X marks the sport
What’s a powerful BMW without rear-wheel drive? Not as much fun.

X marks the sport

20th Jun 2021 8:00 am

Shapur talks about how four-wheel drive can undermine the thrill of driving a car with sporty pretensions.


BMW is an extremely focused brand. At its core sits the concept of sheer driving pleasure. This manifests itself in various forms. The various tag lines used over the years sort of explain; ultimate driving machine, the driving machine, the joy of driving: the permutations are endless. This isn’t just fluff. Right at the centre of BMW’s existence sits the driver. The brand serves his or her needs first. This is something you can ‘feel’ from behind the wheel, be it the wheel of a barge-like 7 Series or a hulking SUV like the X5. I’ve driven a 7 around a track and thoroughly enjoyed it. And that gen-one X5 had a steering that just made me smile.

Then there’s the car that personifies the brand; the 3 Series. The 3 actually holds the source code for all BMWs. Part of that legend is a powerful straight-six that lives to rev, a steering with supernatural amount of connect and, of course, for that tail-out attitude, the rear-wheel drive. Earlier, I would have added a naturally aspirated large-capacity engine and a manual gearbox; but hey, it’s called progress.

M-car apart we haven’t had a 3 Series in India with this basic spec for a couple of generations now. Yeah, it’s been that long. But then without warning, in comes the M340i. . . . WOW! It seemingly has everything. Big powerful 387hp straight-six, with more power than some legendary M3s from yesteryear, M-Sport suspension, M-differential at the rear and some seriously cool wheels.

Then I see the badge at the back; X-Drive. Four-wheel drive. Why? Is BMW targeting Himachal, Ladakh or is it Kashmir? Where’s the snow guys? Why give us soul-sapping four-wheel drive when you also sell a rear-wheel-drive version all over? “We wanted to give the highest spec,” says the BMW product specialist. I want to cry. “It’s also a bit faster,” he carries on. And that only makes it worse.

Yes, the fact that the car in India is slightly raised could complicate matters, and the X-Drive will be a bit more secure in the wet; but you buy an M, or a junior M in this case for entertainment. And X-Drive sort of kills it. Of course, there’s understeer; this is no drift car. I felt X-Drive held this car back when I drove it at the circuit in Portimao, and back home I wasn’t quite sure what the car was about to do in corners, once grip started to run out. And then X-Drive even numbs steering feel.

If only you could switch it off. If only. Thing is, you can. All you have to do is download an app, get an OBD 2 port connector, hit run and you’re in business. Go to xdelete.app to find out. And there are others. Whoever thought a phone could help save a BMW. But it can.


Shapur Kotwal

  • 397 Articles

Deputy editor at Autocar India.

Shapur is at the forefront of the magazine's extensive road testing activities and oversees the test instrumentation and data acquisition. Shapur has possibly the most experience among all road testers in the country.

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