GRR

The Goodwood Test: BMW M240i

26th March 2017
Ben Miles

Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.

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Heritage

A small, high-performance BMW that begins with a 2, isn’t technically an M car and has a turbocharged motor? No, this isn’t the famous 2002 Turbo that so many have eulogised over the decades, this is the M240i. While BMW will hope that the 240 is as famous in 30 years as the 2002 remains today, the history of the 2-series really began with the E87 1-series, a small five-door hatchback that would eventually spawn a coupé, which would itself eventually be spun off and given its own nomenclature as the 2-series. The F22 2-series arrived in the world in 2014 and was shortly after followed by a performance version – the M235i – as BMW pulled up just short of offering a full-blown M-car. That M235i lasted until 2016 when the long-awaited M2 finally hit the roads and it seemed as if the end was here for BMW’s high-performance-but-not-a-full-blown-M coupé. Turns out we were wrong, as the M240i burst onto the scene as its replacement earlier this year.

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Design

Not a massive amount has changed from the outgoing model. The existence of the M2 means that BMW did not want to push too outrageous a styling bent or risk moving the second-tier 2-series into the territory occupied by big brother. The 240 retains the sporty touches of the 235, a more muscular bumper, dual exhausts, a small lip on the boot lid for a little extra downforce, but other than that it is not too distinguishable from the standard car. Inside it’s the standard BMW interior, with the infotainment system poking out of the top of the dash above the heater vents, radio and climate control, all worked from BMW’s now uber-easy iDrive system. This then is the performance BMW for someone who doesn’t want to shout about it.

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Performance

Why has the M235i become the M240i? With no revisions to the architecture underneath the answer can be found in the bonnet. The well-known turbocharged, 3.0-litre straight-six has been fiddled with and now produces 335bhp (or 340PS, hence the name) rather than the old model’s 320, but it also produces 369lb ft (500Nm) of torque at just 1,520rpm, a not inconsiderable raise of 37lb ft over the 235. Those two changes make all the difference. In fact, that engine is an absolute tour-de-force, able to pull happily in any gear and very nearly treading on the toes of the M2. Extra work from BMW has meant that the lag from the twin-scroll turbo goes by almost unnoticed. If you need to pull away from something, be it a corner or someone who’s taken your BMW badge as a free reign to tailgate, there’s no grasping for a lower cog, just put your foot down and the six-pot will haul you away. But that almighty torque low down doesn’t compromise the top end, when the power comes through the engine sings its way up to the red line, and never stops tugging. In the twisty stuff, the 240 retains the outgoing model’s lively character, dancing around at your control without ever leaving you nervous to attack the road. Perhaps the only letdown is the manual gearbox, normally a boon to the purist in a car like this, but BMW’s box retains an uncomfortable level of spring, which makes the stick feel like it travels much further than it actually does, not bringing the satisfying slot we crave.

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Passion

This is not an M2, but it is definitely enough to make you wonder whether it’s worth pushing up to the top-of-the-range model. The coupe lines still look fantastic (and we’re well into GRR’s crusade to return coupes to their rightful place as the kings of cool) and the entire car is worth buying for that engine alone. It could well be the best motor that GRR has sampled in 2017, completely unfazed by any situation. Delivering that iconic six-cylinder sound and accompanied to what was already a rather good chassis it makes the M240i a brilliant drive whether you’re on country lane or motorway. Sure it’s slightly softer round the edges than the M2 and won’t turn as many heads, but the M240i will be the easier choice for many who don’t want to shout so much about the car they’re driving while still leaving hot hatches in their dust.

Price of our car: £41,575

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