Now that the mighty BMW M2 is here, you might overlook the 2018 BMW M240i Coupe. That’s unfortunate, because letting the medium-heat 2 Series slip by you would be a big mistake. This is still my favorite practical, comfortable, two-door, performance luxury car currently on the market.
(Full disclosure: BMW wanted us to drive the 2018 M240i so badly that it dropped one off with a full tank of gas at a garage in Manhattan and let me go and collect it for a weekend.)
I say “still” because the 2 Series is getting old. Born as the replacement for the 1 Series coupe, it’s been on the market since 2013, and in that time your Jalopnik staff has done every conceivable thing in it, from track days to road trips. It lacks some of the tech and polish you find in newer BMWs, like the more modern interiors and semi-autonomous highway driving.
Thankfully, despite the current crossover apocalypse, a new 2 Series is in the pipeline, which could keep the rear-wheel drive and everything. Some buyers may want to wait for that one.
But you don’t have to worry yourself with all that for now. The current one is still very much worth considering.
The M240i is the sharpened up version of the standard 2 Series: A rear-driven sports coupe that can be had with either an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. It replaces the M235i, but that was such a small ripple of news that it probably passed most people right by, unnoticed.
Look, everyone is buying SUVs. This is a fact. But apparently people are buying so many of BMW’s SUVs that it also has the resources to make fun, little coupes with manual transmission options as well.
Now, say you want a German, two-door sports car that’s compact but still practical for a weekend trip or to shuttle a few other people over a short distance. You want it to be fun but not land-you-in-jail-quick fun. And you want to be able to drive it every day without shattering your pelvis. What do you end up with? This thing, my friend.
The M240i is powered by a turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline-six. BMW says it makes 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, which is quite a bit for a little car weighing a reasonably modest 3,500 pounds.
And yes, the naming is totally illogical. The car is not a true M car, despite the numerous ///M badges plastered all over it. I also cannot, for the life of me, work out what the 40 refers to. Just know that BMWs with the 40i moniker now mean that they have the straight-six engine.
The sound that engine makes is one of the best parts of the whole car. It’s got this great burbly rasp that gets buzzier as the revs climb. It sounds like a sports car—what a BMW should sound like.
You can put the M240i into Sport mode, which wakes up the throttle response, hardens up the suspension, bites the brakes harder and leadens the steering feel. I had no problem with any of those things except for the steering.
The M240i’s steering in Comfort mode did not, of course, offer the same kind of feedback that a hydraulically assisted system would, but it wasn’t bad. Still a little numb just off-center, when you first start to turn in, but otherwise crisp and precise on twisted roads and especially after the car got above 20 mph.
The problem arose when I turned it to Sport mode. The steering was suddenly much heavier, and not in a good way. It just felt like any other adjustable electronically assisted system, where the steering takes on unnecessary resistance when you put it in the Misbehave mode. That extra effort you have to put into turning the wheel isn’t translated into any kind of reward, either. It’s no more direct than in Comfort mode... it’s just harder to turn the wheel.
And while the front seats were comfortable and offered a lot of legroom, the back seats were decidedly cramped. For short trips, they are doable, but for longer trips, they can start to get claustrophobic. And if you are over five foot, 10 inches, you’ll bump your head on the ceiling.
Therefore, the back is best suited for children, short people or voiceless cargo.
In Comfort mode, the M240i is an overwhelmingly agreeable daily driver. The brakes are strong but don’t bite so hard that your stops are jolting. The suspension absorbs a good bit of the road’s harshness, but isn’t so pillow-soft that you’d find yourself looking for a snooze on long highway stretches.
The coupe’s petite size (which isn’t even that petite, everything else is just huge) makes it manageable to park and squeeze through tight spaces. Visibility is great, so you can see pretty much everything that is happening around you.
The trunk is perfect for a weekend getaway for two. Two medium-to-small sized suitcases, two backpacks and a tuxedo in a garment bag, laid across the back seats, filled up the storage space in the car during our weekend trip to attend a friend’s wedding.
Despite my gripes with Sport mode, it was still the preferable way to configure the car. The exhaust took on a crackly personality upon letting off the gas, the transmission kept itself in a gear too high and the piped-in straight-six noises got louder. I’m one for the dramatic flair and all of those tricks worked on me.
The M240i is a classic example of an engine not outrunning a chassis. We get so caught up in incredible horsepower figures—600, 700, 800—but we also need to remember that that kind of power is completely unusable on normal roads, which is where we spend most of our time driving.
The M240i is by no means slow—it will hit the triple digits in nearly no time at all and has plenty of passing and merging prowess—but the act isn’t so simple or achieved so quickly that it becomes a thoughtless event. It still takes effort and time, giving you an opportunity to process what is happening.
The chassis feels tight and tidy in higher-speed corners and the steering, though heavier, still does its job of translating all of that information up through the column and into your hands.
Even though the gearbox wasn’t BMW dual-clutch setup, the eight-speed ZF is a wonder to behold. Flawless with both its upshifts and downshift, the transmission snaps into a new gear so quickly thoughts of having a DCT are chased quickly from mind.
Because this gearbox is what connect you to the engine, after all: The wonderfully smooth straight-six. Incredibly torquey, the M240i, with this excellent powerhouse driving its rear wheels, always feels at the ready and eager to dig into its power. If there is turbo lag, it isn’t that noticeable, either.
It’s not a track monster, but it does know how to let loose and have fun.
At $49,245, the M240i at first might seem to cost too much. But when you stop and consider that it’s a luxury German sports coupe with a fantastic engine and a sharp gearbox, then maybe that price tag will start to seem more acceptable.
I’d easily have this over a loaded Mustang GT or a Camaro for $50,000. But this is one of those tricky subjective taste things. I like the fit and finish of the 2 Series and I like the image as well. It’s understated and refined. Do people often cross shop these with muscle cars?
Now, consider the fact that the BMW’s competitors, Mercedes and Audi, do not offer sport coupes in their lineups. There’s the CLA, which is not a coupe (despite Mercedes’ very best efforts to call it one), and there are the A3 and S3, which are also not coupes. Given, only about 12 people are buying coupes, but for those 12 people out there, this is a very good thing!
And if you’re still spooked by the price, here’s my advice: Wait it out. Pick up one of these used, perhaps even as a CPO deal.
The M240i is solidly Good. It doesn’t try to pretend to be anything that it’s not and it’s perfectly daily usable, if you don’t have children and don’t do a lot of carpooling. It’s the perfect size for a couple to use during the week and for weekend getaways.
I suspect that the M240i is so well-balanced exactly because it is not a true M car. When you think of an M car, you think of a car packed with the sportiest of the sport options. High-performance engine. High-performance brakes. Dual-clutch gearboxes. A hard ride. A certain persona you might have to take on because you are the Serious Bavarian Sports Car M Driving Man.
Sure, I’m a fan of all that stuff, too. And while I haven’t driven an M2 before, I have driven other M cars. They are very, very nice cars but they never let you forget what they are. I’d wager that this M240i is a perfect step down from the constant scream of PERFORMANCE(!)!
There is a certain horizon of expectation that comes with being an M car. You almost need to both act and look the part. That’s why those cars have the big, loud exhausts, big fenders and huge faces. A car that has nothing to prove, like the M240i, suffers from none of those things.
The car is handsome and doesn’t draw attention to itself. It’s fantastically capable at doing what it was designed to do: drive well and excitingly. I, for one, am thrilled that BMW still makes a small, rear-drive coupe when hardly anyone else is anymore. This is keeping to its heritage. This is our modern-day 2002.
For someone looking for a nothing more than a fun sports car with usable storage space, the M240i is the one you want.