Adding five digits to the outgoing M235i has created the 2017 BMW M240i Coupe – and almost symmetrically it has added 10kW and 50Nm of torque to its engine in the process.
BMW’s fabulous 3.0-litre turbo six-cylinder has in fact switched to a new generation that offers 500Nm from 1520rpm until 4500rpm, up from 450Nm between 1300rpm and 4500rpm. Power jumps to 250kW at 5500rpm, rising from 240kW at 5800rpm.
The 0-100km/h claim drops two-tenths to 4.8 seconds for the manual tested here, or 4.6sec for the eight-speed auto. Yet BMW has also snipped the M235i’s price by $2600 for the M240i. And if that’s not enough, it has piled in extra equipment as well.
In every regard this M-Performance coupe appears more persuasive than before.
Vehicle Style: Performance coupe
Price: $74,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 250kW/500Nm 3.0 6cyl turbo petrol | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.8 l/100km | tested: 12.6 l/100km
The $74,900 (plus on-road costs) M240i gets a sweeping array of additions compared with the outgoing M235i, including LED adaptive headlights, automatic parking assistance, keyless auto-entry with power-fold mirrors, Harman Kardon audio system and electrically adjustable front seats with heating.
On the safety front, forward collision and lane departure warnings, and low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are also new.
The M240i also gets the same equipment as the $99,900 (plus orc) M2, while including higher specification than the manual-only $89,900 (plus orc) M2 Pure.
So, is this the new performance BMW bargain?
- 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, satellite navigation with real-time traffic information and 12-speaker, 360-watt Harman Kardon audio system
- Options Fitted: Sunroof ($2600)
- Cargo Volume: 390 litres
Inside the M240i now feels more like a premium coupe, rather than just a fast and sporty one. Although this cabin starts life in a 1-Series, and still can’t quite deliver the lush plastics and trim properties of an Audi product, in other ways this BMW scores.
The standard sports seats are low-slung and grippy items, as they should be in a sports coupe. Perhaps the coarse-grain Dakota leather trim could be higher in quality for the price, but BMW reserves its high-grade Merino leather for 3-Series and above. At least the blue stitching is in keeping with M-Performance theme, matching the dashboard trim and even remote central locking key.
Fresh piano-black and silver trim lifts the four-year-old dashboard design only moderately, and the dual-zone climate controls oddly (and madly) lack a ‘sync’ button, leaving a driver travelling alone to manually adjust two temperature knobs.
From the classic orange speedometer and tachometer to the thin-rimmed steering wheel and pleasingly old-school manual handbrake lever, the M240i nails the basics and should please drivers in the ways that count.
Adding premium audio and multi-way electric seat adjustment also lifts the perception of value, while the 8.8-inch colour screen gets new iDrive iD5 software that simply pushes BMW further ahead as the segment benchmark for infotainment.
Not only do the high-resolution screen graphics appear slick, but usability between phone/nav/media is intuitive while the voice control system is a rare gem among systems that all too often get it wrong.
Disappointingly, BMW charges $479 extra to have Apple CarPlay installed.
The company rightly argues that its system is good enough not to require standard smartphone mirroring technology, but buyers should be given the option without forking out half the cost of a MacBook for the privilege. We can also confirm that the Pandora internet music streaming app works better via CarPlay than BMW’s system.
Even so, this compact coupe is otherwise surprisingly practical for its size and two-door configuration.
Rear legroom is competitive with a typical small sedan or hatch, although if seating for five is required then the M240i’s $10K-cheaper M140i hatchback sibling is available as an alternative. Headroom is squeezier, with the head of this 178cm-tall tester brushing the roof; although it is more generous than the ‘four-door coupe’ Mercedes-AMG CLA45.
The boot – complete with 60:40 split-fold functionality – is about the same size as an average hatchback, but the aperture is obviously narrower given the rear glass doesn’t lift with the bootlid.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 250kW/500Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: six-speed manual, 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
BMW previously had on its test fleet an M235i equipped with a mechanical rear limited-slip differential (LSD) that added $5390 to the pricetag. In return, however, the rear axle felt far better planted and controllable during spirited driving.
Since then the BMW M2 has arrived adding to that recipe with wider tyres and retuned steering. So where does this leave the manual-equipped M240i, which in the case of this test car lacks the expensive LSD option?
Well, BMW insists that the M240i is a performance all-rounder compared with the hardcore M2. It points to the extra equipment, and then to the standard two-mode adaptive dampers; the more expensive M-car gets tough, single-setting suspension.
In Comfort mode the M240i can feel a fraction soft and squidgy over chopped-up urban arterials or backroads, but its compliance is excellent for a sporty car. Sport only tightens proceedings slightly, maintaining far better control of its body and wheel movements than the standard setting, while remaining more silken than an M2.
The steering is lighter and not as crisp as that top BMW compact coupe, but it’s still a nicely tight and quick system.
The Michelin Pilot Sport tyres and M-Performance brakes ensure the M240i has the grip and stopping power to complement its strong performance.
With a rich surge of power underfoot at any time, the creamy and linear boosted straight six-cylinder is wonderful. It is more appealing that the brash four-cylinder Mercedes-AMG engine, with only Audi’s five-cylinder coming close for aural appeal.
Perhaps the new engine is keener to rev than the old one, but only a back-to-back test could reveal the differences; BMW clearly aims to make all of its engines with similar characteristics.
Although we know from experience the vastly more popular eight-speed automatic is one of the best units around, the six-speed manual fits this compact, rear-drive coupe to a tee. A long-throw but impeccably tight shift, teamed with nicely spaced pedals, is a driver’s dream.
Likewise, the ability to adjust the M240i’s cornering line on the throttle is something reserved for only a top-notch rear-drive chassis. The Sport+ stability control setting feels more liberal than before, but the lack of an LSD still means exiting really tight corners requires patience – or the power can overwhelm the outside rear tyre.
Ultimately, an M2 is far more explosive and epic through corners. But only the M240i can play cruiser and bruiser while being smoother and quieter.
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side and curtain 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 coupe segment.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
An RS3 is cool and characterful, with a more lush cabin and more explosive bark; but it lacks the BMW’s dynamic intimacy. The CLA45 is now smoother with standard adaptive suspension, but its drivetrain remains flawed – sluggish around town, hi-po in the country – and its packaging is inferior to even the two-door M240i.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It may not feel as richly appointed as some price-point rivals, but the BMW M240i blends together equipment, comfort, driveability, performance and dynamics better than any preceding model and most current rivals.
For those who want a bargain, a $10K-cheaper M140i five-door hatch makes more sense given it basically drives the same as this M240i. Meanwhile, enthusiasts will want to stretch to the hardcore M2 Pure.
BMW provides many alternatives, although the M240i particularly with a manual gearbox still remains in many ways a stellar proposition – regardless of sibling rivalry. It is a reminder of how rare it is these days to keep a driver connected and involved, but also relaxed. Among its own and rivals alike, it stands confidently on its own.