Victory at Portimao puts Hamilton one race win ahead of Michael Schumacher
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That’s a lot of alpha-numerics. The M340i xDrive is the only remaining six cylinder petrol 3 Series, because there’s no M3 yet. It can be had only with four-wheel drive. It sits hard up against the Audi S4 Quattro and C43 AMG. It’s not just a normal xDrive 3-er. The persons from M have had a go. In what way? It has their input in the cooling, exhaust, brakes, e-diff, steering rack, springs and dampers. Even a pair of the rear suspension links have been changed versus a normal 3 Series.
Power? This uses the latest version of BMW’s (not M’s) 3.0-litre straight six, at 374bhp. It’s more fuel-efficient as well as nearly 40bhp more powerful than the old 340i. This is the engine that might have gone into the Z4 M40i/Toyota Supra but didn’t because it wasn’t ready. So that’s their facelift engine sorted then. Enough numbers. Does it feel fast? Brisk. Really brisk. It’s in that order of performance you can still enjoy properly using on the road, rather than the sort where you’re off the throttle as soon as you’re on it because you’re illegal too soon. It departs from low revs with little lag. And with little of the sense of driveline inertia you get with many 4WD cars. Then it swings progressively all the way to 7,000rpm. Clearly enjoys it too, with that sweet harmony in the middle and sharper voice as you work it to the top. But it’s civilised. None of that fake exhaust fireworks, thanks. There’s just one turbo, by the way, not the theoretically quicker-responding pair of small turbos (BMW’s ‘Twinpower’ label means twin-scroll, not twin-turbo). Why just one, I asked the engine chief. Cost, came the refreshingly honest reply. But it isn’t spoilt. Am I right in guessing standard 4WD takes away the fun? You are not. There’s a fine clarity to the steering, and a willingness to change direction. It feels lighter than it is, in a good way. The steering’s informative too, and the car is one of those rare ones where you feel the tyres working even when they’re well inside their limits. Get more force into them and you’re told good and early when you’ve arrived at the bend too suddenly (mild understeer) or are negotiating and departing it under the approved amount of power (mild oversteer). The slip angles are there to be exploited but they’re road-appropriate. The ‘Sport’ mode sets the bias more rearward. Brakes, four-pot jobs, do a fine job, and M even went to the trouble of moving the actuator’s pivot point to shorten the travel just for this car. The ride, like other 3 Series versions, is on the firm side but not unbearable. Adaptive dampers are optional, and 19-inch wheels too. I had them on the test car, and the ‘Adaptive’ mode was best, rather than ‘Sport’ or ‘Comfort’. In other words, trust the engineers. I sense you like it? Oh I very much do. It just hits a sweet spot – looks moderately quick, sounds moderately quick, is actually a bit quicker again. But with a sensitivity to its actions that’s deeply satisfying. Not brutal like some of the bigger M cars, but drivable and really habitable. Do they do a Touring? Absolutely. What more could you want? 9/10
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