Thursday, October 10, 2019


BMW’s 3-Series has been around for over four decades, and now the German automaker has taken its so-called “entry” level luxury sedan to a new level.

The 2020 M340i and M340i xDrive now in showrooms are the most powerful non-M 3 Series yet. With a 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder engine (382 horsepower, 369 pound-feet of torque), the M340i xDrive moves from zero-to-60 in 4.2 seconds.

That ranks right up there with the vaunted M3 with an optional Competition package!

Yet the M340i is civilized enough to earn mileage ratings of 22 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway and 25 combined.

About the only bone to pick in the way of powertrain is that the only transmission offered is an 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters for manual shifting. No manual is available. (Sigh.)

The engine is not the only facet that gets niceties from the “M” grab bag.

Included in the base $54,000 MSRP ($54,995 including destination and delivery) are M Sport brakes, M differential, M sport steering wheel, and an M rear spoiler for a sporty appearance.

Adaptive M suspension is available for an extra $700, and included at no extra cost are LED headlights with cornering lights, 14-way power adjustable sport seats with lumbar support, navigation featuring a 10.25-inch screen, a moonroof, automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay, a wifi hotspot, and variable sport steering.

Of course, BMW also offers a lot of extras, perhaps too many in fact. You can replace the standard sound system with Harmon Kardon Surround Sound ($875) and add remote engine start ($300) and special ambient lighting ($250).

That only begins to run up the final price.

Throw in packages like the Executive Package (automatic high beams, gesture control and special lighting), Drivers Assistance Package (Active Driving Assistant Pro, blind spot and lane departure warning), Drivers Assistance Pro Package (extended traffic jam assistant), Premium Package (heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and head-up display), and Cooling & HP Tire package) and all of a sudden you’re at a bottom line of $67,070.

If you prefer all-wheel drive to rear-wheel, the xDrive system adds $2,000 to final tab.

What I liked about the 2020 BMW M340i sedan: No manual transmission is offered, but you can get enough in the way of performance by driving in Sport or Sport-plus mode. It’s a real looker from the outside, and the inside lives up to its luxury status.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 BMW M340i sedan: The iDrive 7.0 infotainment system is as fussy as ever to operate and can be distracting to the driver. Options run the M340i from the mid-$50,000 range to nearly $70,000. 

Would I buy the 2020 BMW M340i sedan? There's always the issue of dealing with the operation of the iDrive infotainment system, but the M340i has so much good stuff to offer that shouldn’t be the determining factor in any decision. The real drawback would be the temptation to add too many options and run the price up.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019



If you are a believer in bigger is always better, than BMW has the SUV (excuse me, in BMW's terminology it's a Sports Activity, not Sports Utility, Vehicle) you have been looking for.

The BMW X7 launched for 2019 is the company's largest utility, er, activity, vehicle yet with standard three-row seating for seven (or six when equipped with second-row captain's chairs) and towing capacity of up to 7,500 pounds when equipped with the factory hitch.

It comes in two versions. The X7 xDrive40i comes with a turbocharged V6 under the hood. The X7 xDrive50i on which this review is based has a turbo V8 that ups horsepower to 456 from the 335 of the turbo-6 and torque to 479 pound-feet from 330.

Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual gear selection and driving modes that can be set to comfort, sport, eco, or set to individual tastes.

Presumably, driving in Eco might improve the mileage figures of 17 miles-per-gallon city, 21 highway, and 15 combined using premium fuel, but more time spent in sport mode likely would have the opposite effect.

It's your choice, of course, but sport mode does deliver a more pleasing driving experience. The V8 moves the X7 xDrive50i's 5,617 pounds from zero-to-60 mph in a brisk 5.2 seconds. BMW clockers report a 5.8 clocking for the somewhat lighter (5,370 pounds) X7 xDrive40i.

Being the biggest in the fleet of the German automaker's fleet of "Activity" vehicles, the X7 offers generous interior space, though legroom and headroom in the third row is a bit confining at 33.3 and 36.6 inches, respectively. Legroom up front is just under 40 inches with headroom of 41.9 inches.

Being a BMW, it has all the niceties that a luxury vehicle typically has complete with the latest in technology. The heated, 20-way power adjustable, multi-contour front seats include 4-way lumbar support, and the panoramic moonroof and power liftgate are standard.

Also included with no charge in the X7 xDrive50i's $92,600 MSRP (a jump of nearly $18,000 over the X7 xDrive40i) are such features as active blind spot detection and lane-keeping warning, wood interior trim, a parking assist system, Wi-Fi hotspot, and a Harmon Kardon Surround Sound audio system with a one-year subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio.

Too many option packages quickly added $25,000 to the base MSRP for my test vehicle, however, running the total to $117,945 including the $995 destination and delivery charge.

You don't have to go full bore, of course. For example, I could do without the leather dashboard that added $1,200 to the price or the Bowers & Wilkins sound system that tacked on $3,400. The Dynamic Handling Package (suspension and steering upgrades) and M Sport Package (trim upgrades) combined add over $8,000 alone.

I also could probably do without the Premium Package (Remote Engine Start, Soft-Close automatic doors, rear electric side window shades, heated and cooled cup holders, Heads-Up Display) and Executive Package (Panoramic Sky Lounge LED Roof, Glass Controls and BMW Laserlight headlights) as well as the rear-seat entertainment system ($2,200). 

A Driving Assistant Professional package (Extended Traffic Jam Assist for limited access highways and lane-keeping assistant with active side-collision protection is standard on xDrive50i models and optional on the xDrive40i.

There's also a cold weather package that includes 5-zone climate control, heated seats for the front and rear and heated front-seat armrests and steering wheel that runs $1,200 that, being a South Florida resident, I would have no need for.

But I'd go for the captain's chairs for the second row.  At $600, they seem like a bargain.

What I liked about the 2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i: No question it is refined luxury and engineering at its best. The ride is smooth and quiet, the cabin spacious. I also like the concept of the split tailgate.

What I didn't like about the 2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i: Some nits here. As is typical of upscale German luxury cars, it is packed with technology that, alas, can be very distracting to operate. (But the 12.3-inch display screen for navigation is nice.) Adjusting the A/C blower manually (as I prefer to do) requires a fine touch. It either is too low or it blasts you out. The Active Lane Departure Warning can be overly active at times. Finally, your have to pay extra for leather seats over the standard leatherette.

Would I buy the 2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i? A bit too large for my tastes or needs, but if you are looking for or need a full-size luxury SUV, the X7 could be just what you want. No question it's a quality vehicle with outstanding engineering and a powerful engine.