From one BMW sedan to another: Replaced my 530i with an M340i LCi

I acquired the new Thar in January 2021, which meant I had to split the few kilometers that I drove between my two cars.

BHPian 84.monsoon recently shred this with other enthusiasts.

What I like:

  • A monster of an engine in the B58. True wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing that can cruise peacefully but also lunge forward like a leopard at the tap of the throttle.
  • Solid, build completely rattle free. Doors are heavy and shut with a reassuring Thud, both front and back.
  • Amazing Dravit Grey color.
  • Nice interior quality with the Alcantara leather seats and generous Carbon Fiber inserts and that sexy black headliner
  • Outstanding acceleration, but with very confidence-inspiring Braking.
  • Space at rear is surprisingly sufficient for two tall people.
  • Usable boot, even with presence of a donut spare tire for emergencies (and you may well need that spare frequently due to the small sidewall tires, which tend to get damaged easily on potholes)
  • Sophisticated exterior looks, with a lot of piano black pieces and those delicious 19-inch wheels. Screams sports car!
  • The stunning iDrive 8 – massive single slab, curved screen that is rich in functionality, but fairly intuitive to grasp.
  • Masks speed like a magician – it feels absolutely no different whether you are driving at 100 KPH or 150 KPH

What I don’t like:

  • The ride gets quite rough on bad roads with a lot of potholes and undulations. The triple whammy of lack of adaptive suspension, 19 inch wheels with very low profile tires and wide off-set rear tires, means that the any road imperfections are amplified and transmitted those inside the car.
  • Very thin, hard and uncomfortable door armrests on the front driver-side. The armrest is very narrow with a hard edge, causing discomfort for forearms during long drives.
  • No sun blinds for the rear seats, or for the rear windscreen – these were totally expected at the price point.
  • The engine feels a bit heavy in slow-moving traffic not as nimble and responsive in this setting as the B48 in my older car, the 530i.
  • I miss the gearshift lever which was always special in the BMW’s. The drive by wire slider control feels like a toy.
  • The seats are quite hard and narrow and not very well suited for long drives, unless your back and behind are made of steel. Not the best for long journeys.
  • The Harmon Kardon system – I expected more out of a system that claims to have 400+ watts of power output. The system lacks the depth and punch expected.

Some BMW History & Why a new Car?

Some of you might have read my G30 530i review. I got the car in 2017, right as the generation was launched and kept it for close to 5 years. The car was an absolute gem. It was trouble-free, drove really well and was fast and quiet. It had a really plush interior and adaptive suspension. However, being someone who lives 3 km from my place of work, I was using the car mainly for my long-distance run to the Hills every other month. The car behaved amazingly well on the freeways and made every trip pleasurable and memorable.

However, on a date-to-day basis, the car was a bit too long and big for my needs. I do not use a chauffeur and entering and exiting my driveway into the street lined with parked cars was a bit of a pain each time. The pandemic period also meant I was not going out of town so often and also not going into the workplace. The car was increasingly idle during 2020 and 2021. On top of that, I acquired the new Thar in January 2021, which meant I had to split the few kilometers that I drove between my two cars. The Thar soon became the daily driver due to the effortless way you could drive and park that car in city traffic conditions, as I started going back to office and also for shopping, errands etc. I had only done 19,000 km in the BMW in 4.5+ years that I had the car with me. I made a half-hearted decision to sell the car before the extended warranty expired at the end of 5 years, as I was worried about sudden value depreciation once the car went out of warranty. A fellow BHPian from Bangalore bought the car in April 2022, for close to 60% of my purchased price – thanks to the steep price increases on luxury cars, the depreciation seemed to be a whole lot less than it used to be, say 6-7 years ago. On some days, when I think about the finish, level of comfort and luxury in that car, I still wish I had not sold it. The G30 530i is indeed a gem, highly reliable, gave me a very comfortable ride on good roads and even on bad ones, with that awesome adaptive suspension, the enthusiastic engine always rewarding to drive.

All was well for a few months, and I was relieved to not have to maintain the BMW and pay for expensive repairs every time rats would enter the bonnet and start biting the wires. Made a couple of trips to the hills on my new Thar as well. Although interesting, these drives tended to be bouncy and choppy, and not really enjoyable after the first few hours. On the few occasions that my family used my car, they were always complaining about the impracticality of the Thar.

I started missing my BMW a few months after I sold it. Things were starting to get back to normal and I wanted to go on more long-distance trips down to the hills in the Southern part of the state. Every time I would go for a long distance trip in the Thar, I would remember how fast and blissful the drives in my 530i were, compared to the relatively slower and bouncier drives in the Thar. Eventually, I stopped driving and started taking trains on my trips to the hills. Withdrawal symptoms from the BMW started appearing and I started wishing I had not sold the 530i.

The two-year lease through my office on the Thar was coming to a close by the end of 2022, offering an opportunity to lease yet another new car with tax advantages. By the middle of last year, I started evaluating what my second car could be, so that side-by-side with the Thar, it would offer me a nice garage – a flexible combination of cars that can take on different use cases for my trips – provide a combination of luxury and utility. I love driving sedans, so it was clear the second card had to be a sedan again, given I had such a pure-bred SUV as my first car.

Alternatives considered:

The first car I thought of buying was the Mark 4 Skoda Octavia. It seemed to be the perfect package at a reasonable price point, that would get me a fast ride, and a reasonable set of features. There were also a few sparingly used Octavias that came on to the market in Chennai towards the end of last year. What I liked about that car was that it had a modern interior, a tank like build, very comfortable and ergonomic layout, decent interior space, and a powerful engine. A nearly new 2021 Octavia came to the market towards the end of the year, reasonably priced around Rs. 27 lakhs. What I had read and heard about Skoda DSG’s reliability was one of the reasons, I hesitated to pick up this car. The news of Octavia being withdrawn from the Indian market started floating around, and that gave me some more pause. By the time I could get into a new lease scheme. I was worried that the car may be out of stock and withdrawn from the market. Later on, we found that just as expected, Skoda did we draw this car on April 1, 2023 from the Indian market.

The other alternative I looked at was to get a moderately used BMW from some reputed used car dealers in Chennai. I checked out a previous generation 330i (F10 2017 with 50K kilometers on it, being quoted at 28 lakhs). The interiors were a big let down. Decided to go for a current generation car and checked out a G30 530D, a 630D, as well as a new generation X3. All of these available in the 45-55 lakh price bracket, however, compared to my 530i, none of these were in a “like new” condition. I was very particular on a “nearly new” car owned by a car lover and enthusiast and very well maintained. Some of the cars were obviously display cars which were later sold to the first owner. Most had the front driver’s seat in very poor condition, as the cars (especially 5 and 6 series) had all obviously been used as a chauffeur-driven vehicle, with the chauffeur using the seat to drive, sit & wait or even sleep, for most parts of the day waiting for the owner to finish whatever business they had to attend to. I also considered a slightly used 630 D The price quoted was quite high, but the car felt very luxurious and spacious. It felt very huge while driving, almost like a full-size SUV such as the Mercedes GLS. I am sure the higher seating position and higher ground clearance, plus the air suspension at the rear, will help make for a better ride when tackling bad roads, but for a solo driver who doesn’t use a chauffeur, it seemed like an overkill in terms of size.

I decided that it was better to go with a new car and avail lease tax benefits rather than go with a used car. The lease scheme my employer has through ORIX, that would save me a bunch of tax as the lease payments would come off the topline pre-tax versus paying for the car after tax. This opened up the budget a bit, as it would save nearly 20% post tax on a 3 year lease as compared to bank financing with no upfront locking of capital. I had a keen eye on all the launches taking place in the second half of 2022 – the ones which interested me were the Scorpio N and the Innova Hycross. Both of them offered the prospect of comfortable, fast highway drives, and the Innova brought the prospect of becoming an early adopter of strong hybrid technology. I was sure this technology is going to dominate our Auto scene in the coming years. It offered a great combination of instant power delivery, and very high fuel efficiency. However, the negative reports about the interiors of the Hycross dissuaded me somewhat. The Scorpio that I booked showed no signs of being allocated, at least till the middle or later part of 2023. I also felt it would be almost very similar to the Thar in terms of driving feel and experience, as both were based on the same platform, and the 2.2 MHawk Diesel engine, as well as the six speed Aisin AT were common to both.

I also considered very seriously the 530D LCI – I had enjoyed my 530i immensely 530D is indeed legendary. Little did I know in late 2022 that the six cylinder diesel will be discontinued less than six months later, thanks to the tightening CAFE norms across the industry. Had a look at the LCI – the interiors where a notch better than my 530i pre-LCI, given the higher quality of leather and the larger iDrive infotainment system, and a few other features such as the Heads-up Display and even smarter looks upfront in the LCI. The drive was amazing with the car being able to pick up speeds with a sense of urgency that I had missed in the 530i. However, the fact that I would still be driving essentially the same car with a different engine put me off, as I might get bored sooner down the line. Even though I was used to the G30, the issues around parking and maneuvering the car remained, given its length.

I had been keenly following the launch of the current generation G20 3-series in 2019, and the subsequent experiences of many BHP-ians who bought 330is and the subsequent launch of the pre-LCI M340i in 2022. The 3-series, is of course, the ultimate driver’s car that BMW makes – for nearly 50 years and 7 generations. The G30 is better to drive, but also more comfortable than the F30, being 25% stiffer and yet, lighter than the previous generation. Having grown by 76 mm in length of which 41 mm is added to the wheelbase, it seemed like the perfect length for driving in the city as well as the highways, with rear passengers having decent amount of legroom on those occasions when they share a ride.

When the M340i, I was launched in 2022, I developed a strong interest in the car. The price-to-performance seemed to offer a very good value proposition. The car looked mean and had really nice, sporty interiors. I think what turned me off was the reported dismal fuel efficiency and the fact that I would have to do frequent fuel ups on long-distance drives. However, the car quite never went out of my mind, and I continued to track the BMW India website and drool over the specs and looks of the car.

Booking & Delivery Experience:

Fast forward to December 2022, I was on a work trip to Mexico and was casually browsing Team-BHP. BHPian KrishnaDev had posted about the fact that he had booked an M340i and refused delivery from the current lot, as he was waiting for the facelifted car to be launched, he also posted about the impending launch of the LCI M340i in a matter of weeks. At first, I could not believe this as the 3-series LCI was not not yet launched in India and there are no press reports about its imminent launch. I immediately called my BMW Chennai dealer on WhatsApp and asked if he knew about the M340i launch to my surprise, he replied on the affirmative and said the car would be launched in a month, i.e., January 2023. He asked me to transfer a deposit if I was interested in getting the car in the first lot!

What followed was 24 hours of restlessness I couldn’t sleep that night not entirely because of the jetlag. I researched the M340 LCI, as it had just been launched in some global markets such as the UK. The car had a 48V mild hybrid system, which is said to have significantly improved smoothness and even help improve the fuel economy considerably. The car had the latest iDrive 8 eight end-to-end curved screen and the drive-by wire console. There were significant differences from the pre-LCI and the front appeared neater, without the kink at the bottom of the headlight.

Launch report from the BMW event at Delhi appeared overnight on December 10th and I immediately swung into researching every feature and comparing with the pre-LCI car and the regular 3-series. Some observations based on the information available at launch and the updated spec sheets on the BMW site that I noted:

  • Quoted fuel efficiency increased from 11.86 to 13.02 KPL – thanks to the mild-hybrid tech. This is significant as it increases the range by another 70 km.
  • Mild Hybrid tech is a game changer. CO2 emissions reduced from 200 g/km to 182 g/km – that is a significant near 10% reduction! The car makes 374 hp at 5500 rpm versus pre-LCI, which made 387 hp at a higher 5800 rpm before. The difference may again be because the additional instantaneous 10 hp provided by the mild hybrid tech, that may not be showing up at high rpms. The car is just as fast as before achieving 0-100 in a quoted 4.4 seconds.
  • Peak torque is the same (500 NM) but comes in at slightly higher 1900 rpm versus 1850 before.
  • Laser light is gone, we just get adaptive LED headlamps. Apparently, this is because of adaptive LEDs achieving near equal performance with far less cost and complexity. M seat belts were also gone (at least in the spec sheet). Gesture control is gone too, although it was very gimmicky in the first place.
  • Biggest change is, of course, the massive dual display with 12.3 inch instrument display and the humongous nearly-15 inch infotainment display! BMW OS 8.0 seemed very advanced.
  • M rear spoiler is new. This and all the other black trim in the front and back, that cover a larger area, will look better on the Dravit Grey on a sunny day than the Tanzanite blue, as the blue is very dark.
  • One of the most irritating missing features in earlier M340i (and all G20 pre-LCIs) – the absence of comfort access – is fixed!! Now you don’t have to fish for your key in your backpack every time you need to unlock the car and the M340i is now on par with the Maruti Ignis in this regard!
  • The intelligent parking with reverse assist feature seemed useful. If one enters a narrow gully and want to reverse out (has happened to me one too many times!), at the touch of a button, it will remember your last 50 m steering input and exactly reverse that to the cm!
  • Gets carbon fiber interior trim instead of the aluminum finishes, which looks classy.
  • The new 791M style alloys (first pic below) look better but BMW is pushing it as far as suitability for Indian roads, as the tire profile has shrunk to 40 in the front and 35 in the rear (Approx 90 mm sidewall height – I could not help but compare that mentally to 166 mm sidewall on my other car, the Thar).
  • BMW kept the price increase to a minimum (just 30K) as compared to the M-Jahre edition – not too bad for all the additional kit provided including the mild hybrid system, iDrive 8, comfort access and a lot of additional electronics.

Overall, I liked the car but was unsure of the price at which it was going to be launched. The existing M340i in itself, was a bit of a stretch for me, and if the LCI was going to be priced at a significant premium, I probably would have to pass. I paid the token booking amount in any case with an assurance that it would be refunded if I changed my mind at the time of launch.

There was a brief waiting game and the car actually did get launched in mid-December, while I was still in Mexico. The launch price was very attractive with only a slight premium to the pre-LCI car. Given the addition of iDrive eight, the fantastic touchscreen and the mild hybrid system, I thought the car was even more value-for-money than before. Decided to take the plunge and started working through my company to organize a lease, before the car would be ready for delivery. The dealer promised the car would be ready for delivery by mid-January.

The car actually arrived more than two weeks before the expected delivery date. The dealer expected the car to be delivered by January 24. However, it was already delivered by January 10. The date of production of the car read 4 January 2023 from the VIN number. The car was lying in the dealer yard while my company was practically working on organizing the lease through the Pongal holidays in Tamil Nadu. Once the lease was done and the payment was sent to the dealer, then he realized that the LCI model was not available in the state government’s Road Transport database. This happens to me every time. I typically buy cars right after they’re launched and they always get stuck during the registration process at the dealer end.

I did warn the dealer that this might happen again, but he dismissed this concern, until they actually went to do the registration and were told to first get the new model updated in the RTO database. This took another week or so, and I finally got the car delivered on the 1st of February. It was the first M340i to be delivered from Kun Chennai, and my SA was so excited and they organized and elaborate Pooja and a photo session as well as a social media post from their handle to celebrate the event.

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