New BMW M340i sedan: more details about 'M3 Lite' emerge

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BMW's seventh-generation 3-Series is looking poised to take its segment by storm, with a new M340i version here to keep us warm until the M3 flagship comes along.

Though one down from the upcoming M3, this M340i is no slouch. The trapezoidal dual-pipe M Exhaust system with a valve-controlled exhaust make the M340i sound the part as well.

The Munich-based firm hails the M340i as the most powerful non-M-tuned 3 Series it has ever released. These numbers, coupled with an 8-speed Steptronic sports transmission and BMW xDrive with a rear-wheel bias (just the way God intended), can propel the M340i to 100kmph in 4.4 seconds, which is half a second faster than the top-of-the-range model of the previous generation. After unveiling the 330i at the Paris Motor Show, BMW will debut the more powerful M340i in Los Angeles later this month. Steering shift paddles are standard, of course. Powered by a 374hp straight-six, the auto will hit 62mph in 4.4 seconds, which, if you want proof of progress (or, perhaps more appropriately, the effectiveness of all-wheel drive), makes it four tenths quicker to the mark than the V8-engined E92 M3 - you know, the one that felt monstrously fast only a few years back. The components of the double-joint spring strut front axle and the five-arm rear axle, both of which have been optimised in terms of weight and stiffness, enhance cornering dynamics and steering precision, as do the larger track widths and optimum wheel camber angles. An M Sport suspension is standard, lowering the ride height by 0.4 inch, and an adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers is available.

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Combining an extremely sporty set-up - headlined by short pedal travel and a distinct pressure point - the M Sport brake system, which also comes as standard, provides effective stopping power. M-branded 18in alloy wheels can be wrapped in a range of performance-oriented tyres. It's made up of four-piston fixed calliper brakes (blue with M logo) and 348 mm discs in front, and single-piston floating callipers grabbing 345 mm discs at the rear.

Since the M340i sits among the regular model line-up, it does without muscle flexing features like flared arches.

Inside, there's sport seats trimmed in faux leather and Alcantara, or proper optional leather seats with contrast stitching. The digital instrument cluster and the front door sills feature the model lettering.

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