2,0-litre, four-cylinder turbopetrol mill found in the 330i, the only other engine derivative offered at launch (more variants are expected later, of course).

Although the 320d is outgunned by the 330i in terms of outright power, it still does plenty to impress dynamically. The engine is peppy and highly capable in the mid-range, which makes exiting tight corners an effortless process. It communicates well with the eight-speed automatic torque-converter, which shifts smoothly and swiftly. The cleverly spaced ratios of this gearbox endow the 320d with impressive acceleration off the mark as well as a refined cruising ability.

Indeed, the oil-burner is surprisingly hushed, with almost no diesel clatter or vibration making its way into the well-insulated cabin. In fact, you really have to concentrate to hear the engine when driving at cruising speeds. Theres very little tyre roar, either, although I did notice some wind noise at higher speeds. Still, perhaps the most impressive feature of the 320d is its fuel consumption. After some 250 km of driving, the turbodiesel sedan consumed only a quarter of a tank, which equates to a figure not far off the claimed 4,8 L/100 km.

And the ride? Well, for the most part, the 320d offers a plush experience, but its 18-inch alloys sacrifice some degree of comfort over rutted tarmac. Although it shares plenty of characteristics with its predecessor, based on my first impressions, Id say the G20 doesn’t feel quite as engaging to drive as the previous model (although Ill certainly wait for the M340i and upcoming M3 to arrive before making a definitive call). That said, the 320d is more than capable of tackling a set of corners in a manner we have all come to expect from a 3 Series, and likely still ahead of the competition when it comes it dynamics.

Interestingly, while the 320d and 330i are evenly priced, theres a distinct difference between the two once you’re enjoyed some time behind the wheel. While the 330i has more character and better performance figures, the 320d counters with a terrific mile-munching ability that makes it very well suited to open-road driving. That its turbodiesel engine takes small sips from the tank (resulting in a very respectable range) is another bonus.

So, is the 3 Series still the premium mid-size sedan benchmark? Well, while its probably a little too early to say, Id venture its German rivals will have a hard time matching the G20s all-round abilities, considering its now even loftier levels of refinement and much improved cabin.

Latest Resutls for BMW 3 Series

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Leather upholstery: partial suede-cloth + artificial (opt leather)
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Lumbar support adjustment: opt front electric
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Run flat tyres: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6
  • Lane departure warning: opt lane keeping assist
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Optional
  • Attention assist rest assist break alert: Standard
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Directional turning headlights: LED (opt laser)
  • Adaptive headlights varying light distribution: LED (opt laser)
  • Emergency brake hazardlights: dynamic flashing brake lights + hazards
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Engine auto Stop Start idle stop ecostop: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Sports suspension: Standard
  • Electronically adjustable suspension: opt adaptive
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: Comfort, Eco Pro, Sport
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • Head up display: Optional
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Standard
  • Cruise control: std incl brake function (opt adaptive)
  • Active adaptive cruise control: Optional
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • CD player: Optional
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: Standard
  • Central locking: remote (opt keyless)
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: keyless start (opt keyless access)
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Auto dimexterior mirrors: opt driver
  • Sun roof: Optional
  • Memory for electric seat adjustment: opt driver
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: LED (opt laser)
  • Highbeam assist: Optional
  • Frontfog lamps lights: LED
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: opt rear / opt surround view
  • Rear spoiler: Optional
  • Towbar trailer hitch: opt electric detachable
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: diesel
  • Fuel range average: 1283 km
  • Driven wheels: rear
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 8
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Transmission name: Steptronic
  • Gear shift paddles: Optional
  • Electromechanical parking brake: Standard
  • Front tyres: 225/45 R18 (opt 225/40 R19)
  • Reartyres: 255/40 R18 (opt 255/35 R19)
  • Length: 4709 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1827-2068 mm
  • Height: 1442 mm
  • Wheel base: 2851 mm
  • Ground clearance minimum maximum: 136 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 11.4 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 480 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 480 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1530 kg
  • Load carrying capacity / payload: 610
  • Gross weight (GVM): 2085 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 750
  • Towing capacity - braked: 1600
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 59l
  • Fuel consumption average: 4.6 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 122g/km
  • Emission control phase Euro EU level: 6d temp
  • Power maximum: 140 kW
  • Power maximum total: 140 kW
  • Power peak revs: 4000 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 91.5 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 400 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1750-2500 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 400 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 261 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 6.8s
  • Maximum top speed: 240 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1995 cc
  • Engine size: 2.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 2.0TD
  • Engine + detail: 2.0 turbo diesel
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 16
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 2
  • Warranty distance (km): unlimited km
  • Maintenance plan: Standard
  • Maintenance plan time (years): 5
  • Maintenance plan distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service interval indicator: Standard
  • Service interval (distance): service interval indicator km
  • Brand: BMW
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 05038105
  • MMVariant: 320D M SPORT A/T (G20)
  • MMintrodat: 2019-02-06
  • Introdate: 2018-11-19
  • DuoportarecordID: BMW3Ser7s04

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BMW 320D M SPORT A/T (G20) 320d M Sport for sale in Kimberley from one of Carmag.co.za's apporoved car dealerships
Used 320D M SPORT A/T (G20) 320d M Sport availbale from the following auto dealer:
Sovereign BMW Kimberley used car dealership located in: Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa
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