BMW M240i xDrive 2022 review – can a VW Golf R really compete?
Not quite a distilled back-to-basics BMW coupe experience, but there’s no denying its capability and appeal
Until the arrival of the all-new BMW M2, this 369bhp M240i xDrive is the most potent iteration of the supposedly small 2 series coupe BMW makes. Yet, to think of it in such terms – as we will all inevitably do, given the badge on its rump – is to misunderstand this car, both on paper and out on the road. It may be smaller, but being based on the familiar CLAR platform that underpins the 3 and 4 series, it is neither that small, and definitely not that light.
You want some numbers? How about 1690kg (DIN), 369bhp between 5500 - 6500rpm, and 369lb ft between 1900 - 5000rpm. There are eight gears in the torque converter automatic box (the only transmission choice), you have to take it with four-wheel drive, and it hits 62mph from rest in just 4.3-seconds. So while this might be BMW’s small coupe, it’s actually only around 35kg lighter than a rear-drive M4, which is surely the downside of multi-segment platform sharing, although its performance doesn’t appear to be in doubt. BMW shocked us with the weight increases on the current M3/M4, but has managed to largely mask the effect of that on the road with superb engineering and development – maybe this little brother will be the same…
I’ll let you make up your own mind on the styling, but will say that it certainly attracts a lot of attention out on the road and when parked up, of both positive and negative opinions. If you want your coupe to make a statement, it certainly achieves that with its interesting proportions and unusual detailing. While it feels a relatively compact car when you walk around it, it manages to strike a fine balance between coupe-snugness and surprising practicality on the inside, where the usual BMW dashboard and interior fitments blend a solid feel with overexcitable graphics in the binnacle itself, which aren’t always the easiest to read. Overall, it’s a very, very comfortable place to spend long distance drives.
That refinement continues when you fire up the straight six, which emits a smooth, luxurious hum, adding a gentle rasp with a touch of throttle. Already, the M240i is off to a great start, because in an era of small capacity turbos, hybrids and EVs, the B58 is an engine to be savoured; it instantly makes you feel good about the car, about yourself; about spending money on the thing in the first place. It is a factor not to be underestimated.
Once on the move this car really is a small GT, with excellent suppression of wind noise and an addictive effortlessness about the way it delivers its huge performance from virtually any revs that belies its weight. In fact, it’s this turbo-fed torque, combined with the closely stacked gear ratios and the all-wheel drive traction gives the car mighty performance and hides the weight in the same way the bigger M cars now do. Rev the engine right out and it obviously doesn’t have the same ferocious top end as an M4, but it genuinely feels more than fast enough on the road. Comfort driving mode is perfect for most journeys, with a nicely judged ride quality, but moving into Sport, Sport+ and Sport Individual brings more options: I find unless you’re really ‘on it’ the Sport damping is just too agitated in terms of the dampers rebound, so I would always go to Individual and match the added noise and throttle response of sport with the comfort damping. Sport+ damping is frankly, a little silly…
The four-wheel drive setup will allow some power oversteer, but you need to be mindful that unlike a genuine M car, in this iteration the system likes to drag things straight very quickly, and the steering lock needs to be adjusted to suit. It does allow the car to adopt a classical rear-driven stance through corners though, which is really satisfying: in fact, while the M240i will take being driven hard, what feels like its natural habitat is just a tenth or two below that, effortlessly covering ground in all conditions at a very rapid rate. The steering is decent, accurate and precise enough, although not the very last word in feedback.
Prices and rivals
You may by now have built up a mental picture of this car. What at first glance seems like a disappointing recipe for a smallish driver’s coupe on account of its weight actually blends together remarkably well: the more you drive it, the more addictive and satisfying it becomes - it’s a superb all-rounder, which at £45,795 before options is only slightly more than a mk8 Golf R, Mercedes-AMG CLA35 and an awful lot less than an Audi RS3.