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BMW M Performance. It’s something that evokes a certain sense of motorsport theater and mind-bending performance in the minds of car enthusiasts. While it was a separate company in its early days, BMW M Performance is now integrated with the big BMW brand. And that’s why today, there is both a BMW M340i alongside a true-to-form BMW M3. 

The 2023 BMW M340i
BMW M340i in Gray | BMW

Why does the BMW M340i exist?

In the early years, a BMW M car was a more engaging version of the brand’s luxury cars. As time progressed, performance in the base cars improved, and the M cars needed to follow suit. Ultimately, the result is a series of M cars that are both so expensive and hardcore that they are hard to live with every day. And while its design department has been taking some wild stabs in the dark, BMW’s marketing arm understood the growing gap.

Enter a model like the BMW M340i. Sitting in between the base BMW 3 Series and the track-ready BMW M3, the M340i is the spiritual successor to the original M cars.

Comparing the 3 Series performance cars

The 2023 BMW M3
The BMW M3’s controversial face | BMW

We can hear you asking already – if the BMW M3 exists, how is the M340i a more genuine successor to the original lineup? Simply put, philosophy.

These days the M3 has practically nothing to do with the rest of the 3 Series lineup. Even the body work is completely different between the two models. And we’re not talking a simple evolution with splitters and wide fenders. No, nearly the entire BMW M3 is completely different from the baseline 3 Series sedans.

However, the BMW M340i is a clear relative to the base 330i sedan. Some revisions to the bumpers and grille openings set it apart, but there is no mistaking it as a 3 Series model.

In similar fashion to the old-school sporty Bimmers, the M340i features a sport suspension and sport brakes that up the engagement factor without shattering your spine. And the BMW M Twinpower turbocharged six-cylinder engine is an upgrade over the base turbo four-pot.

Performance separates the BMW M340i from the M3. Or does it?

A side-profile of the M340i
2023 BMW 3-Series | BMW

Compare that to the pig-snout, track-focused, hardcore-to-a-fault M3 and the differences are clear. Of course, that car makes more power, but both use the same basic 3.0-liter I-6 turbo setup.

In the M340i, 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque shoot through the rear-wheels, with xDrive available for those who want it. The M3 outdoes that with 473 ponies and 406 pound-feet of torque. That makes the M3 easily worth the extra $20,000 over its half-hearted cousin, right?

Maybe not.

Zero to 60 mph in the M3 takes 4.1 seconds, while the M340i takes just 4.4 ticks. Upgrade the tires and tune the baby Bimmer and it’ll eat M3s for lunch.

Even the weight distribution favors the M340i. With 52 percent up front and 48 percent in the rear, it’s a full percentage point closer to balanced than its hardcore counterpart. It also weighs a few pounds less, which even surprised us.

The BMW M340i is a fast luxury car with a big upside

BMW M340i
BMW M340i | BMW
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While the handling in the BMW M3 makes it a standout, we agree with Jalopnik that the M340i isn’t so far behind. Furthermore, the softer 3 Series is more comfortable and considerably less expensive, and offers similar performance in a straight line. The M3 is great for making a statement and whipping around a track, without a doubt. But for a fun daily-driven luxury car, the M340i is dressed to impress.