BMW M240i: what bang does the 'poor man's M2' give you for your buck?

Motoring journo Thomas Falkiner gives his verdict on the 2018 BMW M240i

03 June 2018 - 00:01 By Thomas Falkiner
BMW M240i.
BMW M240i.
Image: Supplied

Well, well, well ... what have we got here? A poor man's BMW M2?

You've pretty much hammered that there nail, son. This "lesser" M240i offers near identical levels of power and performance all for a whopping R219,500 less.

Indeed, put the spec sheets next to each other and you'll notice that the M240i is only 0.3 seconds slower to 100km/h than the slightly more powerful M2.

Do you feel it? No, of course you don't. To all intents and purposes the M240i feels just as urgent in a straight line thanks to its smooth and beautifully sonic six-cylinder engine. No, really, it is a gem: a turbocharged dream lump that revs freely and displays a nice linear power band. It makes the M240i an impressively fast little coupé that can stick it to sports cars up in the next price bracket.

I remember that you raved about the M2. You said it was one of the best handling M cars BMW had built in a very long time - similar story here?

Um, well, up to a point. When driven at seven tenths the M240i proves a competent and confident steer. However, when you really push that envelope it starts to feel a bit frayed around the edges: one gets the feeling that the chassis (as it's been set up here) is constantly playing catch-up in the shadow cast by that engine - a phenomenon I never experienced in the widebody M2 that, unlike the M240i, gets a proper mechanical limited-slip differential.

Outright grip is another concern. Again, at seven tenths those 18-inch gumballs (225/40 up front, 245/30 rear) cope admirably. Turn up the wick though - trust me, you're going to - and they quickly feel mismatched to the muscle pouring out from those cylinders.

I found the variable-ratio sport steering a bit annoying too, its overly fast pick-up around the centre point making the car feel nervous and fidgety through fast corners. Particularly when said corners were layered with a scab of lumpy, bumpy Jozi asphalt.

Fast Facts: BMW M240i

• ENGINE: 2998 cc
• POWER: 250 kW
• 0-100km/h: 4.6 seconds
• TOP SPEED: 250km/h
• FUEL: 13l/100km
• PRICE: From R720,500

At some speeds and at certain loads I also experienced a weird disconnect from the front wheels. Though I have a sneaking suspicion this may well have been attributed to the software powering the electric power-steering system.

So in short, yes, the M240i isn't bad. Dip into that M2-rivalling power reserve, however, and you'll find that it quickly loses its lustre.

So does this blurring in driver focus mean the M240i is more livable?

Not if you're talking about ride quality. I was expecting the M240i to be suppler across crappy tracts of tarmac but it proved rather harsh: the rough sections of my commute crashing through those skinny tyres and reverberating through the chassis something unpleasant. I thought things would improve out on the highway but even then surface undulations quickly saw its poise upset; the whole car dolphining noticeably.

This is a pity because the cabin is a fine place in which to while away the hours. Some of the highlights include excellent sport seats, an iDrive infotainment system plus cruise control with automatic brake function.

Look, the M240i isn't about to crack your back and send you to the chiropractor but it isn't the miniature GT car you might expect it to be either. I have a feeling long-distance hauls might get wearisome after a few hours.

Let me guess - there's a big options list to tempt your wallet, right?

Absolutely. Satellite navigation. Tyre Pressure Monitoring. Apple CarPlay integration. Sunroof. Park distance control. Rear-view camera. LED headlamps. Lumbar support for those sport seats - these and many more features are all optional extras that can and will throw a considerable chunk of change onto that base sticker price and nudge the M240i closer towards M2 territory. Be cautious.

You seem a bit lukewarm about this car. Would you not recommend it?

Honestly, the M240i didn't do all that much for me. Yes, it's extremely fast in a straight line and, yes, it has that nice hooligan mean streak to it: turning off the traction control and flambéing those rear tyres never gets old.

Yet outside of this I just found it, well, a bit underwhelming. Especially in the handling department where, as I mentioned before, the chassis at times felt ill-suited to dealing with all that power and torque.

Which is why I would rather find a few more shekels and go all out for the proper, purpose-built M2 or, alternatively, save a whole bunch of money and garage the arguably less potent but more balanced 230i.