The BMW 1M was the best car to come out of 2011. The recipe was perfect, take an existing 1 Series coupe, and just like a Boxing Day sandwhich, use all the existing leftovers from a successful recipe to create something unique and special. The brakes, limited-slip differential, dampers, rear subframe, suspension and grippy tyres come directly from the M3 as a bolt on. The V8 powered M3 at the time we know was already a superb car, but adding handling bits to smaller car could only mean success. Power came from a revised version of the normal BMW 135i coupe and made 254 kW and 450 Nm via a six speed manual only gearbox. The result was one of the best compact M cars BMW ever made.
Fast forward to the present and a few things changed. The new 1 Series became a hatchback only, and the sedan version of it became the 2 Series which naturally meant that the 1M successor would logically become M2.
The formula was the same, take a 2 Series and pump it up with bits from the M division. Once again, the results were outstanding and you’ve got yourself one of the best compact M cars on sale from BMW. However, in the 2 series range there is a car made that is incredibly powerful yet balanced but without the full M treatment.
The car in question is the M240i. What appears to be a slightly sportier version of a standard 2 Series, with the simple addition of an M badge before its name. Under the BMW M Division sits something called M Performance. The team take a normal car and spruce it up using M Performance parts, that’s everything from cosmetic changes all the way up to exhaust sound and engine modification without going as hardcore as their friends at the M division. My test car was the convertible version and since winter is just about leaving South Africa and Spring is around the corner, it was perfect.
Let’s jump straight into the biggest talking point of the M240i, the engine. The new motor, codenamed the B58, is good, I mean really really good! In fact it has just been named Wards Best Engine 2017, and trust me that’s a big deal. In just a short space of time this engine has found itself powering versions of the 3-, 4-, 5- and 7-Series. For the M240i it makes a healthy 250kW and 500Nm of torque, will get the car to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds while returning 7.1 litres per hundred kilometres. Impressive is an understatement.
SO IT’S BASICALLY AN M2 THEN?
Not exactly, I mean one could be as cheeky to say it’s a detuned M2 which is partially correct but there’s more livability to it which is why it’s the one to have. BMW M cars are known to be hardcore, in fact most are paired with stiff and firm suspension and precise handling and power characteristics, but don’t get me wrong, the M240i is not too far off, it still carries the essence and DNA of the M2.
The ride is more forgiving as a non M edition car, the tyres have a bit more thickness to them for a smoother ride, the body work is less aggressive but still sporty and unlike the M2, you can have in a choice of coupé or like me convertible, which means open skies, sunshine and the whoosh of that glorious smooth straight six Beemer exhaust sound.
SO HERE’S THE QUESTION, IS IT BETTER AS A COUPE, OR A DROP TOP?
I have never been a fan of convertibles in general, they just seemed flimsy and pointless but trust me, did my mind change after driving this. The M240i is both stunning to drive and to look at as a coupe, but there’s just a touch of drama when you’re in the convertible and you take the roof off. You hear the roar of the engine, the pops from the exhausts during gear changes and you just get to be in an experience like no other. They say don’t mock it until you try it and for me, once I did, I was hooked. The feeling of mother nature is so much more tangible when the roof is off, your senses are flooded with the elements and for the first time ever in a long while I felt freedom on the open road.
SO HOW QUICK CAN THE ROOF OPEN UP? THE ANSWER IS LESS THAN 20 SECONDS.
The M240i is a brilliant car, sure, it isn’t an M2 but for me it’s a lot better. Nobody wants to do launch control or to drive on the redline all the time, cause once that is out your system and you settle down from showing off you begin to start living life normally that’s when this car starts to make sense. It has all the premium features, decent options and looks at your disposal while still giving you a great and smooth ride.
Tame it down with Eco Pro mode and fuel saving and easy cruising is waiting for you, while with a flick of a switch, Sport mode will give you a taste of what an M2 is like by vamping up throttle response sharply, tightening the handling and making the exhaust more shouty. The best of both worlds really.
Are there any drawbacks? Not at all, in fact to me, this is probably the best value for money two door coupe on sale today. For R818 000 with extras, M Sport Package, Harmon Kardon Stereo and everything you see on the car with 250kW at your disposal, nothing can touch this bargain from BMW right now. We all know premium German cars aren’t exactly cheap, but for the first time I feel like this could be the sweet spot we have been looking for.