Lap time: 2m 00.05s
Power and weight: 382bhp/500Nm and 1670kg
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4 | front: 225/45 R18 rear: 255/40 R18
It’s not a proper M car, sure, but the new BMW M340i is still breathtakingly fast in a straight line and thanks to a clever all-wheel drive system, an absolute demon around a race track. Now you might wonder if it’s simply a 330i on steroids but the truth is, the M340i is more of a baby M3 with the way it reels in the horizon in the straights and sticks to the tarmac in the corners. The lack of flared arches and huge tailpipes may suggest otherwise but there’s just so much speed and drama in store for you when you unleash the M340i and that’s something I exactly did as we headed out onto the MMRT circuit. Here’s how it went.
The Madras Motor Race Track is a great place to push the handling envelope of cars. It’s not a track that favours horsepower; instead a car with great chassis balance is what really shines around this bumpy 3.7 kilometer flowing circuit. Speaking of which, right after the short start finish straight is the fast and bumpy C1. One must then scrub off a lot of speed for the right-hander C2. The C7, as we found out, is the most difficult corner to master as it’s a long right-hander that is ever tightening and has a double apex. Getting a great exit out of C7 is important because it leads onto the second of the two really quick sections of the MMRT.
|Lap Time||C5 Apex Speed||C7 Apex Speed||C10 Apex Speed||Top Speed|
There is no point mucking about really. The M340i lives up to the dynamic bit of its name, especially on a circuit like the MMRT. The sublime balance and the sheer amount of grip that we had at our disposal no matter how bumpy the corners got were on a different league compared to the rest of the 3 Series range. There’s an absolute sense of ease and assurance to this all-wheel drive chassis as the M340i gracefully consumed the curbs over at the chicane after C3. It did suffer from some amount of brake fade, especially across the hard barking zone before C4 but then you can shrug it off by entering wide into the left hander and use the ferocious front axle grip to turn in immediately before hitting C5. The chassis then delivers the same level of devotion as you fly out of the right hander with a bit of power oversteer.
The xDrive system has immense traction to offer and unlike most all-wheel drive systems which offer 50:50 torque split thus generally resulting in the front-end washing wide, the system here sends more power at the back. It allows you to point the car exactly where you want in order to power out of the corners. And let’s not forget that turbo charged in-line six engine which is a proper powerhouse. Now, BMW claims 380bhp but the Germans, as we know, are known to under claim their figures so in essence it feels more like a 400bhp car with the way it pulls in a straight line.
The shifts from the torque converter automatic are so quick and the calibration is such that it almost picks the perfect gear every time. For the fast lap I didn’t feel the need to use the paddles and in fact, not having to manually select the gears gave me more time to concentrate on my lines and braking points. The M340i’s flexible engine played a big part in making it so quick around the MMRT. I mean a top speed of 176kmph on the long back straight is no joke. The M340i is also equally quick through the corners, hitting over 85kmph through C5 and almost 95kmph through the long C7 apex. I left the torque converter in fully automatic with all the stability aids partially disabled during the hot laps.
In the end, a flat 2 min lap was the fastest time of the day but the M340i is capable of more in the hands of a professional racer. If not anything else, better brake pads would have helped the M340i comfortably slide under the 2 min barrier.
Part family sedan, part track weapon, the BMW M340i put up an incredible show at this year’s CarWale Track Day. Its predictable handling manners, strong engine with a sweet sound track and plenty of mechanical grip made it hugely involving to muscle around the MMRT. Make no mistake, it is a heavy sedan and to get the best lap time I had to keep my corner entries clean and tight while keeping the thing close to the apex. All this to make the most of the incredible xDrive traction to power out of corners and in the end, set a fairly quick lap time. Ultimately, a flat two min lap time is not bad at all when you know you can go around again with three of your friends and their stuff without losing too much time.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi