Summer is approaching and the 2017 BMW M240i Convertible rather appropriately debuts with an extra sprinkling of spice under its bonnet.
The $83,900 (plus on-road costs) M240i Convertible – as with its $9000-cheaper M240i Coupe sibling – replaces the M235i in the compact BMW 2 Series range, and those extra five digits in its name are joined by another 50Nm of torque.
A revised 3.0-litre turbo six-cylinder now produces 500Nm and 250kW (up 10kW). Claimed 0-100km/h acceleration quickens by three-tenths to a brisk 4.7 seconds.
Yet the M240i Convertible’s price drops by $2600 while simultaneously scoring extra equipment. Adaptive LED headlights, keyless auto-entry, electrically adjustable front seats and Harman Kardon premium audio all become standard for the first time.
Vehicle Style: Small convertible
Price: $83,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 250kW/500Nm 3.0 6cyl turbo petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.4 l/100km | tested: 11.5 l/100km
BMW’s M240i Convertible arrives alongside an updated version of its nearest competitor, the similarly nip-and-tucked Audi S3 Cabriolet.
Audi’s 213kW/380Nm turbo four-cylinder rival remains $12K cheaper – although multi-mode suspension and premium audio are optional, and a 5.3sec 0-100km/h claim is slower.
Meanwhile, it takes a $110K-plus Porsche 718 Boxster automatic (with optional SportChrono package) or a $130K-plus Mercedes-AMG SLC43 to merely keep identical pace with the M240i Convertible. Both roadsters only seat two, too.
In that light the BMW appears to offer a convincing blend of drop-top space and pace. We already know that every 2 Series offers fabulous engines and dynamics, but is anything lost when the roof is whipped off?
- Standard Equipment: cruise control, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, leather seat trim with electrically adjustable and heated front seats, automatic on/off headlights and wipers and automatic dimming rear-view mirror
- Infotainment: 8.8-inch colour screen with USB/AUX inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Spotify and news/weather/Google app connectivity, digital radio tuner and satellite navigation with real-time traffic information
- Options Fitted: None
- Cargo Volume: 280 litres minimum, 335l maximum
A newly boosted equipment list finally helps the flagship BMW compact drop-top feel like a premium model inside.
Quality leather trim – ‘fake’ leather is reserved only for the entry-level $58,300 (plus orc) 220i Convertible – mixes with a nice blend of light and dark plastics, and suprisingly tasteful woodgrain trim on our test car.
Although plastics and switchgear quality isn’t to the standard of an Audi S3 Cabriolet, the BMW gets the finer points and major aspects of the cabin just right.
The high-resolution colour screen is the highlight, with BMW’s excellent new iD5 iDrive system featuring voice control, satellite navigation and digital radio to join the impressive sound system.
The front seats are supportive and comfortable, with standard heating that should be mandatory on every roofless vehicle, and the twin rear pews are more accommodating than many (if not all) rival convertibles and cabriolets.
The backrest isn’t too upright, legroom is decent and air-vents perfectly blast cool air at the passengers most likely to fry under the sun.
When the five-layer fabric roof is lowered (in just 20 seconds via the remote on approach to the vehicle or at up to 50km/h) there is, of course, infinite headroom. However, when raised the M240i Convertible offers limited side vision, causing a claustrophic atmosphere, while the head of this 178cm-tall tester brushes the fabric.
Even a technically larger BMW 4 Series Convertible or Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet are barely better in this regard, though. Only the recently released Range Rover Evoque Convertible clean-sweeps every rival in this segment with superb under-thigh support, legroom, headroom and vision for rear riders.
Meanwhile, boot volume is just ahead of a Mazda2 light hatchback with the roof down (at 280 litres), and a Mazda3 small hatchback (335l) with the roof up.
Otherwise, for buyers who aren’t speed demons it may be worth noting that the middle-tier $71,900 (plus orc) 230i Convertible near-mirrors the cabin feel and equipment of this M240i Convertible; with the exception of adaptive LED headlights and Harman Kardon audio offered as part of a $2535 Innovations Package.
While the turbo four-cylinder 230i isn’t slow, with a 5.9sec 0-100km/h claim, there are other engineering details it misses out on (see below).
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 250kW/500Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: eight-speed automatic, RWD
- Suspension: aluminium double-joint strut front, five-link independent rear, adaptive dampers
- Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
It may mostly be about what is – or isn’t – above craniums with a drop-top, but BMW has clearly worked hard on what happens underneath the roof-carved M240i.
As with the hard-top, the M240i Convertible gets two-mode adaptive suspension (a $1400 option on 230i Convertible), variable-ratio ‘sport’ steering and 225mm-wide front/245mm rear 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tyres that are very grippy.
Immediately impressive, though, is the body rigidity of this 2 Series Convertible.
Extra performance aggression and suspension firmness seems to have little effect on the steering’s ability to remain tightly connected without wobbling, and the windscreen pillars’ steadfast resistance to quivering.
We know from experience that an S3 Cabriolet is markedly inferior for torsional rigidity compared with this M240i Convertible.
In the transition from tin-lid to fabric-top this BMW has added 145kg, however, shifting to a 1690kg kerb weight – a large sports sedan-like figure that could seem impossible to reconcile for some pragmatists, given the space and practicality deficit.
The two-mode adaptive suspension feels as though it works harder than in the lighter coupe, too, a point that became clearer with passengers on board.
A back-seat rider complained the suspension felt too hard around town in the Sport setting that this tester regularly defaulted to. Why? Because in the alternative Comfort setting the steering is a fraction loose on-centre and suspension rebound control can be soft enough to elicit the barest hint of shake through the front end.
Still, it is an impressive compromise.
Likewise, the performance from the creamy-sounding turbo six-cylinder is mighty once wound up, but Comfort mode delivers soft throttle response that makes the M240i feel less responsive than it should off the line.
Again, Sport clears things up and allows the lush delivery of the maximum 250kW (at 5500rpm) and 500Nm (from 1520rpm to 4500rpm) to shine.
The eight-speed automatic is incisive and immediate, intelligent and smooth, but either way don’t expect to get near the claimed combined cycle fuel consumption of 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres – we saw 11.5l/100km in mixed conditions.
Guiding the immediate and medium-weighted steering through corners is always a pleasure, though, and the chassis remains keen. The corner-exit push that comes only from a powerful rear-wheel drive car continues to be the highlight of a vehicle that, in dynamic terms, loses little compared with its $9000-cheaper coupe sibling.
Only a limited-slip differential (LSD) could further enhance its cornering abilities, but it is a hefty $5390 dealer-fit option that would noticeably tighten the connection between the rear wheels when they start to lose grip and slip. Few buyers may need to go this far, though, particularly when the Sport+ stability control setting is so subtle.
Equally, however, it’s nice to know when paying almost $85,000 for a new car that the M240i truly can play sports coupe and cruising convertible with the greatest versatility – and few on-road compromises.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side and rear-side protection, ABS, ESC, pre-collision and pedestrian warning, lane departure warning, low-speed autonomous emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors, surround-view camera
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited km
Servicing: Condition-based servicing (CBS) costs $1218 over five years or 80,000km, which is competitive in the premium small convertible segment
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
An S3 offers similar performance, greater cabin class but with less impressive body rigidity and dynamic ability – although it is cheaper. An Evoque Convertible, meanwhile, mixes off-the-pace performance and dynamics with an outstanding interior that seats four in impressive comfort.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
BMW may have flipped the lid on its M240i sports coupe, but it has thankfully kept the lid on the attributes that make the hard-top such a great performance car option.
The combination of a syrupy turbo six-cylinder, impeccable transmission and sophisticated adaptive suspension helps successfully disguise the kerb weight addition and slight body rigidity subtraction of this M240i Convertible.
It’s a great drive, yet a comfortable one – at least for those in the front seats – and with newly added equipment for a lower price, this BMW forges a strong case for travelling topless very quickly this summer.