Ever since it was branched away from the BMW 1 Series family to become a model group in its own right in 2014, the 2 Series has developed a strong identity of its own. Nowhere is this more evident than in the absolutely storming range-topper, the M2, which ranks among the finest compact sports coupés the Bavarian company has ever churned out.
Fabulous as that blistered-arches-toting 370hp hooligan is, though, there has always been a train of thought that suggested the M235i (and latterly the M240i, when it was given the new 3.0-litre, single twin-scroll turbo ‘B58’ engine in 2016, replacing the old twin-turbo ‘N55’), was all the performance 2 Series you could possibly need. Especially as there is, at the time of writing, a £9,335 price gap between the pair.
Now, three years on from launch, it’s time for the 2 Series to receive its Life Cycle Impulse (LCI), M240i included. Visually, it’s a very modest polishing job. Bi-LED headlights with round ‘quad’ daytime running lamps are standard, but there’s the option of having the adaptive ‘Icon’ LED clusters with the desirable hexagonal motifs, too.
Look hard and you might just spot that the 2 Series’ kidney grilles have been enlarged, although the more obvious amendment to the front of the car comes lower down, where the outer vents in the front bumper have been enlarged to emphasise the car’s stance. The only other external change is a set of fresh, all-LED light clusters at the rear, which reduce some of the orange content of the old lenses.
Inside, BMW has drafted in a new 8.8-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment – it’s essentially iDrive 6, which we’ve seen in several other BMW products, following launch in the G11/G12 7 Series – and this will be available on cars equipped with the Professional Nav. That display gives a subtly different look to the centre console, which is emphasised by a wider panel of ‘background’ trim that encompasses the centre air vents, then stretches off to the passenger’s side of the dash. Black panel dials in the instrument cluster complete the visual updates and, if we can just revert to the infotainment briefly, it now includes Apple CarPlay support; the ability to turn the M240i into a WiFi hotspot for up to 10 devices, plus wireless smartphone charging via the Qi standard.
Elsewhere, there are further additions on the options list. Such as new colours, including Mediterranean Blue, Seaside Blue and Sunset Orange, an array of 17 different designs of 16-, 17- and 18-inch, light-alloy wheels, together with additional cloth/ leather upholstery choices, as well as trim finishers and details. BMW says there’s more personalisation for the 2 Series than ever before.
If this doesn’t sound like enough, perhaps you should have a look at the M240i M Performance Edition. This wears a special package of dark-themed upgrades to contrast with the exclusively Alpine White bodywork, including a front splitter, black details in the lower air vents at the nose of the car, black kidney grilles, carbon fibre for the door mirrors, exhaust finishers and boot spoiler, different side sills with a black M Performance graphic above them, a black-painted rear diffuser and 19-inch bi-colour forged alloy wheels. Inside, the M Performance Edition benefits from a lovely Alcantara steering wheel with a 12 o’clock marker.
It doesn’t gain any technical updates, though, and neither does the 2 Series range as a whole. The same array of three- and four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines are offered, while the M240i is the possessor of the solitary remaining straight-six this side of an M2. That means 340hp at a relatively lowly 5,500rpm, while torque is a goliath 369lb ft from as little as 1,520rpm.
Here in the UK, we won’t get the option of xDrive all-wheel traction, which is offered in left-hand-drive markets; our sole M240i choice being to decide whether we want to stick with the six-speed manual or opt for the £1,300 Steptronic Sport auto, packing eight ratios.
The auto is cleaner for emissions, better on fuel and more accelerative than the manual, with a 4.6-second 0-62mph time being pretty ferocious for a rear-drive car; shame about that lack of xDrive, though, as the AWD M240i dips to 4.4 seconds for the same benchmark, thanks to its extra traction off the line. So, with all this considered, the driving characteristics of the M240i remain unchanged. Which is to say, this is a blindingly brilliant and engaging sports coupé. We’ll come on to the wonderful chassis in a moment, but we really must begin with effusive praise for that engine and automatic gearbox combination.
Don’t let the 5,500rpm peak output figure fool you; the motor will spin right round to 6,500rpm, or even 7,000rpm if you want it to, and it feels silken and at the same time thoroughly muscular, right out to the redline. It has magnificent throttle response, a complete dearth of lag and a fabulous soundtrack that doesn’t require anything in the way of artificial augmentation.
And, make no mistake, even in an age when hot hatchbacks are cracking mid-fours for 0-62mph runs, the M240i still feels mighty quick. Driven in Germany at the car’s launch, on a derestricted Autobahn, it hauled from about 70mph up to its 155mph limiter in short order, and as it approached its electronic nanny, the BMW felt like it had plenty in reserve.
Say what you like about two-pedal set-ups robbing drivers of some involvement behind the wheel, but we’d thoroughly advocate the automatic transmission, which almost never refuses to respond to clicks of the paddle shifters (only if you try to change it into too low a gear at too high a speed will it, quite rightly, baulk at your crazy command), and which serves up gears in a fluid stream of rapidity and precision.
Yet the M240i’s road holding is what allows you to fully exploit that six-pot’s prodigious power. Unlike some of the turbocharged, full-blown M models, which can occasionally feel spiky as you push up to the limits of adhesion, the M240i always feels thoroughly keyed into the Tarmac. The feel of rear-drive is not lost, and you can adjust the car on the throttle if you so wish, albeit getting the back axle to relinquish grip in hot, dry conditions will need huge flexes of your right ankle in lower gears, but the car’s real strength is its exquisite balance.
You can feel it moving around underneath you during hard cornering, yet it’s all clearly telegraphed and any adjustment of line is utterly benign. The crowning touches are a lack of debilitating body roll plus so little understeer at sane road speeds that it would be easy to say the nose pushing wide is something the M240i is simply not capable of.
Naturally, it functions beautifully when you’re not driving it like you’re on a track day. The ride is supple on fixed-rate springs and dampers, while noise suppression is first rate. If we have any gripes about the M240i, they would amount to a slightly odd brake pedal feel, and steering that can occasionally feel a bit loose around the dead-ahead. However, they’re minor observations, all told.
New lights, new colours, new wheels and a new interior might not be the most exciting LCI BMW has ever carried out but, truth be told, there was little that needed fixing with the 2 Series in the first place. The M240i remains a stellar performance coupé; one that’s so good on the road that, should you feel the M2 is a tad gauche, might just be the pick of the current Munich crop.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 2017 BMW M240i Coupé LCI F22
PRICE: BMW M240i from £36,415
DRIVETRAIN: 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged straight-six petrol, eight-speed Steptronic auto, rear-wheel drive
CO2 EMISSIONS: 163g/km
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
0-62MPH: 4.6 seconds
POWER: 340hp @ 5,500rpm DIN
TORQUE: 369lb ft @ 1,520-4,500rpm DIN
The M240i remains a stellar performance coupé. The BMW M240i F22 might just be the pick of the current Munich crop. Inside, BMW has drafted in a new 8.8-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment. We’d thoroughly advocate the automatic transmission; it serves up gears in a fluid stream of rapidity and precision. A set of fresh, all-LED light clusters at the rear reduces some of the orange content of the old lenses. The M240i’s road holding is what allows you to fully exploit that six-pot’s prodigious power.