It’s not easy being King. Especially when the enemies are scaling the ramparts and you’ve, er, gone a little soft in the bottom. Oh, BMW 3 Series, it’s not your fault. Lay the blame at the feet of all those courtly minions who, when making you over for 2012, decided the masses didn’t want their King to be quite so cut. They thought you’d be better off a bit bigger and a tad more cuddly. All about the votes you know.
Granted, this switch from ripped to relaxed has not exactly hurt your appeal. The Dukes, Lords, Ladies, and countless serfs still sing your praises o’er hill and dale. It’s just that a few of truly faithful who fought shoulder to shoulder with you in years past have been wondering about that extra paunch. Will King-y ever swing the blade with such force and accuracy again, or is it time to trot over yonder to the kingdoms of Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar and Cadillac?
Cue the trumpet fanfare. There he is! Our King reborn. Long live the… oh wait. It’s just a mid-cycle refresh. Fine, we’ll take it. Luckily, there’s more to King-y version 2.0 than meets the eye.
Only the keenest BMW 3 Series nerds will spot what’s new here. External tweaks to the 2016 3 Series are subtle – LED taillights, more angular headlights (standard LED on the 340i), and recontoured rear and front fascia – the latter with larger outboard air intakes.
The interior also get the light-touch treatment. Architecture remains the same, with just the addition of some extra bright4work and some new ambient lighting. The navigation benefits from improved performance, faster start up and over-the-air map updates.
While the 3’s interior might not have the obsessive detailing of the new new Audi A4 or Mercedes C-Class, it is luxurious, pleasant to the eye and touch, and is a proven winner in the obtuse art of ergonomics. The driving position is spot on, the meaty steering wheel fills you paws, and the seats are magical in their blend of support and comfort.
Once familiar with this latest version of iDrive, it’s an easy system to negotiate. I particularly like the buttons around the rotary controller that with their varying topography make selecting media, radio, nav, back, etc a no-look exercise – once you memorize their positions. Radio preset buttons mean less fiddling.
Yes, yes, oh worthy knights. Enough of this frou-frou. Is King-y sporting a six-pack under his newish duds? In the case of the 2016 340i, you bet. An all new 3.0L straight-six-pack, actually.
Under the hood, the old 3.0L N55 turbo inline-six (300 hp, 300 lb-ft) makes way for a new 3.0L, codenamed B58. Yes, the cylinders are still all in a row and it sports a single twin-scroll turbocharger, but the architecture is new – an expansion of BMW’s modular EfficientDynamics family that includes the 1.5L three-cylinder and 2.0L four-cylinder. Output of this six jumps to 320 hp and 330 lb-ft. while delivering better performance, less weight and increased fuel economy.