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The coveted “M” badge at BMW plays a huge role in the company’s ethos. Several years back, the Bavarian automaker started adding that M badge to other models that weren’t, well, M cars. Obviously, that begs the question: “What is a real M car?”

BMW didn’t really change the M340i for 2021, but that’s not a bad thing | The Straight Pipes

It used to be that an M car was basically a detuned race car sold to meet FIA homologation requirements. However, now, much like Audi’s S or Mercedes-Benz’s AMG, that badge now applies to a load of cars, including the 2021 BMW M340i.

Is the BMW M340i a real M?

An Alpine White 2021 BMW M340i under the showroom lights shot from the high front 3/4 angle
The 2021 BMW M340i is BMW’s baby M3 | Guillaume Payen via Getty Images

If this car came out ten years ago, this would be the M3. First, it makes bonkers power. Internet uhh, nethers-measuring aside, the 2021 BMW M340i makes 382 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque. That is a lot. The AWD version of the M340i will shoot you up to 60 in 4.1 seconds. So, in my eyes, yes, this is a real M car. Or at least it would have been ten years ago.

However, BMW has shifted the goal posts with each new interation of an M car. It used to be the BMW M3 made 333 hp and 260-ish lb-ft. Frankly, even those numbers still feel like a lot. That said, the new M3 Competition is a bonkers rocket with 503 hp and 479 lb-ft. The M5 makes even more, and so on down the line. Consumers expect more M each year, and BMW needs to oblige if they’ll be hoping to sell any.

The M340i is the M3 for the masses

A black BMW M340i Xdrive shot against a white background from the rear 3/4 angle
The new M340i gets lots of M-inspired styling nods | BMW

Bearing that in mind, this is the sweet spot, at least to me. Having near as makes no difference 400 hp in the 2021 BMW M340i is more than enough. Hell, an old M3 would have you breaking every speed limit in the state at the top of second gear. Imagine what this one feels like. You’re still getting other M things as well, like retuned suspension and special styling cues.

Of course, these changes aren’t on the level of the full-fat M3, and how can it be? BMW has to leave some room in the lineup for their halo cars. Think of the M340i as a sort of Cayman to Porsche’s 911. Same formula, just less. And sometimes, less is more. I guarantee this 2021 BMW M340i is just as fast up a tight road as the new M3, providing there’s no straights, and in the hands of your average Joe or Jane.

BMW can still make a sports sedan, M car or not

A black BMW M340i shot from the front 3/4 angle against a white studio background
The blue calipers and bronze-ish accents set the M340i apart | BMW

Obviously, that means BMW still knows how to make a sports sedan. Combine a luxury interior, great handling, and strong power and you’ve got a recipe that BMW has spent whole decades perfecting. The 2021 BMW M340i is all that and then a little more. The best part? At around $60,000 new, they’re half the price of the M3, but certainly not half the car.


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