Few in the automotive world would disagree that the BMW 3 Series is an exceptional compact sedan, in terms of performance, comfort, quality and value. With the introduction of the 2020 M340i, BMW engineers and designers seem to have asked themselves: How good can the 3 Series be?

BMW describes its “M” (Motorsport) designation as specific to its line of “high-performance vehicle(s) you drive every day.” The M340i is built to withstand the rigors of the racetrack, yet deliver the levels of efficiency, comfort and refinement that one expects from a BMW sedan. No, we didn’t take our test car, a M340i with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system, to the track, but we also had trouble holding it back on the highway. It felt relaxed and composed above 80 mph, about as fast as we dared to drive it.

All that speed and handling technology comes at a considerable price. The base M340i with xDrive starts at $56,000. That’s about $15,000 more than a conventional 3 Series sedan, but our test car was truly full-dress. Among its nearly $13,000 in options were $1,950 for Tanzanite Blue Metallic II paint, $1,450 for Oyster Vernasca leather, $500 for a driver-assistance package that included blind-spot detection and lane-departure warning, $1,400 for the Premium Package (heated steering wheel, heated front seats and head-up display), $2,100 for the Executive Package (automatic high beams, parking assistant plus and gesture control), $300 for remote start, $600 for 19-inch M wheels, and $700 for adaptive suspension.

There’s more, but surely you’re wondering what “gesture control” is. A ceiling-mounted camera enables the driver to control various systems by pointing or waving at the infotainment display panel, rather than touching a knob or touch-screen.

When all of those options were accounted for, the M340i’s bottom line came to $69,570.

The 3 Series is know for silky, flawlessly balanced performance, rather than raw muscle. Its 255-horsepower turbocharged inline Four moves it effortlessly, but the 3 Series weighs nearly two tons, so acceleration comes up somewhat short of explosive. The M340i doesn’t have that problem. Its turbocharged inline Six, mated with an 8-speed automatic, is rated at 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque.

We had one small quibble with that mighty power plant. When operated in the economy setting, it bogged down when we pulled into traffic at the end of the exit ramp after exiting the highway. There was nothing sluggish about its performance in comfort or sport mode, however. And its fuel economy was acceptable, given its high power and performance chops: 22 mpg city, 30 highway. We averaged 28.5 mpg, using premium unleaded gasoline.

2020 BMW M340i xDrive Sedan

Price: $69,570

Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline Six, 382 horsepower, 369 lb-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic with steering-wheel paddle shifters

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 3,968 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 19-in. M wheel

Tires: P225/40YR19 front, P255/35YR19 rear

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 17 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 13 gallons

Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline

Otherwise, the M340i was pure BMW. The driver’s seat struck a perfect balance between support and comfort, while head room in the back seat was satisfactory even for 6-foot passengers. The ride was smoother and quieter than one would expect from such a performance-oriented machine. And engineers managed to insert a very high-powered engine into this model without disrupting the essential balance and feeling of control BMW is known for.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 3 Series a Top Safety Pick for 2020.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.