With the ever-growing proportions of the BMW 3 Series, BMW purists surely appreciated the introduction of a smaller model which gets back to the basics of a compact, rear-drive car with a powerful engine. Of course, I’m referring to the 1 Series which was introduced in Canada back in 2008. With the brand’s new naming structure of even numbers for coupes and odd numbers for sedans, the 1 Series eventually became the 2 Series and remains a less expensive alternative to the 3 Series.
Manual, rear-wheel-drive sports cars seem to be a dying breed (particularly for all-wheel drive-crazed Canadians), so you can imagine my surprise when BMW made one available to us Canadian journalists to evaluate.
Clad in Sunset Orange paint, this BMW M240i is a looker and will turn heads just about everywhere you go. The answer to the question you’re thinking is NO, this isn’t a true M car despite having M in the name and M badges affixed to the vehicle. Unfortunately, BMW has chosen to muddy the waters a bit here in an effort to sell more vehicles. The M240i can be thought of as an “M-inspired” variant of the 2 Series but it’s not an M2, which is something entirely different. They’ve done the same thing with the M550i, M760Li, X3 M40i and X4 M40i.
Questionable naming aside, what the M240i delivers is driving in its purest form. Its cockpit fits the driver like a glove with everything in the correct position. The shifter, steering wheel, pedals, infotainment system dial and seating height are all exactly where they should be. From the throaty growl coming from the exhaust to the stiff clutch pedal to the wonderful feel of the shift throws, it begs to be driven hard.
Power is delivered via the ultra-smooth turbocharged, 3.0-litre straight-six to the tune of 335 horsepower and 368 lb.-ft. of torque. Right off the bat on the low end of the power band, it excels admirably all the way up to the redline. 0-100 km/h times are reported to be around 4.8 seconds with a quarter mile in the high 12-to-low 13-second range.
Putting the vehicle in Sport mode stiffens things up quite a bit and makes for a race car-like ride. You’ll feel every bump in the road just as it should be. I would have liked the exhaust to open up a little bit more, but I suppose I can’t have everything. BMW would prefer you purchase an M Performance exhaust from them instead. The electronic steering gives decent feedback from the road so there are no complaints there either.
There is a beautiful rev-matching feature where the throttle will engage on its own for a seamless downshift without having to do anything. It’s a marvellous tool that works exceedingly well for those of us who never mastered the heel-toe manoeuvre.
BMW interiors are known to favour function over form, but this is a bit too overly dramatic. BMW M-style three-spoke steering wheels are a thing of beauty and so comfortable to the touch. The leather seating surfaces are second to none and everything else feels about as well made as it could be.
What BMW really has going for it is the iDrive system, and in particular, the rotary dial located next to the handbrake. It allows the driver to browse the system’s menus with minimal movement and—more importantly—keeping your eyes near or at road level. It remains the perfect placement for a dial and other manufacturers would be well advised to follow.
There were some quirks about the interior that I’m going to point out, but I’ll preface them by saying they are very minor and wouldn’t affect my decision to purchase if I was in the market. The first was the lack of an indentation in the door armrest with which to grab and close the door. Upon entering the vehicle, you must grab the forward handle, but this is awkward because it’s too far forward to provide the necessary leverage to easily close the door. It’s as if the handle on your bedroom door was located beside the hinges.
The second was how many button presses it takes to shut the vehicle off. If you push the engine start/stop button, the radio and electronics remain on until you push it again. It just makes a quick exit a little more difficult. It also raised the likelihood the radio remains on while you’re walking away from the car. Again, not the biggest deal, but something I’d like to see change.
While the base 2 Series starts at $38,050 before freight and delivery charges, the M240i starts $47,300 with the manual transmission. You can get it with all-wheel drive, but then you need to ditch the manual because the xDrive system is only available with the sport automatic transmission at $51,100.
The M240i represents a good deal for people not fond of the ever-growing 3 Series. For around the price of a base model 3, you can get this package of fun which will push you back into your seat at your heart’s desire all while remaining a respectful daily driver.