TEST DRIVE: BMW M240i xDrive — A Modern BMW 2002?

It's refreshing BMW still makes the M240i which is among the best from the Bavarian brand

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When I first read the press release for this new generation of BMW M240i, I was actually sort of surprised with how heavy-handed BMW was with its implication that the new 2er was a spiritual successor to the iconic BMW 2002. It mentioned, several times, that this new 2 Series was heavily inspired by the original 2002, even suggesting that the single-halo headlight design was to honor the classic ’60s two-door sedan.

Unfortunately for the 2 Series, BMW’s initial implications set sky high expectations that I was nervous the M240i wouldn’t be able to meet. So you can imagine my eagerness, but also my apprehension, to drive it. I was excited but also a bit nervous, as I was expecting something good but hoping I wouldn’t be let down. After spending a week with it, and putting quite a few miles on it, I’ve come to understand the new BMW M240i and where it fits in the brand’s history. Is the new M240i a reincarnation of the BMW 2002? No. Am I let down, though? Also, no.

It Has the Look

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The new BMW 2 Series is an odd looking car. From some angles, it looks fantastic; like a proper BMW sports coupe. From others, it’s awkward and lumpy. There are some really nice details and designs but also some head-scratching ones. I can’t decided if I actually like it or not, as I like some parts of it but not others, to almost an equal extent. I guess I’m indifferent. However, it does have many correct BMW design elements that make it a fitting addition to the 2002’s lineage.

Up front, its wide, mustachioed kidney grilles are a breath of fresh air. While they’re not the best looking kidney grilles of all time, compared to the front end of the BMW M4, they’re downright gorgeous. They’re also quite clever, as BMW replaced the traditional vertical slats with active aero shutters. Rather than placing the active shutters in between the slats, as per usual, BMW simply took the plastic vertical slats out, leaving only the active shutters to create the traditional look. So when the slats are closed, the grilles are flat panels. When open, they look like typical BMW grilles. Neat.

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Compact and sports stance

The headlights are cool, too, with the single-halo design genuinely evoking the look of the 2002. Also honoring classic BMWs are the upright windows, the Hofmeister Kink, and the short overhangs. Without question, it looks like a BMW, which is something that can’t be said about the M4, which looks sorta like a Mustang that took two cannonballs to the face.

That’s not to say there aren’t bad elements of its design. The hood bulge just looks wrong from the side, like it’s stuffed the front of its pants with a sock. The taillights also seem like afterthoughts, which is disappointing considering the headlights look good. However, my test car redeemed all of its visual faults with its color — Thundernight Metallic.

Never before have I had a press car whose color did so much of its visual heavy lifting. The BMW M240i could look like a Pontiac Aztek but I’d still love it for its outstanding metallic purple paint. BMW deserves high praise for not only offering Thundernight Metallic but offering it on a non-M product, allowing more customers to spec it.

Predictable Interior

This is gonna be quick. Ever seen the inside of a 2 Series Gran Coupe, 3 Series, or 4 Series? Then you’ve seen the inside of the M240i. Its interior design is 90-percent identical to every other affordable BMW, so don’t expect anything visually interesting. It’s still built to BMW’s frankly absurdly high quality standards and it feels like a bank vault inside. But there are few noteworthy aspects of its cabin.

However, there are two things worth mentioning. One is the odd light panel in the doors. For some reason, there’s a small, black, plastic panel on the inside of each door which illuminates. This is optional though if you order the car with the ambient lighting. It’s fine but it might seem superfluous to some.

TEST DRIVE: BMW M240i xDrive — A Modern BMW 2002?
Driver-oriented design

Then, there’s the back seat. It’s tiny. I’m only 5’9″ and about 165 lbs (Christmas cookies may have added a few more pounds) and I like to sit relatively close to the steering wheel. And yet, I couldn’t sit behind myself comfortably in the M240i. Which means only small children can use the back seat but most small children that would fit back there would need a child’s seat anyway and those only fit if the front passengers lack, ya know, legs.

Does it Feel Like a BMW 2002?

Of course not. The original BMW 2002 was brilliant to drive but its steering was glacial compared to today’s sports cars and it was slow enough to bore James May. The new BMW M240i xDrive is nothing of the sort. Its steering is tight and responsive, with a quick ratio and immediate reactions. Its front end is surprisingly sharp and accurate, lending the M240i a wonderful wieldiness. But while it’s not as numb as the M440i Coupe, it’s not exactly communicative. Still, it’s one of the best non-M steering setups from BMW in a long time.

It’s also bonkers-quick. The M240i’s 3.0 liter turbocharged inline-six (B58) makes the usual 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque but it feels like it has 100 more horsepower than that. Without a doubt, the new M240i xDrive would lunch a previous-gen M2 Competition on the road. But it’s not just fast. It makes a fantastic noise (even if some of that is fake), responds more immediately than almost any other turbocharged engine in the world, and delivers power with a refinement that belies its performance.

BMW nailed the chassis, too. It’s tight, composed, and playful, without ever feeling either sketchy or too serious. If there’s a downside, though, it’s that it’s almost too capable. To coax a bit of a slide out of the all-wheel drive M240i, you have to push it a bit harder than is safe on public roads, even with traction control in its MDM mode, simply due to its immense grip. My test car wore Michelin PS4 tires in mid-December, not ideal temps for PS4s, and it was still glued to the ground. Still, the M240i feels nimble, sharp, and engaging, more so than any other BMW that isn’t a genuine M Division product.

I’m also thrilled to report that it rides well. Modern BMWs have a tendency to be too stiff, bouncing across rough pavement like a jackhammer. The M240i does no such thing. It’s ride is supple and compliant for a sports car. It’s not soft and there’s little body roll but it deals with bumps surprisingly well for a car with such a short wheelbase and surprisingly heavy curb weight (how did BMW manage to pack 3,800 lbs into such a small car?!).

Best Daily Driver Sports Coupe?

That might seem like a bold claim, as there are several excellent options for sports coupes that are usable enough to be daily driven. However, I think it might actually be true. The only cars in the segment that can claim to be daily driver sports cars coupes are the Mustang, Camaro, and, if you spend a bit more money, the Porsche Cayman. However, the M240i offers a blend of performance, handling, ride comfort, daily practicality, cabin technology, interior quality, and cost that’s hard to match.

The new BMW M240i is a car I can’t help but like. It’s not perfect; the back seat is too small to be useful, its interior is a bit boring now that we’ve seen it a million times, and it’s still a bit pricey; but it’s a car that I’m glad exists. At this point, I think a sports coupe like the M240i is a bit of a niche car, as it’s not as good of a sports car as some potential rivals — think Porsche Cayman or C8 Corvette — nor is it as practical as other performance cars for the money — Audi RS3 or even the BMW M340i — but it’s one of BMW’s better driving cars in a long time and that should be celebrated.

Modern BMW 2002?

TEST DRIVE: BMW M240i xDrive — A Modern BMW 2002?
Likely the last of its kind

Is the new BMW M240i a spiritual successor to the original 2002? Of course not. The 2002 was a revolutionary product that reshaped the minds of car enthusiasts across the world, teaching them that small sports coupes could provide some of the very best driving experiences you could find, while also offering everyday practicality. The new M240i doesn’t revolutionize anything, nor does it bring anything entirely new to market.

Instead, it’s the last in a long line of cars, the final distillation of what’s always made small BMW coupes so great. It isn’t as groundbreaking as the 2002 (it never really could be, if I’m honest) but it’s a car that reminds me of why BMW is so great. Small sports coupes might be irrelevant today, with more customers focusing on sporty sedans and crossovers, so it’s refreshing that BMW still makes them and the M240i is among the best from the Bavarian brand in a long time.

2022 BMW M240i Coupe

Exterior Appeal - 8.5
Interior Quality - 8.5
Steering Feedback - 8.5
Performance - 9
Handling - 9
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 8.5
Price Point - 8

8.6

Small sports coupes might be irrelevant today, with more customers focusing on sporty sedans and crossovers, so it's refreshing that BMW still makes them and the M240i is among the best from the Bavarian brand in a long time.