It seems that the world has overcome the crisis, panic and pandemonium that BMW stirred up when the German manufacturer took the decision to restructure its model line up adding even numbers to differentiate the coupes from the sedans and hatchbacks. It meant there was a 2 series for the first time in the companies history. As you would expect, engines range from frugal four cylinder diesels and increase in power and ferocity until you hit the letter M where things get a little marvelous in the form of the M2 and its ‘look at me’ quad exhausts and gaping air intakes.
Take a step down from the tumescent bulging body of the M2 and you are met by the M240i, a car that has been worked on by the M department but to a slightly lesser degree. The 2018 model year car has been tweaked and tightened and I headed over to Germany to see what was what.
Engine & Performance
I may have been able to accommodate the new model naming structure, but I still cannot fathom the model names. I’m in the M240i and the name defies logic. Where the 220d is a 2-litre engine, the M240i is not a 4-litre but a 3-litre that was previous called the 130i then the M235i and now the M240i. I shall persevere. Under the bonnet is a 3-litre straight-six that is good for a handsome 335 horsepower. That is 30 down on the M2, but torque is identical and the M240i weighs a hefty 100 kilograms less than its bigger brother. The car I drove was the xDrive all-wheel-drive model (only available in left-hand-drive markets) fitted with the ZF automatic – praise the lord, a six speed manual is still available across the range. 0-100 is dealt with in a blindingly quick 4.4-seconds. For context, the M2 is only two tenths quicker to complete the sprint. This M240i really will give its shouty sibling a run for its money, add a little precipitation into the mix and the M2 would be left red faced struggling to put its power down.
This is where the 2018 car starts to show its worth over the 2017 model. To the untrained eye the car is very much the same. The changes are minimal but BMW say they have been made to differentiate the 1 and 2 series. As a result 2 series has a set of very smart and desperately pretty full bi-LED headlights, the daytime running lights are a huge step forward and give the car a much more intimidating look of anger. The taillights have also received a significant update, again, now full LED and compared side by side to make the 2017 look very dated. For such a compact car the M240i certainly looks more special than a lot of its rivals. There are now two 18″ wheel designs to choose from as well as two new paint finishes – Seaside Blue and Sunset Orange.
I have to commend BMW for being one of just a few manufacturers that listened to customer feedback and make changes accordingly to address the features customers thought could be improved. Being and M135i owner I have always had gripes about a few of the interior materials and their ergonomics. BMW acknowledged this was something that could have been improved and the upgrades are welcomed. Where the upper dash used to be a faux leather that felt more like plastic, the 2018 MY features a much better materials complete with sporty stitching that should have on the original M235i. The layout of the entire dash has been overhauled with a fresher more edgy look. BMW have recently been criticised for being a little boring and safe with their interiors, the 2018 MY car is a step in the right direction.
That’s not all. As a driver looking at the dials is something very important – when your eyes aren’t on the road chances are they are on the dials. The M240i has an entirely new black panel display beneath the dials and the dials themselves have been overhauled with an entirely new look. When the ignition is not on the display binnacle is plain back, hit the start button and the gauges illuminate white on the gloss black – the classic orange is no more.
iDrive has also changed dramatically. This, the 6th generation is one of the biggest updates to date with a fully functional touch screen in addition to the tradition click wheel we are so accustomed to. There is more mobile phone connectivity with Apple CarPlay and a host of applications that would with iOS. The touch screen is out of reach for many drivers, but it’s great to have the option to be able to touch the screen when stationary and makes a world of difference on applications such as the navigation maps or internet browser.
On the road
The M240i has been built to work around BMWs ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ ethos. The M Performance cars are known to provide thrills without the stiffer more track oriented setups that full on M cars are equipped with. These characteristics make themselves known very early on. The M240i rides very well and everything is very supple in the comfort mode. I had a very limited amount of time with the car so was quick to shift into Sport+ to see what the M240i would be like when pushing on. Immediately things are a lot more edgy, the exhaust is happy to make itself heard on and off throttle and the ride sharpens up. There is no doubting that the M240i is a quick car. The boost in torque means not much on the autobahn embarrass is.
Onto more twisty tarmac and the xDrive starts to make itself known. You can carry silly speeds into bends and have so much trust and faith in the car making it to the apex before stamping on the power again feeling the power shuffling around to launch you onto the next straight. It’s all very composed and very potent albeit a little blunt. If you start to take liberties under steer will have you pushing on. You would really have to trying to push the car beyond its limits before hitting chronic under steer and having to apply armfuls of lock.
When driving back on the same roads as it began to rain it dawned upon me that the xDrive car demonstrated the good and bad traits of all-wheel-drive impeccably. AWD is tremendously usable and you barely have to slow when it begins to rain. I could not help but feel I would have driven a slower but would have enjoyed the car and its rear axle being infinitely more playful.
You could argue that the M240i is all the car you could ever need. It is beyond fast enough for any public roads, it is comfortable, fun and the straight six is magnificent. You can have a manual transmission and you don’t have to have all-wheel-drive. If you want more doors there’s the M140i and if you want less roof there is the M240i Cabriolet. It is great when you think that the same engine is available in so many different flavors and at relatively modest price points. When you look at cars that are currently on the market that are configurable to such a wide range of buyers it is difficult to draw comparison. With the new interior updates and the upgrade in tech the M1/240i range is more complete and well rounded than ever before.