The BMW 3-series is considered by many to be the best compact luxury sport sedan line on the market, and for good reason. It is cleanly styled on the outside, roomy and comfortable on the inside, loaded with technologies and premium touches, available in rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, and outfitted with turbocharged engines ranging from a thrifty gas or diesel 2.0-liter to a powerful 3.0-liter. And did we say a wagon is included? Whatever you're driving style, the 3-series can be tailored to please.
Our test version was a top-of-the-line 340i M Sport, which came with the 320-horsepower V6 and wonder of wonders a six speed manual transmission. The M Sport package inlcudes 18-inch wheels, an aero body kit, unique trim elements, an M steering wheel and a sport-tuned suspension. This is the combination that emphasizes the sport in sport sedan, especially since it includes two sport modes that increase performance Sport and Sport +, which turns off the traction control for drivers who aren't afraid of a little slipping and sliding.
Driven gently in the Comfort mode, the 340i is solid and refined, with a supple ride and willing engine matched to one of the smoothest-shifting manual gearboxes on the planet. But driven hard in either of the sport modes and the 340i is, well, still solid and refined. Yes, it goes even faster, but it's hard to reach the limits because the engineering is so impressive.
If you want cheap thrills, buy a cheap car. If you want to drive fast like a responsible adult, buy a BMW 340i.
Of course, BMW don't sell the luxury side of the 340i short, either. The interior of our test model included everything from supportive heated and cooler leather bucket seats to an excellent Harman Kardon Surround Sound System and all forms of connectivity. Visibility out the large windows was excellent, and the rearview camera made parking in confined spaces a breeze.
Although officially a company, the 340i has as much interior room as many midsize cars, meaning that even rear seat passengers travel in comfort. The trunk is also also has space for enough luggage for a serious road trip.
There's no lack of competition in the compact luxury sport sedan market these days, with everyone from Audi to Mercedes-Benz fielding new or upgraded models. But the BMW 3-series is still the standard to judge them against.
2016 BMW 340i
Base price: $45,800
Price as tested: $60,220
Type: Compact luxury sport sedan
Engines: turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4 (180 hp, 200 lbs-ft); turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4 (240 hp, 255 lbs-ft); turbocharged diesel 2.0-liter (180 hp, 280 lbs-ft); turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 (320 hp, 33 lbs-ft - as tested)
Transmissions: 6-speed manual (as tested); 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 23 (as tested) to 36
Overall length: 182.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,555 pounds
Final assembly: Munich, Germany