Clearly, the idea to introduce a more attainable sub-brand to sit beneath the iconic M-cars was an inspired move. For those of you that don’t know, an M-car is developed by BMW’s M division and usually has a bespoke engine, brakes, body kit, suspension and features versus the regular models on which each is based.
An M Performance car is lightly breathed upon by the M division but is still built and developed by BMW. Then, you can specify your standard BMW with an M Sport pack which adds sporty cosmetic touches. Recently, I had a chance to drive an M240i fitted with a few tasty M Performance options.
M Performance looks
The question I was asked most during my week with the M240i, was whether it was a better buy than its more athletic sibling, the M2. From a styling perspective, the M240i certainly doesn’t match the M2 for sheer aesthetic drama. Its less blistered wheel arches, narrower track and more vanilla front and rear bumpers are certainly more understated.
My tester was fitted with 19-inch M Performance alloy wheels, updated black kidney grille, carbon fibre boot spoiler and side mirrors along with an M Performance sticker along the side skirts. It’s safe to say that the car looked incredible and certainly bridged the gap between itself and the M2 visually. The press vehicle is also based upon the updated 2-series, which means there are revised LED head and tail lamps, as well as an updated air intake.
Inside, it would be tough to distinguish the M Performance car from a 2-series equipped with the M Sport pack. Keen observers will note the M240i badge on the door sills and the same logo in the instrument cluster. For me at least, the understated interior works well because this is a fast road car and not a real M-car.
The interior also benefits from the 2-series’ updates, in the form of the latest iDrive infotainment system and subtle tweaks to the general layout, which the brand claims places more emphasis on the driver. Overall, the interior and exterior of the M240i strikes a wonderful balance between being a sports car and providing relative comfort and restrained aesthetics.
Any performance-oriented BMW product has to feel special when you drive it, and the M240i certainly provides the acceleration and rear-wheel drive thrills you’d expect. In the ride quality department, I did find that the low profile tyres made the ride a bit harsh on some of our imperfect roads, but overall, compliance is admirable for a sporty car. In terms of handling, the car feels well set-up for the road, grip levels are great and steering feedback is respectable.
There is a noticeable amount of body roll though, yet the press vehicle did come fitted with an otherwise optional limited slip differential. The brakes also don’t feel as up to the task of hard driving as the M-cars we’ve tested. If you’re after a car that does the track stuff, the M2 is still the better bet.
On a more positive note, the powertrain in the M240i is a masterclass in usability, elasticity and performance. The latest all-aluminium B58 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six motor produces 250kW/500Nm and is mated to a sports-optimised version of the ZF-sourced eight-speed Steptronic gearbox. The press vehicle was fitted with the optional M Performance exhaust, which rumbles and gargles on the overrun and provides a deeper, more traditional BMW in-line-six exhaust note.
Expect 0-100km/h to come up in 4.6 seconds while the top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h. That’s only marginally slower than the M2 and during independent performance testing, it has been shown that in terms of in-gear acceleration, the M240i and M2 are almost identical, a massive boon for the M Performance machine.
The M240i is one of my favourite BMW models currently on sale. I feel that this model encapsulates what the brand is all about; driving fun that can be used on a daily basis.
The engine and gearbox feel eager to take on dynamic driving situations, but also settle down nicely and can do the daily commute with ease while the styling both inside and out reflects usability, simplicity and a degree of modernity. Also consider the fact that it is over R270 000 cheaper than an M2, which is rather substantial.
Price: BMW M240i Coupe AT - R719 102