BMW M240i xDrive Coupe 2021 review

We hit the road in the new BMW 2 Series Coupe in hot M240i guise

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Verdict

A big engine in a small car always gives plenty of character, and it’s no different with the new BMW M240i. The powertrain is great, but it’s matched by a chassis that is engaging and playful, even with four-wheel drive. But combining elements from BMW’s other executive offerings, the new 2 Series Coupe is also loaded with tech and easy to live with.

Compact sporty coupes are a dying breed. Beyond the much smaller and more affordable Toyota GR 86, the new BMW 2 Series Coupe will face few new rivals. Even then, the Japanese machine isn’t really a competitor for this current range-topper, the £45,795 M240i xDrive.

Brands such as Audi and Mercedes are deserting the sector, with no direct replacement for the former’s TT on the way, while the latter is looking for profit elsewhere in the compact sports car market. However, with its focus on driver’s cars, BMW has rebooted the 2 Series Coupe formula for 2022, albeit sticking with a rear-wheel-drive layout, six-cylinder power and a genuinely sporty focus.

Starting with the first point, this new 2 Series Coupe sits on a modified version of the platform used by the 3 Series and 4 Series. That means rear-wheel drive is available, although this range-topping M240i is four-wheel drive only.

However, it’s an M-derived xDrive set-up, so it’s engineered with a rear bias to keep the sensation of the front-engined, rear-driven layout that BMW’s best coupes have traditionally been known for.

The engine is a 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder unit that produces a healthy 369bhp and a fat 500Nm of torque – strong figures for a small, 1,655kg machine. From start-up it feels brawny, with a deep, purposeful and slightly musical edge to its gargling exhaust note that four-cylinder rivals can’t match.

Lower yourself inside, and the positives continue. The driving position is good, the long bonnet and short tail mean the proportions feel natural and right, and the interior is a scaled-down version of what’s on offer in the 4 Series, so it suits the car. The rear seats aren’t huge, but are still big enough for short trips, or for kids.

Right away the chassis feels taut. It’s smooth and controlled, but the M240i feels as if it contains a level of aggression that it can’t wait for you to unleash. The first time you flex your right foot in Sport Plus mode, the coupe shoots forward with an urgency that only a big engine in a small car can give.

The M240i never feels over-powered, but you’re aware there’s a muscular unit under the bonnet at all times. The soundtrack is enhanced in the sportier settings, but it works well, and there’s always plenty of performance on offer. That maximum torque figure is available from as little as 1,520rpm, so left to its own devices, the eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts up early and unobtrusively to help make relaxed progress.

It’s helped by the chassis, because in Comfort mode the suspension smooths out lumps in the road with composure, no doubt helped by this new 2 Series Coupe’s 51mm-longer wheelbase. This is matched by an ever greater increase in front track width, at 63mm. It’s 35mm wider at the rear, too, and this growth in its dimensions has been accompanied by an evolution in BMW’s design language.

The grille is yet another new design, but it’s not as challenging as some of the brand’s other offerings. The slim headlights with single light units are meant to recall BMW’s 2002 coupe.

It’s the rear that’s more forward-thinking, with a line that wraps around the tail-light units, adding more width to its appearance, with those rear clusters sporting a new running-light design, too. Throw in a few more sharp angles and creases on the bumpers and a strong side profile, and the M240i xDrive certainly looks the part.

Thankfully, it has the dynamic ability to back them up. The M240i is all about putting the driver at the heart of the experience, and stepping the powertrain and chassis modes up does just that.

If anything, the steering is a weak point, with a lifeless feel and only extra weight added as you move up through the different drive settings. However, once you’ve got over this slight disappointment, there’s a reassuring and well communicated level of grip to tap into, and confidence-inspiring high-speed stability on the autobahn, as we found at the car’s top speed of 155mph.

On twistier roads you can lean on the M240i’s front axle hard going into corners, yet there’s a delicacy and a subtlety to the way the car behaves. Deft movements with the steering wheel, throttle or brake pedal trim the M240i’s line through quick bends, while in slow corners the car is eager to turn and deploys its firepower with solid traction. It’s so strong that it helps deliver a 0-62mph time of 4.3 seconds, while the M xDrive system provides just a hint that the rear axle is helping out more than the front.

The gearbox doesn’t quite have the snap of the best dual-clutch units at maximum attack in manual mode, grabbing shifts a little aggressively, but it’s passable and doesn’t unduly dilute the cocktail that makes the M240i such an appealing small sports car – and that’s helped by the other elements of the package.

Unlike most compact coupes – the Porsche 718 Cayman, Toyota Supra and Alpine A110 included – the 2 Series offers small back seats and a decent boot, at 390 litres. That’s more than in a Volkswagen Golf, for example, although the coupe bodystyle means the boot opening is more limited.

In the front the cabin design is recognisable, with the 10.25-inch central screen running the brand’s latest OS 7 infotainment system. As with other models that use this tech, it responds to touch inputs superbly, with a logical menu layout that makes navigating through the system on the move easy via the click wheel, too. The graphics are also great.

As the top trim level in the new 2 Series Coupe range, the M240i comes loaded with equipment. There’s lots of leather, while the build and material quality stands up to scrutiny at this price. What’s more, three-zone automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Amazon Alexa integration, connected services, heated seats, 19-inch alloys and M Sport brakes (which give enough bite) are all fitted as standard.

Many brands are deserting the small coupe sector, but BMW hasn’t just risen towards the top of the class by default, it’s done it on merit with the blend of attributes its new M240i offers.

Model:BMW M240i xDrive Coupe
Price:£45,795
Engine:3.0-litre 6cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque:369bhp/500Nm
Transmission:Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive 
0-62mph:4.3 seconds
Top speed:155mph
Economy:34.4mpg
CO2:186g/km
On sale:Now

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