The BMW M240i xDrive Coupe was such a hoot to drive along mountain passes and motorways, says Tony Tan, who travels to Munich to test-drive the new model.
Cars are getting bigger. While this is great for ferrying passengers and carrying cargo, it does worry driving enthusiasts who are concerned that compact, two-door rides will be going the way of the dinosaur.
BMW has had a slew of small coupes that have won over the hearts, and wallets, of many small car aficionados through the years. The E36 M3 Coupe from the 1990s and E46 M3 Coupe from the first half of the 2000s are two of my favourites.
I know what most of you must be thinking when I named these two-door cars – these aren’t small cars as they were both based on the 3 Series Saloon, which were proper family four-door models.
Let me clear up the “confusion”: The latest BMW M240i xDrive Coupe, which will hit our shores sometime in the first quarter of next year, is longer than both M3 Coupes mentioned above.
To make matters “worse”, the new model will also be longer and wider than its predecessor. Does this mean we won’t be able to enjoy the sheer driving pleasure that a compact BMW coupe can give?
After driving the M240i Coupe over three days, on some of the finest asphalt in Munich, I can tell all BMW lovers to relax and take a chill pill – this new ride is as fun and engaging as any of your favourite small BMWs.
Before we dive into the driving experience, I must mention how much I like the way it looks.
That longish bonnet and extroverted exterior design with sporty proportions make it look fast even when it is standing still. The new kidney grille now sports vertical flaps in place of classic bars and the circular headlights, with full-LED tech, recall the legendary BMW 02 models. The widened track at the front and rear, coupled with the longer wheelbase, endows the car with a squatter stance.
Whether on the move or parked by the roadside, the M240i Coupe attracted admiring stares everywhere I went.
And speaking of the places I visited, one of the key locations where I had the opportunity to exploit the car’s prowess was the Oberjoch Pass.
This twisty 5.7km road has no less than 106 turns and climbs almost 300m. It has motor sport history too. Right up until 1989, it held the German round of the European Hill Climb Championship. At an event like this, the entire stretch of road is closed to the public. Competitors start at the base and race up the pass as fast as they can until they cross the finish line.
While Oberjoch Pass wasn’t closed to traffic that day, on a few runs, uphill and downhill, there were decent portions where there weren’t any cars and I pushed the M240i Coupe as hard as I could.
Acing the test
Stringing together a series of corners was pure joy. Fifty-fifty weight distribution, additional chassis bracing elements, M Sport suspension with lift-related dampers and M Sport limited-slip differential at the rear meant that despite the 1.7-tonne kerb weight, the car felt agile and eager to change direction when needed.
Fitted with Pirelli P Zero tyres – 225/40 R19 up front and 255/35 R19 at the back – grip was plentiful. The only downside was the steering – it was quick and responsive, but a tad lacking in feel.
The rear-wheel-biased xDrive system prioritises keeping the car pointed straight when exiting a corner rather than letting me figure things out on my own. Even with driving aids switched off, I couldn’t get the rear to come out, no matter how hard I tried. It’s a pity that there wasn’t a two-wheel-drive mode as that would up the fun factor quite a bit.
Braking performance was above average, thanks to vented discs all round and huge four-piston callipers in front. These powerful stoppers came to my rescue during the other significant portion of the drive, which were frequent jaunts along highways including the Autobahn.
On one particular high-speed run, I was zooming along in the M240i Coupe at around 230km/h when a huge van pulled into my lane suddenly. I slammed on the brakes hard as the back of the vehicle appeared larger and larger. Thankfully, they were more than up to the task of slowing the car down swiftly, and significantly. Needless to say, I told off the driver of the van with a few loud honks!
That nerve-racking incident aside, the M240i Coupe is uber capable at high speeds. It is extremely stable, thanks to optimised aerodynamics, and the power delivery from the renowned 3-litre turbocharged inline-6 engine is smooth and consistent.
Mated to the eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission which sports Launch Control, the prodigious 374hp motor rockets the M240i Coupe from rest to 100km/h in 4.3 seconds. Peak torque of 500Nm comes in at just 1,900rpm and lasts until 5,000rpm, hence I didn’t need to search for gears to zip out of a tough situation – all I had to do was put pedal to the metal and let the twin-scroll turbo do the work.
Ease is key
If you are wondering whether the M240i Coupe is available with a stick shift, the unfortunate answer is “no”. In fact, the manual gearbox has been dropped from the new 2 Series range altogether.
This is rather sad news for me as the overall driving experience the car offers deserves one. A small consolation is that whenever I decided to use the steering-mounted paddle shifters to select gears, it was quite enjoyable as the transmission switched cogs swiftly and smoothly.
Inside, the cabin shares its basic layout as well as many buttons and touchpoints with the 4 Series Coupe and Gran Coupe. The standard Sport seats offer plenty of adjustment and great visibility out back once positioned correctly. Other factory fitted features include the Sport leather steering wheel, three-zone climate control and backlit door panel trim. BMW Head Up Display is offered for the first time while wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes for easy, seamless connection to your smartphone.
Until the new BMW M2 arrives, the M240i xDrive Coupe occupies the top spot in the 2 Series line-up. While the most hardcore among us will wait for the former, I am extremely impressed with the M240i Coupe. It strikes an excellent balance between high performance and everyday usability. It is amazingly fast in a straight line, handles myriad turns with aplomb and can accommodate four plus 390 litres of cargo in the boot.
I could not ask for more in a speedy and nippy compact coupe. Then again, a short throw, six-speed manual gearbox would be nice.
BMW M240i xDrive Coupe
Engine 2,998cc turbocharged in-line 6
Power 374hp @ 5,500-6,500rpm
Torque 500Nm @ 1,900-5,000rpm
Acceleration 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds
Top speed 250km/h
Transmission Eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Driven wheels All
Fuel consumption: 8.8 litres/100km (combined)
C02 emissions 200g/km (combined)
Kerb weight 1,690kg
Fuel tank 52 litres
Space, grace and pace
During the Munich drive, I also managed to clock around 100km behind the wheel of the latest addition to the BMW 4 Series family – the Gran Coupe. This is the third and final variant in the line-up after the Coupe and Convertible, and a very important one for the brand as the Gran Coupe accounts for half its global sales.
The M440i xDrive Gran Coupe is propelled by the same engine as the M240i Coupe. Larger and heavier than the latter (the Gran Coupe is also bigger than its predecessor), I expected the M440i Gran Coupe to lag behind in most driving scenarios, but I was proven wrong. The 48V starter-generator supplements the engine with an extra 11hp, which comes into play when I accelerated off the line or when I required a quick burst of speed to overtake. Hence, the century sprint takes 4.7 seconds – just 0.4 seconds more than the M240i Coupe.
The only time the car struggled against the coupe was at the Oberjoch Pass. At the tight and twisty sections, I felt the car’s size and heft. I have no doubt that the car will hold its own against others of its size and power. When I hit the Autobahn, the M440i Gran Coupe shone. The longer wheelbase and heavier kerb weight made it a supremely comfortable cruiser. At highway speeds, the in-gear acceleration performance is on a par with the M240i Coupe and the cabin remained impressively quiet.
The M440i Gran Coupe’s 470-litre boot also neatly swallowed four luggage bags and three backpacks. With three passengers aboard and accelerating to 140km/h, I was reminded that this ride offers the convenience of a saloon plus the driving experience of a high-performance coupe. It doesn’t get better than this.
Visit BMW’s website for more information.
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