2018 BMW M240i: the Way Things Were Meant to Be

Strong points
  • M2 performance at a lower price
  • Compact dimensions
  • Near-perfect weight distribution
Weak points
  • Expensive
  • Tight rear bench
  • Electric power steering
Full report

There was a time at BMW when things were rather straightforward. If you wanted a sports coupe, you got a 3 Series. If a sensible, overachieving midsize sedan was your thing, you got a 5 Series. And if you were the CEO of a large business who needed to get driven around places, you got a 7 Series. It was a simple and honest lineup of cars.

Nowadays, however, Bavaria’s finest has expanded into a plethora of sport utility vehicles (six in all!), coupe sedans, sedan coupes, coupe crossovers, and a few convertibles thrown in the mix. The 3 Series, BMW’s “compact” car, may still be a solid performer, but its wheelbase is longer than a first-generation Toyota RAV4’s. Let that one sink in for a minute.

Passion and soul then, is lost at BMW, many will argue...

Hold on a minute. Granted, BMW has expanded its lineup to create and fill niche markets for the sake of increasing profits. And it’s working for the brand. But behind all the corporate shenanigans, BMW also sells simple, straightforward, ultimate driving machines. And the 2018 BMW M240i is one of them.

Photo: Caleb Gingras

Big Engine in a Small Car

I’ll avoid the auto journo clichés relating to the fact that the M240i is “almost an M2.” Yes, in this trim, the 2 Series dashes from a standstill to 100 km/h in roughly 4.5 seconds, almost as quickly as its performance-oriented brethren, but for about 10 grand less. It’s impressive indeed, and proof that there are still some market niches left to fill.

But this is the classic big engine in a small car formula, and BMW has been doing it for years. There’s nothing surprising here, yet, although this is a recycled idea, it’s the execution that truly impresses. Not many carmakers perform this as well as BMW does.

Power comes from the carmaker’s corporate 3.0-litre, turbocharged inline six, the same one as in the 340i, but tuned to deliver slightly more power. In this application, it pumps out a stout 335 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s only 30 horsepower shy of the almighty M2, but the torque figures are identical. The M240i can be equipped with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is also available. My tester was a RWD variant with a six-speed manual gearbox. In other words, this is the purest BMW 2 Series available.

Remembering the E46 M3

Driving the M240i reassuringly reminded me of what was, in my opinion at least, the best BMW M car ever made, the E46 M3 sold between 2000 and 2006. And that’s because both cars share similar specifications. That old M3 only weighed 1549 kg, while the M240i checks in at 1619 kg. Both develop about the same amount of horsepower, but the M240i pumps out an equal 100 lb.-ft. of torque more than that naturally aspirated M car. So it’s actually a tad quicker.

The 2 Series is also a much better balanced platform as the larger 3 Series. Its steering feel is also largely superior. Sure, it’s an electric unit, which means it will never be as reactive as a good old hydraulic setup, but the 2 Series doesn’t get the awkward dead on-centre feel of its big sister’s wheel.

On the road, the M240i is much more docile than an M2, with longer gear ratios that allow it to carry speed effortlessly in all gears and a better sorted-out, less nervous adaptive suspension which makes long road trips far less punishable than in a full-on M car. The massive torque also means you can short-shift the thing and hang onto a higher gear for improved fuel economy, which, in Eco Pro mode, is impressively thrifty. I managed to record a 9.8 L/100 km average. Not bad for a 335-horsepower performance coupe!

And the performance really is this car’s dominant factor. Dump the clutch from a standstill in Sport+ mode with traction control off, and the car simply squats and goes. The levels of grip are incredibly high, steering is confidence-inspiring, and the power delivery is so effortless that you’d better keep a close eye on that speedometer, because you’ll be flying much faster than you’re legally allowed to be in a jiffy.

But it’s really when pushed hard that the M240i reveals an entirely different driving experience as the M2. This thing isn’t really a tail-happy machine, contrary to what many will believe. Instead, it grips hard in a corner in a polite, efficient fashion. Sure, you can get the rear to slide out, but that’s not its thing. It’s more of a fast cruiser than a “hold my beer” tire-smoking bully.

Photo: Caleb Gingras

Confined and Spartan

As a driver’s car, the M240i is almost perfect, and in the sport compact car scene, I’d personally favour it over any hot hatch. But the car isn’t perfect. Its flaws mostly come from the 2 Series as a whole. Although it is a cheaper, more usable and comfortable alternative to the M2, the car still sells for an entry price of $47,300 before freight and delivery charges, but remains a compact two-door coupe with a tight cabin and near-useless rear seats.

There’s also the fact that fit and finish is quite a bit more spartan and not as plush as the rest of the BMW lineup. After all, this is supposed to be the “affordable” Bimmer. If you’re looking for comfort and luxury, there are larger, better appointed German or even Japanese alternatives at this price point.

But hey, that’s not why the M240i exists. It’s here to be driven, and we are forever grateful BMW even sells the thing. So please, wear the 2018 BMW M240i like you’d wear a brand-new leather jacket. Head out into the countryside, row through the gears, rev that butter-smooth German engine, and appreciate the throaty exhaust note as you drive the hell out of your premium coupe. Trust me, your soul will thank you for it.

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