Munich - Just like Mercedes-AMG is using its lower-tier models like the C43 to bridge the gap below the hooligan-spec variants, BMW’s M Performance models are fulfilling a similar role within the Bavarian line-up and the new M340i xDrive is a natural rival to that aforementioned C43.

Although the M340i was briefly mentioned when the new-generation 3 Series was revealed at the Paris show last month, BMW has now gone into detail on what will be the range-topper until new M3 comes along, and is also showing us pictures of it for the first time - note the unique grille with Ceramic Grey surrounds, unique front and rear bumpers and jumbo exhaust tips.

The M340i is powered by a revised version of BMW’s 3-litre straight-six turbopetrol, producing 275kW and 500Nm, and feeding all wheels through an eight speed automatic gearbox and xDrive system.

That all-wheel-drive traction, with a helping hand from Launch Control, help the M340i sprint off the line almost as quickly as the previous M3, it’s 4.4 second claimed 0-100km/h time being just 0.1s adrift.

Torque distribution between the front and rear axles is fully variable, but the system does have a rearward bias which is particularly prominent when the driver has selected either the Sport or Sport+ driver experience control mode.

Also helping its corner-carving case is the fully-variable M Sport rear differential and 10mm-lower M Sport suspension system, both of which are standard, although those seeking adaptive dampers will have to pay more to have their potholes more smoothly absorbed.

You can also opt for 19-inch alloys (in two designs and with mixed tyres) if the standard 18” wheels don’t fit the bill.

In addition to all those dynamic niceties, the M340i gets a performance braking system with blue-painted calipers and an M Sport dual exhaust, which ups the volume via its adjustable exhaust valves when you dial in the Sport or Sport+ driving modes.

The M Sport vibe carries through to the cabin in the form of sports seats upholstered in a Sensatec and Alcantara combo, anthracite roof liner and M-badged steering wheel.

The new 3 Series goes on sale in South Africa during the first half of 2019, with the M340i likely following at a later stage.

IOL Motoring