Proof BMW hasn’t forgotten about the good ol’ days
Words by: Adam Allen
What’s so good about the “good ol’ days” anyway? Let it go, guys.
As unapologetic nostalgists, we who call the Carpages Garage home get a wistful look in our eyes whenever people mention old BMW stalwarts like the E36/E46 M3 and the E39, among others- cars that are generally accepted as the golden age of BMW products. Before lane keeping assist and two-litre turbos were even a thing, these were the cars you lusted after if you were a congregant of the Temple of High Performance Driving. These cars exemplified a purity and an analogue tactility that we took for granted back then. One of the best things about BMW’s of these vintages was that you could use them to pootle around town comfortably, and then hours later show up at a racetrack and have one heckuva good time. Over recent years the Ultimate Driving Machine label has been stretched to include the latest in connectivity, technology and luxury- stuff the hard-core enthusiast doesn’t care too much about. Luckily, the M240i exists as a solid link to the past when driving enjoyment was number one on the engineer’s priority list.
Didn’t you say the M2 was the best modern BMW you can buy?
We did. We also said that the M2 was a more authentic driving experience than the somewhat cold but still massively quick M3/M4. The biggest problem with the M2 is that it doesn’t know quite how to relax and doesn’t care much for anything but mirror-smooth tarmac. When you just want to perform mundane tasks like running to the grocery store, the M2 thinks you are trying to set fastest lap at your local track day. For those who relish the speed and dynamic proficiency of the M2 but wish to turn down the level of ever-present aggression, the M240i is a perfect solution for them. As much as we adored the M2, we think the M240i is a better choice for everyday drivers.
The M240i pictured here exhibits a rare purity, doesn’t it?
When we walked up to our Sunset Orange tester, keys in hand, we halted right in our tracks. First, we noticed the lack of an xDrive badge on the rear decklid. Then we noticed a manual gear lever between the two front seats. Could it be? The perfectly spec’d M240i? Aside from some options we would probably leave on the table, this is the way purists would order theirs. With customers vastly preferring AWD and automatic gearbox over a manual transmission with power only being sent to the rear axle, our tester was something of a unicorn- a unicorn that goes like stink and who communicates feedback through the steering wheel and controls with an unmistakable clarity the way we miss about the old timers.
Just a guess…you enjoyed driving this one?
And how! We could fire off a torrent of Thesaurus-ready superlatives to try and articulate how rewarding this car is to drive, yet we would still come up short. Firstly, as we eluded to earlier, the M240i captures that dual-purpose usability from its ancestors perfectly. It’s docile enough to take the family along for an outing but will enthusiastically bear its teeth when you show it some corners. It features 50:50 weight distribution and rear wheel drive which allow you to appreciate the deft balance of this extremely capable chassis. The information received by the seat of your pants is decidedly old school, and we mean this in the best possible way. When exiting a corner, goose the throttle and try to wipe the grin off your face as the rear end shimmies while the tires hunt for grip. Once they find it, you’re off rocketing to the next one on a wave of torque that’s as smooth as a dram of 25-year old Scotch. The B58 engine- which in this application churns out 340 horsepower and a stump-pulling 369 pounds feet of torque- endow the M240i with nearly as much thrust that it will nearly match an M2 at the dragstrip and give it the feel of a pint-sized muscle car. The deluge of power from the honey of engine renders downshifting to make a pass somewhat redundant, but we would do it anyway just to revel in the joy of using a well-made manual gearbox. The lever has a pleasing notchiness to it as moves throughout its gates and the clutch pedal has great feel with the friction point being right where you’d expect. It features a rev-matching function that works well, but we love the dance of feet on pedals necessary to perform our own heel-and-toe shifting so we elected to turn it off. The M Sport brakes with their generously sized hardware and familiar blue calipers never once showed fade and were summoned by a pedal offering great feel. We can quantify our love for this car thusly- every so often a car comes to the Carpages Garage that we’ll take out for a drive with no destination in particular. This was one of those cars.
How’s the interior?
Admittedly, we didn’t take stock of the interior too much because we were so enamored with driving the M240i to notice. That itself is an asset to the interior- everything is where you expect to find it, and everything just works. There are a few highlights of the cockpit worth mentioning, starting with the driving position. Getting settled into this little BMW is an exercise in familiarity. The seats feel like a well-worn baseball glove and cup you in all the right places. The driving position is nigh on perfect, and it just feels right, like the designers had your exact dimensions top of mind when they were deciding where to put the steering wheel and pedals. The latest version of iDrive continues to impress even if the screen isn’t as large as you get in other BMW products and we appreciated the heated steering wheel and seats on frosty mornings.
What might go wrong?
Nothing overtly negative jumped out at us during our time with the M240i, but there were a few minor nits to pick. First in our crosshairs is the way you must shut off all the traction and stability control systems if you want to heel-and-toe without the aid of the rev-matching system. Couldn’t there be a better way of shutting the rev-matching off without disarming the electronic safety net? We’d hate to see someone get into a situation with the car sliding around uncontrollably just because they want to do their shifting for themselves. We’ve never complained about an optional exhaust system…until now. BMW’s optional M Performance Exhaust will set you back $1,500 and doesn’t offer a huge difference in sound over the standard system. Plus, it gurgles and pops when you put the car in Sport mode, but the auditory signature is the same every single time making it sound somewhat manufactured and inauthentic. Save your money for other go-fast bits, if that’s your thing. Finally, we think the M240i could use a bit of a diet. Those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but at 1,591 kilos on the scales the car could benefit from a little weight loss. With even less kilos to move around, the already fleet M240i would be even quicker.
Should I buy an M240i?
If you fancy yourself a bleeding-heart sentimentalist like us when it comes to BMW’s of yore, you must buy an M240i. Consider this as well- if you want a car that sends its power rearward, comes with a manual transmission and that will constantly put a smile on your face, there aren’t many choices around these days. You could opt for a Chevy Camaro or a Ford Mustang, but those cars lack the solidity and sophistication of the BMW, not to mention that they don’t eat up highway miles as eagerly or with as much refinement as the M240i. You may think of it as the Goldilocks car in the 2-series lineup- the 230i may be a bit weak for some, and the M2 too extreme for others. The M240i? It’s just right.
2018 BMW M240i – Specifications
- Price as tested: $57,200
- Body Type: 2-door, 2+2 coupe
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.0-litre inline-6 turbo, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 340 @ 5,500 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 369 @ 1,520 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Curb weight: 1,591 kg (3,507 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Economy: 11.3/100km (21 mpg)