The modern era of M Performance models that seem to be more and more popular these days started with the BMW M135i. The hot hatch was launched with a 3-liter N55 engine under the hood and some small add-ons thrown in for good measure. Even though, over the years, more and more models came out under the M Performance umbrella, the ones that received the most praise were, without a doubt, the small ones, either in hatch or Coupe guise. Among them you’ll find the M235i and now the M240i.
The BMW M235i was, for a while, the best BMW you could buy, an honest to God, affordable front-engined rear-drive coupe you could own with a manual gearbox. This is what BMW knows best and this is why it was done just right, prompting some publications to even call it the best Bimmer the Germans launched in the last decade. The people over at Consumer Reports gave it an impressive 98/100 in their tests and the car was the king of their chart for months until the Tesla Model S finally took its place.
All of this high praise meant that BMW really had to be careful with what came after the M235i was retired. Their answer? The BMW M240i which came around just last year. It was a sort of mild facelift in 2016, one that brought forward new engines and on-board tech but no noticeable changes in terms of design. Why? Because only this year the high-wigs in Munich decided to launch the proper facelift for the 2 Series range.
Therefore, we could say we’re dealing with a two-stage facelift here. First, the 2 Series range received new engines and new tech on-board, like the iDrive 5.0 system interface but without the touch-sensitive screen. The M235i was also replaced by the M240i and other engines were pulled out of production and replaced with new-age B-family mills as well. This year however, the second stage of the LCI came around and the 2 Series range got new headlights, new taillights and a touch-sensitive screen inside, even though many will rarely use it, simply because the iDrive rotary knob is so good at navigating through the sub-menus that you’ll find reaching for the screen a bit unnecessary. But I digress.
From the outside it’s quite easy to separate a pre-facelift model from the current versions. The facelifted BMW M240i comes with a fresh design up front, one featuring more angular and sharper corona rings which look absolutely stunning and give the car a more aggressive vibe in my opinion. Round the back, the taillights also got a new design and are now sporting LED elements as well. They too are an improvement over the outgoing model that now seems simplistic by comparison.
The M240i comes with the M Sport package as standard and that means that the seats will feature Alcantara on the sides.
Those differentiations apply to all 2 Series models but the M Performance versions also get a couple more standout features. If you’re ever in doubt, all you need to do is pay attention to the car in front of you. The M240i comes with Ferric Grey accents in the front bumper’s side air intakes while the side mirror covers wear the same color in standard guise. Round the back, the two tailpipes, one on each side of the bumper, with their black chrome tips are also a dead giveaway as should be the M240i badge on the boot. Since that could be missing though, the door sill badges and the illuminated M240i in the dash are there to stay and those are also clear indications you’re in the presence of an M Performance model.
Inside the cabin the changes were kept to a minimum with everything being roughly the same with one essential change: the instrument cluster. Unlike the outgoing model which used orange lighting for the rev counter and speedometer – needles included – the new M240i comes with white dials and white needles. One interesting tidbit I noticed was that the needles would turn red at night, a rather nice touch that really makes things stand out. The iDrive system also comes with a touchscreen now but since it’s located on the top of the dash and the rotary knob on the center console does such a great job, you’ll spare yourself the trouble of leaving fingerprints on the glossy surface of the screen most of the time.
Since we’re talking about the cabin, I should also point out that the M240i comes with the M Sport package as standard and that means that the seats will feature Alcantara on the sides, hexagonal textile finish on the centers and Anthracite roof lining, just like our tester here. The seats up front also offer great support in all situations and are comfortable despite seeming a bit too harsh at first.
What was truly surprising though was the fact that you could sit two grown adults in the back without having to sever their heads. The space is a bit limited but there’s plenty of room for adults up to 5’11” in there, but only two of them as fitting three would be a stretch. The car was also quite practical as in it offers a large boot with 490 liters of space, big enough for the luggage of four adults going on a road trip.
The straight six engine under the hood is the literal beating heart of this car and it turns it into an uncomfortable rival for cars like the Audi TTS and the Porsche Cayman.
But all of this is boring and the chances of people buying this car because it’s more practical than its rivals are slim, at most. The real spectacle begins when you turn the BMW M240i on. Press the brake pedal and then the start button and you’re met with a deep growl that lets you know this is still a 6-cylinder beast you’re dealing with here, one that’s about to get extinct, unfortunately.
The straight six engine under the hood is the literal beating heart of this car and it turns it into an uncomfortable rival for cars like the Audi TTS and the Porsche Cayman among others. The N55 is now gone and instead BMW decided to go with a B58 mill tuned to make 340 HP and 500 Nm (369 lb-ft) of torque. The twist is delivered from just over 1,500 RPM and that means the car cruises along effortlessly in almost every urban scenario you can imagine. Furthermore, those numbers unfortunately make the BMW M240i a menace even for BMW’s own M2.
In case you forgot, the purpose of M Performance models is to fill in the gap between the ‘regular’ versions and the M cars sitting at the top of the ranges. Well, in the 2 Series line-up things are a bit complicated especially because of how good the M240i is. To be more precise, the 0-62 mph sprints are something customers are mostly interested in and things don’t look good for the M2.
The M car does 0-62 in 4.3 or 4.5 seconds, depending on your choice of gearbox. The problem is, since the M2 is rear-wheel drive, you’ll have to know what you’re doing and have great traction off the line in order to reach the claimed figures from BMW. Despite having Launch Control on the DCT model, you might be surprised to learn that the M2 can spin its tires when launching and therefore finish the sprint slower.
That’s not the case with the M240i, especially since you can get it with xDrive. We put the car to the test and even filmed the launch with a slow-motion camera and caught virtually no slip when setting off with launch control enabled. Therefore, the BMW M240i xDrive with the ZF 8-speed gearbox will deliver the claimed 4.4-second dash to 62 mph a lot more often and consistently than the M2. That’s not all though, it will also outrun its main rivals from 30 to 70 mph, as its 369 lb-ft of torque will help out even when you’re doing a rolling start drag race.
Of course, the BMW M2 will outrun the BMW M240i xDrive on the track thanks to its superior chassis and suspension setup along with its M Active rear differential. But then again let’s be honest! How often do you track your car? Alas, how would you fare on a daily basis with the stiffer suspension setup of the M2?
That leads me to yet another one of the surprising facts I discovered about the BMW M240i during my time with it: you can easily live with it as a daily driver. It’s a comfortable ride if you go for the adaptive suspension and it will change its character accordingly if you go into Sport mode, the dampers allowing some vertical travel but not a disturbing amount, the car keeping its composure even over rougher and uneven surfaces. The biggest issue I could find with it was the amount of body roll it has when pushed hard into tight corners, as this model is a bit on the heavy side, xDrive and all considered, tipping the scales at 1,610 kg (3,549 lbs). However, as I said, that was the one and biggest gripe I had with it.
At the limit, the BMW M240i with xDrive holds its own brilliantly.
Other than that, the steering is precise but sometimes a bit too heavy in Sport mode, while the steering rack is fast, allowing you to have precise control over the car’s movement. Sure, a bit more feedback could’ve been useful but since this is an EPS we’re talking about here, we can’t ask for miracles. What surprises even more is how much traction the car has at all times and just how brutal the shifts are in Sport mode. The 8-speed mimics a double-clutch brilliantly and I just loved the way I got kicked in the head when pushing this beast hard, no matter how funny that sounds.
And as far as running costs go, you really shouldn’t worry about it. The car we sampled returned around 13 l/100 km (18 mpg) around town while outside the city limits we saw readings of 9 l/100 km (26.1 mpg) if we kept things decent. The thing is, considering just how good this thing sounds in Sport mode with the pedal to the metal, you’ll have a hard time keeping yourself composed and restrained. You’ll also have a hard time keeping your license as triple digit speeds happen in what seems like a blink of an eye, this being truly fast car in every situation.
At the limit, the BMW M240i with xDrive holds its own brilliantly. Push it into a corner, brake late and yes, you’ll notice a bit more body roll than you might expect but then again, just as you press the gas pedal to the floor you’ll notice the silver lining of sending the power to all four corners of the car: you’ll rocket out of the corner.
I know this is still a heated debate but if we’re really honest with ourselves, while I personally might tend to prefer the M2 because I actually go to the track every once in a while, the M240i with xDrive will offer most people enough thrills to make sure they will never regret going for the M Performance model instead of the full-on M, all of it on public roads. Sure, on a timed lap, the M2 will win every time but in order to do so, the skill of the driver must match the demands of the car.
And that’s yet another thing that may convince some people to go for the M240i. With all-wheel drive they will feel a bit more confident and won’t be scared of trying to push the car to its limits. Furthermore, when that limit is reached, they are more likely to keep their composure with all-wheel drive than with a RWD setup.
In the end I’d love to say that the M240i xDrive is just as good as the M2 and that it would be the perfect budget choice for the enthusiast but that simply wouldn’t be true. The M2 is still the better car and by a noticeable amount. However, for your day to day chores and if you’re not exactly planning on going to the track anytime soon, the M Performance choice would be a perfect surrogate for your adrenaline needs.