*Just so you know, this will be a very long reading, I made sure to be as detailed as possible, as I know that M340i reviews and opinions are pretty scarce on the internet, and not many comparisons have been posted, so… get ready to read!*
So, this week was the M Town tour in Baltimore and was my main excuse to go and drive the new M340i. For some time my wife and I have been looking for our second daily driver. Currently in the stable, we have a Mercedes CLS 53 AMG (known as our GT Car) and a Porsche 718 Boxster which was supposed to be our third/summer car, as it was a lease transfer from my father in law, and has the lowest mileage limit for the lease. We had an E90 335i (and many E46’s and E36’s prior) as my wife’s main driver, but with over 130k miles, it was starting to become a problematic money pit, so we sold it. Since then we’ve been driving both the CLS and Boxster and been putting too many miles on the Boxster. So, we’ve been needing a replacement for our beloved E90. The criteria for this replacement? Four doors, compact (at least by today’s standards), RWD platform, and of course, fun.
In the last few years, my wife and I have honestly been disappointed with BMW’s direction. As someone who has grown up in a BMW household – myself and my parents have been through many different 3 series, 5 series, and even one or two X3’s and X5’s here and there – it really pains me to see the isolated direction that most cars – not just BMW – are going to. Today, I find that most models, except for the 2 series/M2 (BMW’s current halo car) have not been up to my wife and I’s standards and has left us disappointed. My wife skipped the F30 generation because of this, and my brief stint with a 540i (totaled), honestly made me bored. I went looking elsewhere and was shocked to find that the competition had been studying BMW’s tricks and had been catching up. This is why I currently have a Mercedes in my garage, and no BMW’s for the first time in over 20 years. So, the amount of greatness that this M340i needs to have, is quite important. My wife and I currently tend to swap cars, so this new car will be for both of us, as we’ll switch between the CLS and whatever we choose, and even the Boxster (while the good whether lasts!) often.
In this comparison will be my personal take on five key points of these vehicles. This includes exterior design, interior design and materials, technology, powertrains and driving dynamics, with a quick summary/conclusion on each vehicle in the end.
BMW M340i xDrive – As Tested Price: $68,425
Mercedes C43 AMG 4Matic – As Tested Price: $69,320
Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Sport RWD – As Tested Price: $53,690
Now, you may be asking to yourself, “Why is there a 4-cylinder Alfa being compared to the 6-cylinder Merc and Bimmer?” Well, Alfa only offers one trim for the Giulia, which is more of a competitor to the 330i and C300. Despite this, with all the talk about the Giulia’s excellence, I just had to go see for myself whether it was true, so I added it to the comparison.
Missing from this comparison is the Genesis G70 3.3TT. I had planned on also testing this car (even though I didn’t have any intention on buying one), but the local Hyundai dealer was very busy and had no 3.3TT models in stock, so I simply just didn’t test a Genesis.
Exterior is purely subjective, so everyone will have their own opinion on which car they think looks best, but here’s my opinion on each car’s design.
BMW – Let’s get this out of the way, this is a controversial design. Many people will complain about Lexus taillights, irregular sized/shaped/patterned kidney grills, and incorrect Hofmeister kinks. With all that said, I do like the design a lot. I don’t find the grills enormous, with them being about the same size of the 5 series, I don’t mind the “diamond pattern” kidneys, nor do I mind the sharpened kink and taillights. Yes, those taillights do resemble the current Lexus RC and IS, but this isn’t the end of the world. Are they best looking? No. Are they the worst? No. I’m sure the LCI will of course remedy this. Otherwise, I would call the design, sharp, angular and striking, with overall this car looking the sportiest of the bunch. Any flaws/problems in the design? Yes. The cerium gray trim is my biggest issue. It is ugly, tacky, and is a showcase of water stains, and a pain in the ass to clean because of its matte finish. I highly recommend getting the black kidney grills and wrapping any other cerium accents. Another problem is colors. This can be said for almost every new BMW, but the color selection is too limited and very plain. While there are two beautiful blues a nice gray, and two whites, there are no silvers, no red (why?!?), and an orange which I think doesn’t flatter the car. Overall this car has a very aggressive appearance, which while I do think looks good, I’m not too sure on how it will age. One other thing I noticed is this car has a lot of visual mass. Compared to past 3er’s it just looks big and heavy (which it is), it’s very noticeable.
*330i depicted in photos
Mercedes – This car is the prettiest of the group in my opinion. It looks more expensive than the other two, and strikes me as an elegant design. In my opinion, Mercedes has hit a peak with their exterior designs, for their sedans at least – not a fan of their SUV designs. The taillights and rear end are simply gorgeous, and the car has a great look back factor. I love the side profile’s curvy looks, but also its addition of some sharp body lines. Also, I actually prefer the diamond pattern AMG grill, still, this current AMG grill (which was the pre-facelift AMG C63 grill) looks very good, and very athletic. Any problems? Of course, no car is perfect. Some vents are more obviously fake, like the front intakes, and some areas come only in chrome despite the rest of the car being gloss black. Other than that, this is a gorgeous car. Colors choice is decent too, there’s a gorgeous red and white (which are higher cost options, but worth it), a beautiful bright blue, an elegant dark blue, and a very metallic gray which unlike most grays, surprisingly doesn’t look boring! Sadly, my favorite color, Emerald Green Metallic, has been discontinued.
Alfa – The Alfa is somewhat of a mix of the 3 series’ sportiness with the C-Class’ elegance. It’s a bit like an E46 where the car is athletic and sharp, but not overly so, still presenting a sense of class. While the grill is a bit unusual in its setup, with front plates annoyingly only being able to be placed on the side, I do find it unique. The off-center radar sensor is a bit annoying, and the lower intake is a bit big and, in your face, but this car is well proportioned and generally attractive. I specifically like the front headlights and side profile the most. Colors are mostly good with some nice red and whites, but there are too many grays, and honestly not that many bright or exciting colors for this car, which I feel would look good and match the Giulia’s personality.
Again, interior design is subjective, but these are my personal opinions on each.
BMW – With the G20 and many G cars, the interior has been modernized heavily. Design wise I find the interior to be very modern in comparison to the previous F30 and to bear many similarities to the exterior in its more angular and sharp nature. In typical BMW fashion, everything is placed where you think it would be. AC controls are along the top of the center stack below the vents, the 8 presets are below that, and the center console has a set of configurable settings and drivetrain options. While the center console does look a bit cluttered, everything is in its place, with parking features above the start stop button, drive modes below, the shifter and parking brake are together, and next to that is the iDrive controller. One preference would be a toggle switch rather than every single drive mode being its own button, its just too much text and requires more of a look back to make sure you selected the correct mode. Now let’s talk discuss some critiques. Design wise, this interior does not flow as well as the G29 Z4 or G05 X5. The slight raise to the passenger side looks a bit weird mixed with the sharp vent design, and overall the door panels are a bit lacking in their design, specifically the handle which looks tacked into the middle of the door. Also, unlike past generations, there is no trim on the doors, something which I think would improve the design. In my opinion, this interior looks good still, but does require some specific trim options. Avoid the Tetragon trim, as it looks fake and plasticky, and I would advise going for some brighter leather, as the black interior is simply very dark. I’d also advise some nice matte wood trim, as these make the interior look like its high price tag. The seats are overall very comfortable and adjustable, with nice bolsters and a nice design with a bunch of stitching, although seat coolers would be nice, especially at close to $70k – Remember, a Hyundai Elantra has this at $20k!
Material wise, the G20 is a bit of a hit and miss. Leather is overall very nice, but the soft touch materials are not very nice. The door tops and top dash in particular are a letdown and don’t feel or look nice. A Z4 and even X3 (which is equivalent class and price wise) has nicer door tops with what I believe is SansaTec and stitching. This would be a good option for the 3 series when the LCI arrives. The lower plastics are also disappointing. They are very much hard touch plastics, and the side of the center console could use some better materials as well as a padded knee rest instead of plastic. The window switches could feel a bit more expensive, but overall the rest of switchgear feels nice and offers good feedback. Back onto good things, the steering wheel is a high point, it’s typical BMW with its thick rimmed three spoke design and has very high-quality leather, even on the airbag cover. While I prefer the F30 M sport wheel design wise, the new one is still very good.
Mercedes – Like the BMW, the Merc’s interior is also a representation of the exterior. Inside is all curves and a more elegant design. This interior design overall looks very good and honestly punches above its class. Some highlights are the very nice-looking waterfall-esque design of the center stack, nicely flowing into the center console, and the trim choices. The matte woods are gorgeous and feel nice, although current Merc’s do like to creak when pressing against the trim. I specifically love the Black Ash Wood and Metal combo, which places gorgeous matte wood in the center stack and brushed aluminum on the door panels. This looks very nice and fits with the sporty but elegant design. A typical quirk of Mercedes is door mounted seat controls. While this may be weird at first, it works the same way, and with memory seats, it will be a set it and forget it situation. The Mercedes also offers more electronic adjustments like the thigh extension and steering wheel, which many competitors don’t. The seats are very comfortable, although could use a bit more bolstering, but do offer ventilated (not cooled) and heated seats, and overall look nice. Like the BMW, the HVAC controls are nicely placed with some nice expensive feeling and looking silver switchgear toggles, and the command system has shortcuts and a touchpad and scroll knob, which offers the best of both worlds to everyone. The shifter is column mounted, but I actually found it to be overall intuitive as it acts in the same way as most electronic shifters (down for drive and up for reverse) but frees up space in the center console. It’s very easy to get acquainted with. Switchgear is best of the three, with toggle switches covered in silver and feeling very tactile, and nice (what I think is metal) window switches and mirror controls which fit in with the more “blingy” designed interior.
Material wise, the C-Class is pretty on par with the 3 series, although top dash materials are better with leatherette and stitching being optioned, and the door panels offer more stitching and an overall better design. The lower center console is also hard plastic, similar to the 3 series. The steering wheel design is very nice, with nice metal accents, although the airbag cover could be covered in leather like the 3 series for a better appearance and feel.
Alfa –I’ll just say it, but the Alfa’s interior is definitely the worst of the three. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it’s not the best in many areas. Despite this there are some surprising areas in which the Alfa exceeds in the interior, which I’ll describe later. Anyways, about the design, overall the center stack is actually pretty attractive with a contrasting interior color, and the lines have a nice flow and curve to them, but it’s definitely dated and less coherent in its design than its competitors. One nice design feature is the infotainment is built into the dash, rather than sticking out like a tablet, something that many automakers don’t do anymore. The shapes just seem a bit weird in their appearance and don’t match the car’s exterior. The center console is the biggest offender, with too much space taken up for not that many controls. Like the competitors there’s an electronic shifter, something used to clear up space but offer functionality. In the Alfa, its very similar to Jaguar in which its placed in the center and surrounded by empty cheap plastic. It looks old and ugly and defeats the purpose of it being electronic. They might as well place a conventional shifter there. Next is the drive mode selector, and in my opinion its actually the best. It’s a physical selector, meaning if you leave the car in sport mode (known as Dynamic in the Giulia) it stays in sport, and will start that way. Other than that, the volume knob is a direct copy of Audi, and the control knob is a copy of the iDrive knob, but with less functionality. One thing I actually really like, is the steering wheel mounted start/stop button. It’s unusual, but feels more special and exotic, even if it’s just a button. Also, the paddles are large and feel nice, and are attached to the column, meaning shifting during turns is much easier.
Now, materials, this is a mixed bag. The switchgear is cheap feeling, with rubberized knobs reminiscent of the Rav4, and very mushy feeling buttons. Now, when optioned with the “Ti Leather Package” – which is worth the $1,100 asking price – the materials are transformed. The base car includes cheap feeling soft touch plastics with a very grainy appearance and cheaper feeling leather. In the higher spec’d Ti Leather Package, real soft and smooth Nappa leather with contrasting stitching is placed on door armrest, the center console, but best of all, the top dash and top door panels creating a much better feeling dashboard than the Merc and BMW and likely other competitors. This was pretty surprising to me, as this option is usually reserved for the mid-sized class (5 Series, E-Class, etc.). Also, offered on both base cars and higher optioned ones is a proper and soft knee rest, smartly placed, something the Mercedes and BMW also lack. So, while switchgear and functionality are pretty lacking in its design and feel, when optioned properly, the materials are very good, and surpass the BMW and Merc in certain areas. The seats are also nice with Nappa leather available with the aforementioned Ti Leather Package and very well bolstered feeling very grippy and more sports oriented, offering adjustable bolsters like the 3 series.
BMW – The BMW’s technology is both impressive, but also annoying at the same time. Overall the system is very similar to previous iterations of iDrive so its familiar to past and present BMW owners, but there is most definitely a learning curve with the hundreds of different things the system can do. One of the most impressive features is the 360-degree camera system. It’s clear, easy to use, and can really help parking in tight spaces. Some problems are with the usability, I find iDrive 6.0 to be easier to use and simpler to operate. Another is it’s pretty glitchy based on personal experience and numerous posts on the G-Chassis forums, and Apple CarPlay doesn’t work most of the time (didn’t work during test drive). Please BMW, allow us to use Apple CarPlay corded so we can use Google Maps and Waze, the wireless CarPlay is way more of an inconvenience, especially when paying $80 a month – seriously BMW? It’s standard in a damn Corolla. There’s also some gimmicks like the gesture control, but there’s definitely a lot of good and useful features, just maybe study the owner’s manual before you try to use them! Overall, I’ll keep it pretty basic and not go too into depth on the infotainment, but I would say that its likely the class leader in technology up there with MBUX and Audi’s (non-touchscreen) MMI system.
When it comes to the gauge cluster, it’s pretty disappointing. Every car company is coming out with these configurable gauge clusters, and BMW not only designed a more counter intuitive cluster, because of the backwards tachometer, but the cluster also has little customizability. Other than viewing the current song, g-force, hp and torque, trip, and maps, there isn’t much else. While that may seem like a lot of options, they aren’t very useful (other than the maps) and are lacking many features that competitors have. I would prefer some different gauge designs as you switch into different drive modes, like some more analogue/traditional looking gauges. Also, I’ll classify this under the technology section, but the active noise is annoying. BMW needs to give us an off switch for this, or at least tone it down. Luckily with the 6 cylinder the active noise is more “pleasing to the ears,” but it’s unnecessary, and with the turbo 4, I can imagine it becoming quite annoying during ownership.
Mercedes – The technology in the Mercedes is also impressive. While it isn’t the newest MBUX system, being the last generation, it has the advantage of still having a scroll wheel which eases functionality. It has more layers and settings hidden than BMW’s, but overall is very similar. Graphics are also very nice, although the design of the system could be a bit more modernized. The touchpads on the steering wheel are a very nice feature and allow the use of the infotainment and gauge cluster without taking your hands off the wheel, offering many different sets of controls which all do the same function.
The gauge cluster is one of my favorites as well. It’s a full screen system like the BMW, but has numerous different styles of gauges to use, from classic analogue looking gauges, to sporty center tach style gauges, even to economical style gauges. Overall there are so many ways to customize this and show different sets of information. One really cool feature (when in the central tach style gauge) is when shifting manually the display will flash shift lights when close to redline. A gimmick, but a very cool one at least.
Alfa – This car’s focus is definitely not on technology. Surprisingly, while owned by FCA, it doesn’t have Uconnect but its own system. Overall it’s easy to use, but some icons are small, and some options could be placed in different areas rather than being hidden in menus, but it isn’t very confusing, and is quite easy to adapt to. The gauge cluster is very basic compared to the Germans, but some will like the physical analogue gauges with a smaller mounted screen between the two offering just enough information.
BMW – This is the M340i’s hallmark, its powertrain. First the engine. The 3.0L Twin-Scroll Turbocharged Inline 6 under the hood – known internally as the B58 – is a shining star. This engine has incredible amounts of power, honestly more than anyone would ever really need. There’s torque for days, with only the smallest hint of turbo lag when doing 0-60 runs, but still this thing is quick. BMW quotes 4.1 seconds to 60 with xDrive, and it feels it. Because of the power of this engine, it easily pulls and is always ready to pass someone on the highway. The B58 is overall a very smooth engine – it is an inline 6 after all – with nice linear power and some great noises as well. The transmission is a ZF 8-Speed Automatic. Sadly, this is the only transmission for the first time. The transmission is generally good and shifts quite well for a conventional torque converter with downshifts being quick and effortless, and the transmission fades out of the way in comfort mode. The M340i is offered in RWD as well as xDrive which is very rear biased in this application, only sending power to the front when needed.
Mercedes – The powertrain of the Merc is also impressive. Under the hood you’ll find the 3.0L Biturbo V6 engine. This car is also very quick similar to the BMW and produces very similar figures to the B58 M340i. The engine pulls hard, and has an almost aggressive like nature, feeling smooth and quiet when in comfort mode, but ready to scream and very rev happy when in its sport mode. The exhaust sounds very good as well, mimicking the aggressive nature of the engine. Mercedes rates the C43 at 4.5 seconds to 60mph, but personally I feel that it’s quicker than that, and the C43 has been tested at as low as 4.1 seconds to 60. The transmission is an interesting story as it isn’t a ZF transmission that it seems more and more brands tend to be adopting to. Instead its Mercedes own 9G-Tronic Automatic. This transmission while not as smooth as the BMW, still can hold its own and actually produces some very crisp and sharp shifts, as well as letting out some nice exhaust burbles on upshifts, adding to the aggressive nature. Like the BMW, the transmission can also hide itself when in comfort mode, allowing for a more toned-down experience. The C43 can only be had in 4Matic form, with up to 69% of the power going to the rear. While not as rear biased as the M340i, there’s still plenty enough power to get the rear end to kick out, even with 4Matic.
Alfa – Powertrain wise, this is where the Alfa suffers due to its lack of models in the range. Unless opting for a Quadrifoglio, sadly the only engine choice is the industry standard, 2.0L Turbo 4. While this turbo 4 does have some Italian flare in its exhaust note, it still sticks out like a sore thumb with its whinier exhaust and somewhat noticeable turbo whistle. The engine isn’t the smoothest or freest revving engine either, and has a fair bit of turbo lag, and even when compared to the likes of the B48 Turbo 4 in the 330i, or Audi’s 2.0L Turbo 4, the two Germans still produce overall better 4 cylinder engines. Luckily it still has enough power for most people – although of course not as much as the M340i or C43 – with the car going from 0-60 in the low 5 second range (specs were different depending on source). Despite being down on power, the Giulia can still easily pass other cars on the highway when needed, with a nice click of the large metal column mounted paddles and a thrust onto the accelerator. The transmission of choice is a ZF 8-Speed, and like the M340i and C43 is sadly the only choice. The transmission is smooth, quick, and slick, although BMW has fine-tuned it further to produce some faster and smoother shifts.
BMW – So, is this the return of the E-Generation feel that BMWs are known for? No. Although, I honestly was not expecting a full 100% return to form for this vehicle. This isn’t to say the car is bad, because BMW has improved themselves in many ways. With the F30 generation, even the sportiest of packages, options and model choices couldn’t save the driving dynamics in my opinion. The car still had too much of a “floatier” feeling suspension, and too much lean in the corners, with no steering feedback to compensate with the handling. A car is like a dancing partner, it takes two to tango, the driver gives inputs to the car, and in return the car should perform those inputs with ease, while also being responsive and returning some feeling back whether it be in physical from or that of emotion through driving enjoyment. Keeping with the metaphor, the F30 always felt clumsy on its feet, but the G20 definitely is much more skilled and buttoned down. Body roll is much more limited (although there is a tiny bit of noticeable lean in corners) and the chassis feels more eager and stiffened than before. Is it as agile as the Giulia? No, but it is closer to how a 3 series should feel than before. The suspension is firm in sport mode when needed, but never feels overly rough, and when in comfort, the car returns to a more luxurious and isolated demeanor. Grip is very impressive as the car hugs the road nicely, and the power makes passing a simple breeze with torque instantly on demand. The rear bias nature of the xDrive system is also nice, making the rear wheels still easy to kick out whenever you want them to. The engine and transmission really shine when pushing this car. The power is always there, and the engine loves to rev out, with gear changes being instantaneous almost as quick as a dual clutch. Suspension wise the car never feels overly stiff or rough in a sense, even in the sportiest setting. It is firm (at least in sports mode), but can soak up the mildest of bumps in the road. When in comfort mode, I find the suspension to be nice and compliant, if a bit floaty, but that is fine in comfort. The steering also lightens up in comfort, a lot, so I would honestly keep the car in sports mode.
Steering wise, the car is direct, and steering is nice and heavy (in sport mode), but in my opinion, it still is lacking in feel. This can be attributed to the steering rack’s design and tuning, in simply that it isn’t actually a new rack but rather one from the F30. This is honestly a large and mind boggling mistake on BMW’s part, as they actually spent time and money to make a new steering rack (and fight back critics who had been criticizing BMW’s steering for about 8 years!) just so it wouldn’t fit in its hottest non-M version of the 3 Series. The logic on this is just a little ridiculous. So, shockingly, the cheaper and less sports oriented 330i actually has better steering feel. Another problem is size and weight. This car needs a diet badly. There is no way in getting around the car’s sheer size and weight, as we’re verging on E39 5 series size. This car almost weighs 2 tons! Yes, almost 4,000lbs! BMW spent time marketing the new 3 series and telling the press that the 3 had lost 150lbs, but that can’t be true, as an equivalent 340i xDrive (F30) weighs about 148lbs less than an M340i with xDrive! Because of the size and weight, the car doesn’t feel as agile as it could be and feels somewhat big when parking in tighter spaces. While the car is very good, this M340i could use a little more “M-like involvement” in its driving dynamics to create a more aggressive and even raw feeling to match its badge.
Mercedes – “Wow is there a big gap between the C300 and C43!” This was my first impression when driving the C43. The C300 represents what many people think of when they think Mercedes. A comfortable cruiser for an older retired man/woman is what comes to mind, and for the C300, that’s quite on point, but the C43 is so much more. Despite not having a hand-built engine, this Mercedes wears its sports division’s badge on the trunk lid, and in many ways, it mimics its older brother, the C63. When driving the C43, the car feels aggressive and ready to attack, even a little raw at times. It pulls hard and when in sport mode, the car’s chassis is nice and rigid, feeling planted to the ground, with really good front end grip. The car dives into corners with very little body roll, and the rear biased 4Matic system nicely plants the rear end to create a stable ride, but hit the accelerator and those rear wheels will be ready to play nicely. When associating joy with driving there are a few things that help create that sensation. Of course, the way the car handles is one of them, but the noise can also increase our sensation of joy. The engine loves to scream, with shifts being incredibly quick and crisp, and on upshifts, the car makes almost race car like noises, which of course, can’t help but put a smile on my face when hearing that. The car simply begs you to drive more like a hooligan than you probably should.
Onto the suspension, this is definitely the firmest of the 3 vehicles. While many reviews have stated the ride to be “back-breaking” I didn’t feel that the car was too stiff (it also probably helps that I’ve owned plenty of stiff riding BMWs), but it definitely is firm, especially in sports mode, helping create that planted feeling, so, your milage may vary. In comfort mode, things do lighten up, and the suspension is plenty comfortable enough for my taste, but it definitely isn’t going to be as comfortable as the C300 or most traditional Mercedes are, nor as comfortable as the other two. The steering in this car, like the other two is nice and direct, and has a good ratio, making the car easy to point and shoot, but not feel too “darty” and all over the place. The steering is however the lightest of the group. It isn’t VW light, but it isn’t as heavy as the Alfa or BMW, although surprisingly does have the slightest bit of noticeable steering feedback and does weigh up nicely in corners with really good turn in.
Alfa – In some ways, the Alfa feels as if it picked up right where the E9X left off. Despite the turbo 4 and being down on power, what the magazines have been saying do absolutely feel true in regard to handling. To start my list of compliments, my favorite thing about the Giulia is the steering. The steering, while not as heavy as the M340i nor as light as the C43, is the perfect goldilocks. It’s nicely weighted, and when going into a corner it firmly weighs ups and provides ample amounts of feedback through the wheel, giving a true sense of driving confidence. There is no on center dead spot, and the quick ratio makes the car feel playful and eager to dive into corners when driving. While the quick steering is a problem in the Stelvio, because of the Giulia’s lower center of gravity (thanks to being a sedan), the quick ratio creates a feeling of complete poise and agility, thrusting the vehicle into any corner and sticking to it with a great amount of grip, but still allowing the rear end to kick out when needed/wanted (as well as feeling it in the steering). The car is predictable in the best way, cornering flat, and giving no sense of body roll whatsoever, feeling light off its feet, and always ready to go down a backroad. Suspension wise, this Italian stallion is shockingly the most comfortable of the three, even in dynamic mode. Despite the stiff and rigid chassis and 19 inch wheels, the adaptable dampers do a great job of soaking up bumps, and even in dynamic mode, there is a button to set the dampers into a softer setting, while keeping the rest of the car in a more aggressive mode.
So, is everything perfect with the driving experience? No, it does have its flaws. One critique with the driving experience is the brake by wire system. The brakes feel more wooden like and make the car harder to stop smoothly, especially in bumper to bumper traffic and city driving. I’m sure maybe some time after owning the car, it can be adapted to, but it is one thing to keep in mind and to learn to modulate. Another problem is the powertrain. With this brilliant chassis you need an equally great powertrain, and 2.0L Turbo 4 just isn’t the best for the job. With its noise not being the most pleasing, nor the engine being the smoothest, it just offsets the otherwise great handling of this vehicle. When pushing the vehicle through corners, I don’t want to be hearing the whine of a 4 cylinder. Another issue with the powertrain is the low redline at 5500rpm. For a modern car, this is really low, and because of this, the gearing feels too short when pushing the car hard, as there isn’t enough time for the engine to rev out, causing more shifts in a short amount of time.
BMW – This is an overall good vehicle, with admirable improvements made throughout, and a great powertrain. Despite these great attributes, it still does suffer from many modern BMW issues like the increase in size and weight, and synthesized steering, but for a daily driver it’s comfortable but still does have a sporting edge to it. I do feel it will still divide many owners/enthusiasts on whether they think this car is enough of “the ultimate driving machine” for them or not though.
Mercedes – This isn’t your father’s Mercedes, but rather an AMG-Lite version of the C63, with an aggressive nature and great handling reflexes, the C43 is surely to excite, its stiff ride and raw driving experience, however, may be a little too much for your everyday commute.
Alfa – An Italian sweetheart, with the perfect chassis, the Alfa delivers an excellent ride, with many surprises such as communicative steering and great agility. As good as the handling is though, the powertrain is a bit of a disappointment, with Alfa really missing out on not offering a middle child V6 model between the base 4-cylinder, and top of the line Quadrifoglio. Mix in the spotty reliability and dealer networks, this creates a difficult choice in going with your head or your heart.
So, in the end which did I choose? Well, I still have yet to make a choice. I’m very conflicted, as each car is so very good and hard to choose between as they each have their own special features/abilities and all of course come with both positives and negatives. I honestly may need a second test drive to help decide. As much as I adore the Giulia, I’m not too sure on whether it will make the cut due to lack of dealers and reliability, but I definitely want to at least test drive a Quadrifoglio to see how Alfa’s hottest product stacks up.
Anyways, if you made it this far through the reading, thanks! I hope you enjoyed my perspective on three of the best choices in the compact sports sedan class.
*UPDATE from 8/13 (also on 2nd page)*
This weekend I stopped by a different Hyundai dealer and tested out a G70 3.3TT HTRAC – I wanted to test a RWD G70, but none were available – and then stopped by my local BMW dealer and tested out a RWD version of the M340i.
3.3TT HTRAC – As Tested Price: $52,495
Exterior Design wise I find this car to be quite attractive. Yes, it does mix a bit of Infiniti, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes into the design, but hey, if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best. The car overall has many good angles, but the front isn’t one of them, the grill just looks weird and feels very empty looking, and doesn’t clash well with the Giulia-esque headlights. The rear is the best angle, but I would credit that to what I believe is influence from the C-Class and older 3 series as I see a resemblance in the rear 3/4 view. On the “Sport” package, the copper trim looks weird, and the 4 series like boomerang vent is obnoxiously big, I’d go for the “Prestige” package which has normal chrome.
Interior Interior design is nice and simplistic (aside from the horrid tacked on screen), and materials are actually not bad. The leather is high quality, and the diamond pattern looks pretty cool, although some lighter color seats would be nice. I do think some wood trim would spruce up the cabin nicely. The middle portion of the dash which streams towards the center console is covered in nice soft materials as well. The switchgear isn’t the best, the buttons are mushy feeling and the knobs for the climate control could feel more reassuring rather than a bit jiggly, but everything is logically laid out. I really love the seat coolers, every car needs this, especially in the summer! Also the center console has a bit of leather padding the side, similar to a higher trimmed S4/5. Annoyingly the door panels have two different sets of aluminum trim which noticeably don’t match.
Technology Technology is too much like that of a basic Hyundai, this is likely where they were able to make the car have a lower price than its competitors. Its simple and intuitive, but looks old, and relies solely on a touchscreen, and it can be hard to reach for someone like myself who puts their seat back. Gauges are nice in that they are analogue but again, look like that of an Elantra. The biggest problem is that while Genesis ranks above Hyundai, the new Sonata is getting better technology than the Genesis. Looks like a refresh needs to come soon! One feature I absolutely love is that the synthesized engine noise can be turned off. BMW needs this on their cars!
Powertrain The powertrain is quite nice. Under the hood is a 3.3L Twin Turbocharged V6 mated to an 8-Speed Automatic Transmission and AWD, known as HTRAC in Hyundai terms. Power is very good and delivered very low in the rev range. The engine’s noise isn’t the best sounding V6 in the world, and while it may be childish, the car does lack the “pops” and “bangs” of most new car exhausts. The transmission is nice and smooth, but isn’t as good as the BMW’s ZF sourced 8-Speed or Mercedes’ 9G-Tronic, which is faster, crisper, and overall always knows what gear to be in. The AWD system is good at keeping the car planted, but of course, is still RWD bias.
Driving Dynamics Handling wise the car is drives very nicely. Body roll is kept to a minimum, with a nice and rigid feeling chassis, while still being playful enough. It doesn’t dive into the corners as eager as a Giulia, and lacks the aggressiveness of the C43 but still offers a pleasant driving experience. The car does feel light off its feet and always ready, and the low down torque at 1300 RPM definitely helps with that. Suspension wise the car always stays compliant, even on the harshest of bumps in sport mode. One problem, again is the engine noise, when going through corners, it isn’t the most pleasing to hear, albeit not the worst, but could use a nice exhaust mod.
The most disappointing aspect of the drive is the transmission. Like I said it isn’t as smooth as the BMW, but sometimes it just can’t find the right gear in auto mode. So, you think to yourself, “OK, I’ll just shift with the paddles then,” the problem is, there is no true manual mode. Despite using the paddles to indicate that you want to take control, the car will automatically up-shift, even when it hasn’t reached redline. I find this super annoying, because if I am forced to use an automatic rather than a manual, I would at least like full control of the transmission when using the paddles. Steering wise, the car is nice and direct, with a nice steering ratio, but the steering is a bit light for my tastes, feeling lighter than the Giulia and Bimmer, and closer to the C43, while also lacking feedback through the wheel.
Warranty/Price I didn’t discuss this with the other 3 vehicles, but one thing to consider with the G70 is its excellence value for money. German cars are very expensive, and if you have a lighter wallet but still want those thrills on the backroad, the fully loaded price of $52k is a steal in this class, even cheaper than a loaded and less powerful 330i. Another great aspect is the 10 Year, 100k mile powertrain warranty and 5 year, 60k mile basic warranty, which beats any other car in its class. Although, this will require a trip to a Hyundai dealer, as there is no actual and separate Genesis dealers in the US that I know of.
Conclusion This sports sedan may track its roots back to its parent brand Hyundai, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this car isn’t worthy to fight with the best of the compact class. With a comfortable interior and suspension, taught handling, strong power, and impeccable value for money, this is a great first attempt of Genesis trying to compete with the big 3. Despite this, there are some areas ready for improvement, such as dealer networks, brand prestige (if you care about that), outdated technology, and some different tuning to the powertrain.
And now, lets discuss the M340i with RWD.
While xDrive does add traction, practicality during certain seasons, and better grip, I don’t think it is the way to go with the M340i, as I find the RWD model improves the driving experience a bit.
The car because of its RWD nature, seems more playful and eager in corners, it still feels planted, but of course now its even easier to kick out the back tires. Of course xDrive makes the car faster, but driving isn’t all about 0-60 times, otherwise, I’d buy a Tesla. One perk of the loss of AWD, is that RWD models weigh about 120lbs less, which also helps get rid of some of the unnecessary weight this generation has gained. Does the car still feel big and heavy? Yes, but now the weight feels closer to the rest of the class, although I would like to see BMW make an effort in the future for further weight reduction. The weight loss and deletion of xDrive noticeably make the front end feel lighter, and the littlest bit more nimble. Another unexpected improvement was steering. I don’t know whether it was the road I was driving on, whether its different tires, or just the fact that AWD generally dampens steering feel, but I got the slightest bit of feedback with a greater sense of what the front tires were doing compared to the loaded xDrive models I tested prior. Also, I will say, I do generally appreciate how heavy BMW has made the steering weight in sports mode, as after testing the other models, the BMW’s steering is definitely the heaviest, and I always like a good heft for steering. It may not be E90 levels of heft and feel, but I can tell BMW is at least making some improvements, and I do hope they continue to try more in the next generation of vehicles, from whether it be a 3 series, X5, or 5 series, as long as constant improves are on their way. Of course one benefit of RWD is also a more engaging driving experience due to the more tail happy nature the car presents.
So, my perspective has changed on the M340i once the deletion of xDrive has taken place in favor of RWD only. And after seeing some great pictures of a fully black (color, wheels, grills) G20 3 series, I’ve now found my perfect spec for this car. (Pictures on Page 2)
In the end the Genesis, Giulia, C43, and M340i are all great cars in the compact class, with none of them being a bad choice. While the gap is smaller than ever, and some competitors do beat the 3 series in some regards, the 3 series is still more capable than the previous F30 generation, putting it back towards the top end of the class.
Last edited by joshuastein55; Today at 08:22 PM..