BMW spends a lot of time, energy and effort touting its “green” plans and accomplishments, though so far, the i8 and i3 have been colossal disappointments. When not saving the planet, BMW is also very busy managing a highly leveraged balance sheet.
With all this distracting noise from BMW — once the company of the Ultimate Driving Machine — it might be easy to overlook cars like the light, nimble, powerful and extremely entertaining M240i coupe ($47,000-plus). That would be a mistake. In fact, this is a coupe I’d own.
It all starts with the basic 3.0-litre straight six under the hood. This refined mill hums beautifully as it spins up 335 horsepower and an even more impressive 369 lb-ft of torque.
Inline sixes are rare as hen’s teeth now, so rejoice. The German automakers have led the charge in stuffing inherently unbalanced turbocharged fours into even big sedans like the 5-Series. Thus, when a powerplant as excellent as this six comes along, take notice.
I certainly did. I played with this straight six for all its worth. Remember, we’re talking about a 1,587 kg coupe with a delicious manual gearbox. Every drive in this car is joyous. It’s always Christmas behind the wheel.
Even as BMW has been focused on carbon fibre bodies and electrified drivetrains, some small corner of the company still celebrates the joy of stringing out a line of 500cc cylinders and strap-on turbos under the bonnet. The M240i’s 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo engine is a clever version of BMW’s modular engine approach.
I’d even argue that $47,000 is a fair price. Except it isn’t. I mean, the price would be fair for this car if it were $47,000, but by God I cannot see how anyone pays that.
I am pointing to the options list: $895 extra for metallic paint; $4,950 for an Enhanced Premium Package; $1,500 for the Driver Assistance package; $750 for the Smartphone Connectivity package; $1,000 for Adaptive LED Headlights; $1,500 for M Performance Exhaust; and on and on and on. If you tick all the boxes to get the car you might really want, equipped just right, you can easily add $10,000 to the final sticker.
But if you’re disciplined and just aim to enjoy the driving, the most basic M240i does everything the driver’s driver could ever want. This little beauty will rip from 0-100 km/hour in 4.8 seconds (4.6 if you pay $1,600 for the autobox with paddle shifters) and if ungoverned (in Germany) it’ll do 250 km/hour. At the highest speeds, it’s stable, despite the short wheelbase (2,690 mm).
When you get to bends in the road, the nose turns in nicely, predictably. With 47.5 per cent of the weight on the rear wheels, balance is close enough to 50:50 to make me happy. The turning circle is a tight 10.9 m, which gives you a good idea of what this baby can do in an autocross.
Design? Some will argue it’s a little stubby, this car, but I like the short front and rear overhangs in an era when so many cars have long noses and fat rears to help make it easier to meet crash test standards. The trunk, while appearing a bit small from the outside, is quite generous. Golf clubs? Sure, though you may need to do some creative packing of your driver and 3-metal.
The cabin is all BMW. That means superb, supportive seats, a meaty steering wheel, a shifter that’s positioned right in your hand for quick, precise throws, and gauges that are clear, bright and sensible. Grip? It comes from low-profile rubber (225/40 front/245/35 rear) on the 18-inch black double-spoke light-alloy wheels. Very sure and secure, though in the wet it’s less so, of course.
On the downside, BMW’s efforts with infotainment remain a decades-long work in progress. The navigation system, for instance, is a clunky affair that you dial from letter to letter when inputting a destination. My tester apparently had voice-activated capabilities, but when I spoke, it failed to find a single address of several requested.
BMW’s engineers and designers really should have a good look at what the competition is doing in this department. Mercedes-Benz, for instance, has re-jigged its latest infotainment effort and it’s quite user-friendly. Cadillac’s CUE is outstanding, too.
All told, however, what we have here is something that’s becoming quite rare: a coupe with copious sporting cues and real performance capabilities. We can forgive the infotainment mess because the M240i is such a gem in the driving.
2017 BMW M240i
Price: $47,000 base.
Engine: 3.0-litre inline six, turbocharged (335 hp/369 lb-ft torque.
Transmission: six-speed manual.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.3 city/8.3 hwy using premium fuel.
Comparables: Mercedes-Benz CLA, Audi TT coupe.