IT COULD be argued that BMW has sullied the good name of the 2 Series in recent years. The dullard 2 Series Active Tourer is, let’s be honest, not fit to live up to the name, what with its front-wheel-drive chassis and family-friendly interior. I mean, sure, you might need something as roomy and practical as this to haul your kids around in, but want, desire and passion don’t really come into it, do they?
The 2 Series Gran Coupé is a little better, we suppose. It’s still (usually) front-wheel drive, but it is actually fairly good fun to chuck about — unsurprising really, as it’s based on the impressive 1 Series hatchback. Its styling, though… the front’s OK, but the back end is really un-pretty.
Thankfully, BMW has a salve for this 2 Series angst, and it’s called the 2 Series Coupé. This one isn’t front-wheel drive. In fact, mechanically, it’s not really a 2 Series. It uses the same chassis as the 3 Series and 4 Series, so it comes with either rear-wheel drive, or in the case of this sporty M240i that we’re testing here, four-wheel drive.
Actually, it would be better to say that it’s the other 2 Series models, the ones riding on the front-wheel-drive platform (which is shared with, whisper it, the Mini Countryman) are the ones that are not proper 2 Series at all. They’re just borrowing the name, basking in the reflected glory. This, the 2 Series Coupé and especially this 368bhp, turbocharged, straight-six-engined one; this is the proper one.
Exterior design and rivals
The M240i certainly looks the part. It’s not a classically pretty car (not much of BMW’s current output really falls into the ‘pretty’ column, now does it?), but it’s certainly more handsome and taut of surface than the 4 Series, so the 2 Series Coupé surely represents a return to form from a BMW perspective.
In fact, it also represents something of a return to the past. While not really a ‘retro’ design as such, BMW is being up front in saying that the styling of this new 2 Series Coupé has been directly influenced by the classic 1970s 2002. Now, the 2002 was, technically, a two-door saloon and not a coupé, but then that’s kind of the aesthetic that the new 2 Series has aped. With its distinctly separate bonnet and boot and that turret-like roof and glasshouse, it looks appealingly upright and jaunty.
The M Sport additions that have been granted this M240i model really help. Look at those distended wheelarches, which — entirely without accident — give the M240i something of the mean, aggressive, wide-arched look of a 1970s rally car (and which pay some small homage to the blistered arches of the tearaway 2002 Turbo as well). The way those arches, from the rear, stretch down and out from the windows looks great, and they frame the kicked-up boot lid nicely.
At the front, the styling is a little less successful. We’re delighted to see that BMW has kept a horizontal kidney grille rather than the puckered-up face of the 4 Series (the grille has active cooling flaps built into it, too), but the huge front airdam, with its big triangular cut-outs, looks a little over the top, if we’re honest.
Also, if you’re looking at the front of this car and thinking it doesn’t seem quite right, that’s because of the headlights. Instead of the more recently traditional four-lens BMW lighting setup, the lights of this M240i are single element units (LED lights are standard, and BMW’s Laser Lights are an option). Again, that’s a tribute to the original 2002, but it looks a little strange at first. Maybe it’ll prove a grower.
Definitely a grower is the gorgeous metallic purple paint of our test car. BMW calls this shade — wait for it — ‘Thundernight Metallic’, which is either a hero from a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon or the best name for a paint, ever. We now officially want all our cars painted this shade, even though it’s a £595 option.
On the technical front, this new 2 Series Coupe is 105mm longer, 64mm wider and 28mm lower than its predecessor, and that’s noticeable in how much less pinched and upright it looks, relative to the old 2 Series Coupe. The wheelbase is longer, too (up by 51mm), while the front and rear tracks are wider (up by a whopping 64mm at the front on this M240i).
The M240i also gets a black aero splitter at the edge of the front bumper, along with 19in alloy wheels (standard 2 Series Coupés get 18in rims) and an M Sport boot lid spoiler. The brakes also get an M Sport upgrade, as part of the £300 extra M Technology Pack, with four-piston front calipers gripping bigger discs, and finished with M logos and a choice of red or blue paint. You can also upgrade the M240i’s badges to the colourful 50th anniversary of the M division roundels, which’ll cost you an extra £300.
What’s the M240i up against? Well, it’s in a class of its own at the moment — no-one else is offering a compact coupé like this, although the four-door Audi RS 3 is probably its closest current foil (albeit much, much more expensive and with an extra 30bhp) while the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35, less powerful and more affordable, is a reasonable rival too.
Interior and practicality
Inside, the M240i carries over much of the same cabin fixtures and fittings as you’ll find in a 3 Series or 4 Series. Arguably, that makes it feel a little less special inside than it might do, but the upside is that you get excellent quality levels, and an easily explicable cockpit layout.
The M240i gets screens, of course — there’s a 12.3in digital instrument panel right in front of you, and a 10.25in infotainment screen in the centre of the dash, mounted up high. Underneath that are —blessings and praises — proper physical controls for the heating and air conditioning, which are much, much easier to use when driving than controls integrated into a screen.
Further down and back, on the centre console, there’s the rotary controller for the infotainment system (more on that in a minute) and the button that allows you to switch between Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro modes. The M240i, being an M Performance car rather than a full-on M machine, doesn’t get the little red M1 and M2 quick-access buttons, as seen in the M3 and M4, to quickly flit between different settings, but that’s OK — we quite like the M240i’s relative simplicity in that regard.
The front seats are high-backed buckets, which in and of themselves are rather good — they’re firmly supportive and comfortable, but the driving position does feel a touch high, almost as if you’re sitting in the attic while the pedals and gear shift are down by the front door, so to speak. The driving position is also slightly, but annoyingly, offset.
In the back, the M240i — and the rest of the new 2 Series Coupé range — benefits from that extra 51mm in the wheelbase, and space in the back seats is actually pretty reasonable. It’s not massively practical but adults will fit, even if they’ll have to squeeze in past the flipped-forward front seats. There are also only two seats in the back, with a storage area and armrest in between, and there’s no option for a centre-rear seat nor accompanying seatbelt.
The boot, although shallow, is 20 litres larger than that of the old 2 Series Coupé, and its loading lip is 35mm lower than before, so in spite of this car’s sporting intent, everyday practicality has not been totally overlooked. It’s happier taking squashy bags than big suitcases, though.
The rear seats do split and fold as standard, too — that was an option on the old model.
Technology and safety
The 10.25in screen in the centre of the dash uses BMW’s version 7.0 iDrive software, not the ritzy new 8.0 system enjoyed by the likes of the electric i4 and iX. That’s OK though — the existing software is still one of the better infotainment systems, and its tile-like menu interface is pretty easy to get your head around.
That said, BMW has slightly overloaded the ways in which you can interact with and use the system. You can use the classic iDrive click wheel on the centre console (arguably the best way to use the system when on the move as it means taking your eyes off the road a little less), or you can press and poke at the screen itself. Or you can use the buttons on the steering wheel. Or you can use the ‘Hey, BMW’ digital voice assistant. Or you can use Amazon Alexa. Or you can connect your phone, either Apple or Android, to the car and access some functions remotely. Or you can waggle your hands around in front of the screen and try to use ‘gesture control’, but this is largely a hiding to nothing, as it doesn’t do much (just radio volume, really) and does it inconsistently. It’s nice to have the choice of how to interact with the software, but possibly this could all be made a little simpler.
You can have an impressive head-up display, which projects onto the windscreen, as part of either the £1,250 Technology Pack, or the £1,900 Technology Pack Plus, but it’s disappointing to note that the advanced ‘Driving Assistant’ safety package is a £1,000 option.
Performance, power output and acceleration
The M240i uses the same B58 turbocharged straight-six engine as the M440i Coupé and Gran Coupé, but it does without the mild-hybrid system used by those two cars. That makes no difference to the maximum outputs — 368bhp (the same power output as the old M2), along with a matching 368lb ft of torque.
That makes this smaller car slightly less economical than the larger models (BMW quotes 34.9mpg overall, and we managed 29mpg on our test), which is a bit of a shame.
At least the lack of the hybrid bit means that weight is kept under control, although with its standard four-wheel drive the M240i still weighs in at a substantial 1,765kg.
That weight has not blunted acceleration, though. Thanks to all that torque, and the traction advantage of the xDrive four-wheel-drive system (which sends all of its power to the rear wheels unless it absolutely needs to send some to the front) the M240i sprints to 62mph from rest in just 4.3 seconds.
Okay, so a full-house M4 Competition has that beaten, and we have no doubt that the forthcoming M2 Coupé replacement will trounce it as well. It’s beaten, too, by the current Audi RS 3. Even so, with the standard-fit eight-speed automatic rifling through the cogs (shame there’s no manual option, but you can’t have everything) and the landscape being sucked behind you, it’s hard to imagine that you might actually want to have a faster car on the real-world road.
Top speed? The usual electronically-limited 155mph, and while it’s meaningless in the UK, we did manage to hit that speed, and sit happily and steadily maintaining it, on a limit-free stretch of German Autobahn.
What makes the M240i’s performance really enticing, though, is the sound. Augmented through the stereo speakers in Sport mode it might be, but the straight-six’s bass-rich timbre is a wonderful way to stress-test your eardrums, and the way that rises to a classical shriek as you near the redline is little short of glorious. This is what an engine should sound like.
Ride and handling
One crucial thing to note is that adaptive dampers for the M240i are a £500 option, and that might be critical for UK buyers. On the ultra-smooth Bavarian asphalt of our test route, the M240i felt pretty firm, kicking and bucking slightly over what poor surfaces there were, and never feeling anything other than stiffly sprung.
Quite how that will work on a lumpy UK B-road remains to be seen, but we suspect that even with the adaptive dampers set to their softest, this is never going to be an easy rider. That may push it beyond the pale for some owners.
Which would be a shame, because ride aside, this is one of the most purely fun and engaging BMW models in many years. It inherits the excellent steering from the 3 Series, which is perhaps a touch light and rubbery at times, but which has — by the standards of electrically-boosted power steering systems — exceptional feel and feedback. You’re never left in doubt about what the front wheels are up to, nor how slippery or grippy the surface under them might be.
That clever xDrive system means that this is effectively a rear-wheel-drive vehicle most of the time, until you need to be bailed out, and that combines with the M240i’s taut dimensions to produce a car that attacks corners rabidly. In fact, it feels just a little like those seventies rally cars from which it’s borrowed its wheelarches — you pinch and punch your way to the apex, using short, sharp inputs on the steering wheel. Once there, you then stamp on the throttle pedal, letting the four-wheel-drive system take the strain, and rocket your way up to the next corner. Pace notes, read by a co-driver, would actually be helpful.
That’s not to say it’s a sideways-to-victory hooligan. In fact, you have to make real and concerted efforts to get the rear tyres to unstick, even on slippery corners, but when you do the M Sport differential, which controls how the back wheels receive their power, allows you to control any slide with almost millimetric precision. It’s a heady combination of high-tech assistance mixed with old-school engineering, and it makes for fantastic fun on the right road.
Pricing and on-sale date
The BMW M240i costs from £48,045 on the road (the regular new-shape 2 Series Coupé starts from £36,555) and it’s on sale now.
Verdict: BMW M240i review
The M240i is terrifically old-fashioned. It’s more two-door saloon than coupé, really, and for that alone we love it. The fact that it combines just the right amount of power, with a chassis that can not only easily cope with that power, but encourages you to take the occasional liberty, means that it delivers old-fashioned thrills and enjoyment, too.
Cars aren’t really supposed to be this much fun, especially in this kind of way, anymore. We’re certainly glad that the M240i is. It’s most definitely the one, true 2 Series.
- After reading this review of the 2022 BMW M240i xDrive Coupe, you might want to see our review of the 2021 BMW iX
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