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Is the BMW M340i Touring worth the P2-million premium over the 318i Touring?

Yes, but only for the right person

Is the P2-million price difference between the two variants worth it? PHOTO BY FRANCIS AGUILA

As soon as the new wagon models were launched, I knew I had to get behind the wheel of the BMW 318i Touring and the M340i xDrive Touring. So, I hit up BMW Greenhills on Saturday morning, just in case they had a couple of units I could check out. And wouldn’t you know it…they did.

While the 20-minute test drives wouldn’t reveal everything about these two slick grocery-getters, it was enough for me to answer an interesting question: Is the M340i really worth P2 million more than the 318i?

The 318i Touring has a healthy feature list for its price tag. PHOTOS BY FRANCIS AGUILA

First up was the 318i Touring. The unit had a Mineral White exterior with a Tacora Red interior. It’s a combination that I probably wouldn’t have thought of, but it works. The massive curved touchscreen panel is great, as is the switchgear layout, which is very familiar BMW.

The wireless charging dock is a great touch, too, and I took advantage of it and charged my phone while on the road. The one major complaint I have is the lack of analog AC controls, which have to be accessed through the AC control submenu via the touchscreen panel.

The 318i is for those who want a comfortable, no-frills grocery-getter in the city. PHOTOS BY FRANCIS AGUILA

Once on the road, I immediately understood the target customer for the 318i Touring. With its light steering and the soft suspension tuning, the 156hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine would be most at home zipping around the metro. The 318i was obviously designed for someone who specifically wants some European refinement, a lot of tech, and extra boot space for your daily commute.

That said, the 318i isn’t an enthusiast’s car. The engine felt lacking on an open stretch of road, and the suspension didn’t inspire confidence around low- and medium-speed corners. The 318i Touring knows what it is, and that’s a comfortable city runabout in a well-cut suit.

On the other hand, the M340i offers more performance-oriented changes inside and out. PHOTOS BY FRANCIS AGUILA AND SAM SURLA

The M340i xDrive Touring, like the 318i, was also Mineral White with a Tacora Red interior. The ride height didn’t seem to be much different—maybe lower by half an inch at most. But that is all they had in common. Never mind the visual cues: M Sport bumpers, 19-inch wheels, red M calipers, and Shadowline blackout exterior trim. Ignore the meatier M-badged steering wheel and the supportive sport seats.

The difference is truly felt when you get rolling. And man, what a difference. All it took was 10m, and my first thought was: “Now this is what a BMW is supposed to feel like.” The steering is weighted perfectly, with more than enough feedback from the front tires without needing excess effort.

The chassis is solid but supple, allowing you to feel the road without being jarring or harsh. Driving on EDSA at commuting speeds, it did not feel like the M340i xDrive Touring made any sacrifices in comfort in the name of performance.

The M340i xDrive Touring is for the traditional BMW enthusiast who wants a wagon that can pull double duty as a sports car. PHOTOS BY FRANCIS AGUILA

Once on the open road, you start to feel just how special the M340i xDrive Touring is. A little squeeze on the right pedal is all it takes for it to spring to action. The 374hp and the 500Nm are all present and accounted for, and overtaking is a breeze whether you are starting from 30km/h or 60km/h—and probably more, but there was no way to test that safely while in the metro.

Those massive upgraded brakes give you full confidence that you will come to a stop when you need to. Most important, it feels like an extension of you, with sharp and decisive response to every input. On the same bends that the 318i felt a bit detached, the M340i reveled in.

The answer boils down to what kind of person you are. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

So, back to our question: Is the M340i xDrive Touring worth all that extra money? In other words, is it worth the equivalent of a Mazda 6 Wagon (which is one of my personal favorite cars) on top of the 318i Touring?

Truthfully, it’s still a difficult question to answer, especially since these were such short test drives. But I think I got enough seat time in these cars—and a ton of seat time in some of the greatest BMWs—to draw a few conclusions.

On one hand, if you have your heart set on a BMW wagon but are just going to drive it around town, then go for the P3.89-million 318i Touring. It’s a great-looking car inside and out, packed with all the tech the modern driver could ever want.

But is the M3 Touring's price premium really worth double? We can only imagine. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

On the other hand, if you can afford the P5.89-million price tag on the M340i, and you are the kind of person who will go on a back-road drive or an epic road trip, then, yes, it is absolutely worth it.

The driving dynamics, the feel, and the power are far, far more engaging than its four-cylinder sibling. The highest praise I can give it is that, when you are out on a spirited drive, you forget that it is a wagon. The M340 xDrive Touring feels more like a proper driver-focused sports sedan, which is what, in my opinion, BMW does best.

This brings me to another question: I wonder if the M3 Competition xDrive Touring is worth nearly double what the M340i xDrive Touring is?

Francis Aguila

Francis is an affable lover of watches and cars, particularly BMWs from the '80s and the '90s. He represents Brembo, Sabelt and Alpinestars in the Philippines.