2017 BMW M240i review

Smile. BMW’s M240i is serious fun that doesn't take itself too seriously

If you’ve embraced the idea of a premium two-door sports car, the M240i is the one to have.
If you’ve embraced the idea of a premium two-door sports car, the M240i is the one to have.
If you’ve embraced the idea of a premium two-door sports car, the M240i is the one to have.

Highs

  • Blistering acceleration
  • Nimble chassis
  • High quality cabin materials
  • Compliant ride

Lows

  • Not many standard safety and convenience technologies

BMW has been on a product tear as of late, creating new vehicle segments left and right. While the gray-area models seem to be working for the German automaker’s bottom line, it’s hard to rally behind the over-inflation of a once streamlined performance product portfolio. Fortunately, not all of the “extra” models and variants are a bad thing. Case-in-point: the BMW M240i.

On paper, the M240i is a spitting image of its M2 sibling; both vehicles displace 3.0 liters, both use forced induction, and both hit 60 in the low four-seconds. On road, however, the M240i is distinguished by a more compliant ride, understated bodywork, and sizeable price gap. The M2 continues to appeal to hardcore performance enthusiasts, but those unwilling to sacrifice comfort or convenience will gravitate to the M240i.

What’s new

As the BMW M235 becomes the M240i, the most significant change takes place under the hood. BMW’s new B58 generation 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged V6 (shared with the 340i) adds 15 horsepower and 39 pound-feet of torque over the M235i’s ratings. Other tweaks include auto rev matching for manual-equipped 2 Series models and wider gear ratios (automatic models) to improve fuel economy. BMW has also bumped the base price by $300 for 2017.

Trim levels & features

The BMW M2 is a wide-bodied, angry-faced, coupe-only concoction – and we think it looks fantastic. Brash styling suits the hard-edged performance attributes of the M2, but the M240i’s more modest dynamics are reflected in its toned-down exterior.

While the 1 Series two-door displayed an awkwardly tall, truncated profile, the longer, wider 2 Series is more substantial from all angles and feels much less like an entry-level model. Compared to the base 230i, the M240i features 18-inch light alloy wheels, black chrome accents all around, silver painted mirror caps, and unique lower front and rear fascias. The changes aren’t enough to make a dramatic difference in road presence, but do give the M240i a sharper first impression.

As a general rule, we prefer coupe versions to their convertible counterparts, but our M240i drop-top tester poses well with its lid stowed (after several seconds in transition). Here in Southern California, some might even argue the ragtop 2 Series makes more sense. This being a paired down version of the serious-about-speed M2, we’re obliged to see the lighter side of topless motoring.

Brash styling suits the hard-edged performance attributes of the M2, but the M240i’s more modest dynamics are reflected in its toned-down exterior.

2017 BMW M240i convertible models come well equipped for their $49,745 price (fixed roof M240i variants start at $44,450). As the name suggests, BMW’s M Sport kit is included with a variable steering system, M sport brakes, M adaptive suspension, a three-spoke M-branded steering wheel, and an M-shifter (for manual-equipped models). Other standard features include adaptive Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, cruise control, 10-way power front sport seats, leatherette seating surfaces, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, a Wi-Fi hotspot, Sirius XM Radio, and automatic climate control.

More popular packages include the Cold Weather Pack ($700) with heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and headlight washers, the Driver Assistance Package ($950) with a rearview camera and park distance control, and the Driver Assistance Plus Package ($700) with automatic high beams and Active Driving Assistant.

Buyers can also option standalone features like Apple CarPlay ($300), a Harmon/Kardon sound system ($850), and wireless phone charging ($500). BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is an additional $2,000 for coupe and convertible models.

Technology overview

As a brand, BMW can no longer be described with a single word, or even a single sentence. To say BMW is a “luxury automaker” underserves the company’s iPerformance innovation, interior technology, and performance heritage. Indeed, model-to-model, BMW means very different things.

Apart from the shared kidney grille, one would be hard-pressed to trace the kinship between a 2 Series and a 7 Series. Does the interior gadgetry within a 7 Series or the nimble handling of a 2 Series make one or the other vehicle any less of a BMW? We don’t think so. That being said, it’s worth knowing which version of BMW you’re shacking up with. The M240i is a driver’s car, not a luxury car.

2017 BMW M240i Review tech
Miles Branman/Digital Trends
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

As such, standard tech bits on other 40K-plus vehicles – a backup camera, emergency braking system, or Apple CarPlay to name a few – are optional extras on the M240i. Other niceties like a premium sound system, navigation, wireless phone charging, and an upgraded 8.8-inch infotainment display can quickly balloon the car’s starting price.

What technology the M240i does have is well sorted. BMW’s iDrive system is quick, sophisticated, and easy to use via steering wheel-mounted buttons or the console controller. Pairing and accessing your smartphone through the interface is equally logical. No need to fight over charging ports – both USB connections refuel your device. The standard 6.5-inch center display may not be large, but it is high resolution and refreshes quickly.

Long story short, if analog instrument gauges and a compact center screen are deal-breakers, the M240i just isn’t the right car for you.

Interior fit & finish

Approach the M240i’s cabin with a performance mindset and you won’t be disappointed. Inside, the layout is clean and conservative. While much of the industry dives into touch controls for every interior feature, the 2 Series holds fast with physical buttons for all radio, climate control, and drive mode settings. It’s actually refreshing to have physical feedback for every input. Furthermore, BMW’s stacked center layout arranges a smattering of buttons without creating visual clutter.

A beefy three-spoke steering wheel, perfectly contoured sport seats, and a classic manual shifter are essential pieces to the engagement equation. In front of the driver sits a pair of classic, analog BMW gauges and a small TFT screen — all shielded by a protruding lid. Sure, it doesn’t have the visual pizazz of an all-digital cluster, but at least you won’t misinterpret when it’s time to shift gears.

If you have fantasies of cruising around town with your whole family, the 2 Series might not fit the bill – at least for those crammed in back. Headroom is reasonable, but leg and shoulder room is rather tight. Couples or families with small children could get by, but don’t expect full-sized adults to tolerate the rear compartment. Trunk space, on the other hand, is impressive. With the rear seats in place, the 2 Series offers 13.8 cubic feet of storage – plenty of room for a weekend getaway.

Though the interior isn’t as artfully designed as some of its competitors, each surface feels sturdy and well engineered. What’s the point of building a reliable engine if the rest of the car falls apart long before the powertrain does?

Driving performance & MPG

Now that we’ve sifted through the toppings, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of every compact Bimmer – driving dynamics.

Here’s an open secret for you: the base model 230i is a shockingly quick car. With 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque moving little more than 3,000 lbs, the standard 2 Series has never struck us as underpowered. Still, every enthusiast wonders what a great platform can do with a bit more pep.

The days of new, manual-equipped sports cars are numbered, so a gearbox like the M240i’s is an earnest treat.

With help from its M performance division, BMW offers a generous interpretation of a “bit” more power. Borrowing the new B58 generation 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline six-cylinder from the 340i, the M240i produces 335hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. If you’re keeping score, that puts the M240i just 30 horses under the M2 and dead even on torque. For all this extra power, the M240i gives up just 3 mpg to the four-cylinder 2 Series, netting 21 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

Output isn’t the whole story, though. BMW’s N55 generation engine – found under the hood of the M2 – is a lazier powertrain at lower rpm. By comparison, the B58 delivers peak torque from right around 1,500 rpm (early in the powerband), revealing an eagerness the M2 can’t match. When pushed, the M2 outpaces its lesser in both straight-line and corner exit acceleration, but when buzzing about town or whipping along a curvy side road, we prefer the usable performance of the M240i.

The M240i serves up its low-end punch in a few different ways. The quickest configuration pairs an eight-speed automatic with xDrive all-wheel drive (a $2,000 option). For sheer driving pleasure, however, nothing beats a BMW six-speed manual and rear-wheel drive. The days of new, manual-equipped sports cars are numbered, so a gearbox like the M240i’s is an earnest treat. Short, direct throws pair with a communicative clutch for what could be the best six-speed on sale.

2017 BMW M240i Review engine
Miles Branman/Digital Trends
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

What the M240i lacks in cabin niceties it makes up for in ride quality. Toggle the Dynamic Mode to Comfort and the M240i sails over all manor of bumps and imperfections like the finest of luxury cars. Angling for a more animated driving experience? Sport and Sport Plus settings stiffen up the suspension and add weight to the steering.

Diving into a corner, the M240i’s electronic steering is precise and its chassis is willing. Without the M2’s flared fenders, the M240i has less rubber on the ground, but grips assuredly. At the limit, the M240i rotates nicely, but feels less tractable than its full-fledged M sibling. M-derived brakes are perfectly suited the M240i’s performance threshold, rapidly tapering speed with good pedal feel.

If the M2 proves that BMW can still build an unfiltered sports car, then the M240i proves that performance doesn’t have to be serious business.

Safety

The 2017 BMW M240i Convertible has not been graded by either the NHTSA or the IIHS safety rating agencies. Standard safety features include rollover protection, driver and passenger front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags, ABS, dynamic brake control, and cornering brake control.

Optional driver aids include a backup camera, forward collision warning, lane departure detection, and pedestrian protection.

How DT would outfit this car

In our minds, the M240i is a dish best served as close to the original recipe as possible. That means keeping the price tag low and the styling modest. Configuring our ideal M240i, we’d choose a fixed roof and an Alpine White exterior. The white paint job both highlights the blue M Performance wheels and pairs best with the dark gray wheels. As the driving performance section alludes, we’ll always take a good six-speed manual if given the chance. We don’t see a need for all-wheel drive in a compact two-door sports car, so the standard rear-drive platform will do, thank you very much. Inside, we’d match black leatherette seats with aluminum hexagon trim and its Estoril Blue highlight. Unfortunately, the only option we’d like to add, Apple CarPlay, is tied to the $1,950 Navigation Package, so we’d rough it without quality connectivity. Voila; our perfect M240i – out the door for $45,375 with destination.

Our Take

In 2011, BMW built an understated, righteously quick 3 Series – it was called the 335is. Once again a non-M (pureblood) Bimmer is whispering sweet nothings to enthusiasts willing to listen. We love when good bits of history repeat themselves. The M240i is near as quick as the M2 in a straight line and arguably more fun at sane speeds. It’s also $8 grand cheaper. In short, the M240i is an attainable driver’s car from the brand that does them best.

Is there a better alternative?

The M240i has two key rivals: Mercedes-AMG’s CLA45 and Audi’s S3. In terms of output, the M240i slots between the Audi’s 292hp and manic Merc’s 375 horses. 0 to 60 mph performance is a similar story, with the M240i just losing out to the CLA45’s 4.2-second sprint and beating the S3 by three-tenths of a second. Pricing is par for the course, too, with the CLA45 demanding just under $50K and the S3 checking in at $42,900.

So does it come down to how much you’re willing to spend on a sub-$50K luxury performance car? Well, not really. Those proficient at counting will note that both of these competitors have four doors, which is great for bringing along friends but at the cost of a two-door’s sporty silhouette. Both the CLA45 and the S3 also send power to all four wheels, while the M240i at least offers rear-wheel drive fun. Alas, buyers must decide how much they value practicality. If you need two extra doors and four driven wheels, we vote for the Audi S3. Otherwise, it’s M240i all the way.

How long will it last?

Every M240i comes with a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty and free scheduled maintenance for the first three years (or 36K miles). Apart from a few troublesome years of electrical gremlins, BMW builds reliable performance machines made from high quality materials.

The 2017 M240i won’t undergo a serious update for a few years, and its brand new powertrain might not be replaced for quite a while. Unless you’re holding out for a redesign, now’s a good time to buy.

Should you get one?

If you’ve embraced the idea of a premium two-door sports car, the M240i is the one to have. At the sub-$50K price point, no other luxury two-door is as smooth, engaging, and fun.

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