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    BMW M240i
    The M Performance coupe surprises a sceptical staff writer with its ability to feel more like a proper M Division car.

    / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-M240i / #BMW-M240i-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-2-Series-F22 / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe-F22 / #BMW-M240i / #2018

    Our M240i has been with us for a good six months as I write this, but despite plenty of opportunities, I haven’t felt particularly compelled to hop into this 335bhp rear-wheel- drive coupe. Why? Because I’ve simply never fallen for the M240i, nor its predecessor, the M235i, or its hot hatch equivalent, the M140i. To me they’re good, ordinary #BMW s: fast enough and with decent handling, but the M Division influence implied by the ‘M Performance’ branding has never felt overwhelming.

    Then recently I noticed that our 240 had spent a couple of nights in the car park, so I took pity on it. And I found more obvious M-car traits than I was expecting, although, as is the modern way, I had to select Sport or Sport+ mode before these characteristics became apparent. The first was from the gearbox.

    Unfortunately, the abrupt gearchange that you experience with the #DCT ’box in current M-cars has made its way into the M240i’s eight-speed auto. At every full-throttle upshift the change of ratios is so forceful that it sends a shock through the drivetrain. If you change up mid-corner the whole car becomes flustered. Thankfully this isn’t as frightening as in the proper #M-cars , as the 240i’s open differential means only one tyre will lose traction, rather than both, if the gearchange is especially brutal. It’s perhaps the first time in my life I’ve been glad a rear-wheel-drive car didn’t have an LSD.

    Once accustomed to the brusque ’box, things got much better. In Sport mode the M240i feels more willing to weave its nose through a set of bends than any other sub-full-M BMW I’ve driven. Instead of the squidgy-soft chassis I had expected, I found much tighter control, less body roll and more precision. And even despite the lack of LSD, the throttle had a much greater influence on the car’s attitude than I thought it would.

    This is the first M240i I’ve driven with adaptive dampers, and they clearly expand the car’s repertoire: every-day-comfortable on long journeys but sharper when you want to have fun. The M2 may make do with passive items, but the fancy dampers on the 240 do make it feel like more of an M-car when you need it to. Will Beaumont (@ Will-Beaumont)

    Date acquired November 2017
    Total mileage 8798
    Mileage this month 1561
    Costst his month £0
    Mpg this month 28.5
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    Birds’ fully-fettled M235i / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-M235i / #BMW-M235i-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Birds-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-2-Series-F22 / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Birds / #2017 / #Birds / #Birds-M235

    Bird of Prey Everyone’s having a go at improving the M235i but Birds’ fullyfettled example might be the best yet. With more power and a thoroughly refined suspension set up this M235i is gunning for the M2… and might just beat it! Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith.

    It’s almost possible to determine how desirable a BMW model is by the amount of tuning products that become available from the aftermarket for that car. It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that we’re not inundated by companies offering upgrades for the 5 Series GT, but hardly a day goes by without there seemingly being an upgrade for BMW’s latest pocket rocket, the M235i and it’s slightly more recent sibling, the M240i. And in case hatchback owners are feeling left out it’s fair to say that the vast majority of what works on the Coupé also translates to the three- and five-door models, too.

    In the past few issues we’ve had several F22 Coupés in these pages vying to be the definitive version of the top-notch coupé and while we don’t think that any of them are claiming to rival BMW’s engineering capabilities what most companies are offering is something a little bit more hardcore than BMW’s factory offerings. There’s no doubt that if it chose to BMW could create the ultimate weapon using the F22 M240i but that car’s called the M2… and by the same rationale it can’t make the M2 the best thing since sliced bread as then no one would buy an M4. Ultimately the M240i is built to compete at a particular price point and for that reason there’s plenty of room for improvement.

    The world’s more or less your oyster when it come to tuning this model with a plethora of parts to choose from, both in terms of styling and performance, but at first glance Birds’ subtle black example that’s waiting patiently for me at the company’s Iver HQ looks like its missed out on the upgrades – take the badges off and it could almost pass for a 218d M Sport. Nice. That’s how I prefer my high performance machinery, understated.

    Despite its subtle looks a huge amount of work has gone into the set up for this 2 Series and when one speaks to Birds’ MD, Kevin Bird, it’s clear that he’s absolutely passionate about getting the best out of the car. As Quaife’s official distributor for both BMW and Mercedes limited slip differentials it’s almost a given that one would be fitted to the M235i to improve traction, and as more power never goes amiss an engine upgrade has endowed Birds’ M235i with a 390hp output. But it’s in the realm of #BMW suspension that Kevin really excels and he’s not been overly impressed with some of BMW’s latest offerings, especially on the F30 generation of machinery.

    Having already worked wonders on several of BMW’s latest cars – most of which we’ve driven and been impressed by (witness the 435d xDrive in last month’s issue) – Kevin set about putting the experience he’d gained working with the F-Series cars onto the M235i. While definite improvements were made with some bespoke springs and dampers Kevin decided to get a second opinion from James Weaver, a legendary sports car racer, who Kevin had become reacquainted with at a charity track event. Weaver had driven Birds’ Z4 35i at this event and had reckoned it could be considerably improved so Kevin wondered whether Weaver could offer some useful pointers when it came to the development work on the M235i. Weaver has won more sports car races than most people have had hot dinners and along with his chassis engineer, Peter Weston, knows more about setting a car up than just about anyone and after some initial meetings it was agreed that Weston and Weaver would help to fine tune the Birds’ M235i package and as a starting point Weston requested some measurements from the car. “I was astonished at the level of detail he required,” Kevin commented. “Not only things like arm ratios, corner-weights, spring stiffness, damper rates and so on, but stuff that we’d never even started to consider, like unsprung weights of each corner, centre of gravity above front and rear axles, bump stop stiffness and contact points. The measuring work alone took us two full days.”

    It was time well spent though as a few days later Weston came back to Birds with new spring and damper settings and after waiting for the springs to be produced and for Bilstein to re-valve the dampers they were duly fitted to the car to await a test by Weaver. Kevin takes up the story again; “The weather was cold and damp, but nevertheless, after much fiddling with tyre pressures, front and rear geometry and different wheel and tyre sets, a conclusion was reached. There was no doubt that the car was behaving much better than our own calculated confection, but it was suggested that even more could be achieved in terms of ride quality and especially traction and grip levels with a second revision to the set up”.

    After a further period of waiting the revised set up was fitted to the car. “This included changes to spring rates both front and rear, and damper curves to suit. Moreover, changes to the front track width (to generate less negative scrub radius) and, surprisingly, a different choice of tyre,” said Kevin, and he does admit to having his doubts as to whether the extra expense was worth it, after all, the first of the Weaver/Weston kits had seemed more or less spot on when he’d tested the car. He should have had faith though as when he drove the revised set up on the car he says it was a revelation. “Not only was the ride quality better than before, ultimate body control improved on our bumpy B roads and the steering feel improvements were in a different league. And the traction and grip levels? Simply unbelievable. Given the temperatures and conditions, we never expected to be able to assess that characteristic, but it’s blindingly obvious that where we had so little before, now we have it everywhere. This is without doubt the best suspension tune we have achieved so far.”
    Unsurprisingly as I stepped into Birds’ demonstrator I had pretty high expectations, especially as so much development work had gone into the car’s set up – no off the shelf parts here – with every aspect of the car’s underpinnings having been closely examined and finely honed by people who’ve probably forgotten more about driving and car control then I will ever learn. As is the way with these things the pictures have to take priority so I gingerly pick my way around the M25 and some of Surrey’s back roads to rendezvous with snapper Smithy. I’m concentrating on avoiding puddles and trying to keep the car clean at this point – and sadly I notice I’ve failed miserably in this respect when I arrive at our location – but it does dawn on me as I step out of the car that I’ve not actually noticed the ride quality as I’ve been cruising along. Which is exactly as you want it when not on a charge as you don’t want your internal organs going through a work out every time you drive your car, especially when you just need it to be a form of transport rather than for entertainment.

    Once the M235i’s been given a thorough cleaning and the static images are in the bag it’s time to head out for some action shots and now that I’m less concerned with keeping it clean I can delve a little bit deeper into the car’s performance and concentrate on the driving experience. Having slipped the car into Sport mode to sharpen up the throttle response one’s immediately hit by the additional soundtrack coming from the BMW M Performance exhaust with which this car is equipped – it might not make the car go any faster, but it sure sounds good.

    Running past the camera for the side-on panning shots is a little frustrating as what I really want to be doing is hammering the car as hard as possible but as this will make Smithy’s life tricky and will just make the process take even longer I content myself with driving briskly enough to give the images the sensation of speed, all the while feeling very comfortable in the car. No crashing over bumps, no jiggly ride, spot on in fact.

    Finding suitable corners in this part of the world can be difficult so we decide to head for where we know there’s something suitable which is a 15 minute drive away and what a 15 minutes they are. The back roads round here are quite tight but progress is rapid and massively grin inducing. Speeds rise as familiarity grows and my first impression is one of significant improvements to the steering, with the M235i almost feeling as if a slightly quicker rack has been installed. The car now responds with more immediacy as the steering wheel is turned and even on the damper sections of roads we encounter understeer really doesn’t rear its ugly head unless one’s being wildly optimistic with one’s corner entry speed.

    At the same time it’s devastatingly rapid on the straights between the corners and it makes no matter whether you simply leave the ‘box to its own devices or elect to swap cogs yourself with the paddles. This latter mode gives you a little more control as you enter the corners and one aspect I particularly like about this conversion is that it’s not afraid to allow the car a certain amount of body roll. This endows the M235i with the necessary compliance to shrug off and ride out mid-corner imperfections and the further I drive it the more convinced I become that virtually nothing is going to throw it off line or upset its cornering attitude. Grip levels are astonishingly high and there’s traction by the barrel load, not something you can always say about the M235i in inclement conditions when you ask it to deliver its last two-tenths of performance. In un-fettled form it can become a little ragged in these circumstances, but the Birds machine just gets on with the job of being blisteringly quick yet entertaining at the same time without a buttockclenching moment in sight.

    Once the pictures are in the bag and Smithy’s headed off to get editing the images I decide to take the long way home and avoid the M25, just to further experience the pace and poise of this car on the back roads. It doesn’t disappoint on any level. The ride’s great, the grip is of the highest order and the performance is sensational. The standard M235i might be a great bit of kit, but if you’re a keen driver who likes to use all the car’s performance without any compromises then may I suggest you speak to Kevin Bird about how he can transform your pocket rocket into an M2 eater.

    CONTACT: Birds / Tel: 01753 657444 / Web:

    DATA FILE BIRDS’ #BMW-M235i / #BMW-M235i-Birds

    / #Birds-B2-3.5-Complete-Conversion : 390hp engine upgrade, Birds’ springs and dampers, #Quaife limited slip differential, 18-inch tyres and geometry set up – £7239.

    B2 Dynamics package: Birds’ springs and dampers, Quaife limited slip differential, 18-inch tyres and geometry set up – £4776.

    Please note: Prices quoted include all parts, labour and VAT. Further upgrades are available on request.

    “Not only was the ride quality better than before, ultimate body control improved on our bumpy B roads and the steering feel improvements were in a different league”

    Speeds rise as familiarity grows and my first impression is one of significant improvements to the steering.
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    Small Wonder Motech’s fully-tuned M235i. How a few choice modifications can transform the M235i. There’s no doubting that the M235i is a wonderful pocket rocket but it doesn’t take a huge amount of work to turn it into an M2-baiting super coupé. Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Gus Gregory.

    As I’m blasting back and forth along one of Northamptonshire’s most excellent stretches of road I can’t help but think that in some respects the 2 Series Coupé reminds me of the venerable E30 3 Series. It’s small (relatively speaking) and feels lithe and eager when attacking a favourite piece of road. Obviously things have changed dramatically during the 30 years that separates the cars, but I can still detect the essence of the E30 in the 2 Series – BMW might have rolled out the old 2002 when it was launching the M235i, but for me there are more parallels to be drawn with the second generation 3 Series.

    And like the iconic E30 the new 2 Series Coupé seems to be attracting the attention of the tuning companies just like the E30 did back in the day. Virtually not a day goes by without an email dropping into the BMW Car inbox announcing the arrival of another new tuning product for the car, and there are no prizes for guessing which model is firmly in the centre of the tuner’s spotlight. Yup, the M235i is the weapon of choice and with prices for used examples now down to around the £20k mark owners can cherry pick a few tuning products and end up with a machine that’s every bit as quick and as entertaining as the new M2 but for half the price. Yes, it won’t have the attitude that the M2’s wide-arched styling brings to the party, but if you prefer to pass under the radar than be the centre of attention then that’s no bad thing.

    Mike Hodder who heads up Motech Performance has been involved with the BMW tuning market for probably more years than he cares to remember and like the 2 Series his roots go back to the days of the E30. His previous development mule was an E92 M3 and when we sampled it back in the October 2016 issue we found that his few simple upgrades had helped to bring out a little bit more from the already pretty effective M3. And while he was a big fan of the M235i straight out of the box he felt that he could apply his years of tuning experience to the newest pocket rocket to make it a real world friendly fun machine – one that could just as easily be used on the daily commute as well as coming alive when clipping apices on your favourite ribbon of back road.

    Thus he didn’t want to go too extreme with any of the work he was going to do on the M235i and after years of experience in the tuning world he feels that the majority of his customers want something that’s pretty straightforward and once fitted can more or less be forgotten about. Fully adjustable suspension set ups are all well and good and might have plenty of showroom appeal, but how many owners actually carry out those adjustments once the kit’s been fitted? Thus Mike decided to cherry pick some of the best products on the market, add a frisson of Hodder, and then package them up as a kit that can be fitted to an M235i (or M135i or the latest M140i and M240i).

    Thus what we have here is the full works, the M400 set up, but for owners not wanting to go the whole hog just about everything included in the M400 package can also be spec’d individually. While the M235i isn’t exactly lacking in power and performance if you’re looking at endowing the car with M2-rivalling pace you’re going to need to extract a little bit more from the turbocharged straight-six and the first step on the ladder for the M400 is a Remus Powerizer.

    This is a plug-and-play module that plugs into the M235i’s engine wiring harness and can run different states of tune. Mike finds that most people just leave it alone once fitted and while he knows there are other products on the market that give you greater functionality and more options he finds that the vast majority of his customers prefer the simplicity of the Powerizer. This is combined with a Pipercross freeflow air filter and a Forge Motorsport hard pipe and boost kit and a Forge front-mount intercooler.

    To ensure the last bit of efficiency is wrought from the engine a Remus turbo back exhaust system is fitted and for those of you who aren’t overly familiar with the company it’s safe to say that it’s one of Europe’s leading brands and you might be surprised to learn that its systems are OE fit to many performance cars. Like most quality set ups it’s tuned to provide an unobtrusive soundtrack when cruising yet will properly sing when the engine’s extended. What you can’t see in the pictures are the bespoke Eibach springs that have been fitted to the car. While Eibach obviously supply a huge range of off the shelf components Mike took advantage of Eibach’s new product line that’s available to its dealers called Private Label. This kit is based on a Pro-kit, and dealers can have their own Private Label kit which is to their specification but made by Eibach, so for Mike’s set up he’s gone for a greater suspension drop than that already offered by Eibach (25mm at the front and 20mm at the rear) but the progressive rate springs have also been designed to offer a comfortable ride as well as improved handling. Mike could have had the springs painted in a myriad of different colours but in the end he opted to go for a similar shade to the #BMW factory look and the only way you’d know by looking at the springs that these aren’t factory is the discreet Motech logo and part number.

    This particular example of the #BMW-M235i was an exdealer demonstrator and had been treated to a raft of BMW M Performance upgrades prior to Mike purchasing the car and all the official BMW styling does look good, from the lower front spoiler to the forged rims to the rear carbon spoiler and the carbon mirror caps it looks suitably purposeful and aggressive. Mike’s not a fan of run-flats so has ditched these in favour of some Yokohama Advan Sport tyres. Inside it’s more or less as BMW intended bar a great-to-the-touch alcantara-clad M Performance steering wheel, pedal set and some carbon-effect trim.

    The whole package looks very alluring as we’re shooting the statics and details at the nearby Sywell Aerodrome but I’m itching to drive the car so we head off to our favourite back roads in the area to see how it fares. The quick dash up the A14 confirms that none of the Motech upgrades have spoiled the everyday usability of the car. It’s a quick dual carriageway and cruising at the legal limit the exhaust’s perfectly muted and the ride’s firm but nicely compliant.

    Once we’re on the back roads we can have a proper play and it only takes a few flexes of the right ankle to have my VW Passat company car that’s acting as photoshoot support vehicle disappearing to a small dot in the M235i’s rear view mirror. Despite the bright skies it’s bitterly cold and the roads are still slick with moisture but the M235i takes all in its stride, the Yokohamas clinging on manfully as we up the speed as we become confident in the car’s abilities.

    There’s no doubting that there’s plenty of performance on offer and while quick getaways from a standstill will have the traction control light flickering demonically thanks to the ambient conditions the tyres soon find grip and the M235i’s hurtling off up the road like a scalded cat. Now we’re using more of the revs more of the time the Remus exhaust joins the party and it sounds glorious, singing away as the revs rise and eliciting a nice ‘barrumph’ on the overrun or as you swap cogs. It goads you on to try a little harder on each pass for the camera and I soon get into a rhythm with the car that’s deeply satisfying. Sometimes doing repeated runs for the camera can be a tedious affair, but this time I’m almost disappointed when snapper Gus raises his hand to say that’s enough as far as he’s concerned.

    The Private Label Motech/Eibach springs have proved very effective too, the lower centre of gravity helping the car to corner with a flatter attitude and while the ride can get a little jiggly at times when traversing really rough sections it handles dips and crests in the road very well and the set up proves to be very linear in its responses so you always know how the car is going to react. This inspires plenty of confidence and we’d say that between Motech and Eibach they’ve more or less got this set up spot on. As we head back to base we have one last banzai run on the B roads and the M400 gels together to dole out barrel loads of fun before we hit the more populated roads for our cruise back to base. It’s a job well done by Motech and has hit the duality of purpose nail of everyday usability with back road entertainment possibilities squarely on the head and proves that just like the good old E30 fun can come in small packages.

    CONTACT: Motech Performance / Tel: 01604 810000 / Web:

    THANKS TO: Sywell Aerodrome / Tel: 01604 491112 / Web:

    Now we’re using more of the revs more of the time the Remus exhaust joins the party and it sounds glorious, singing away as the revs rise.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Motech-M400 / #Motech / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-M235i / #BMW-M235i-F22 / #Motech-M400-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Motech-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-2-Series-F22 / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Motech-M400/ #2017

    ENGINE: straight-six, 24-valve
    MAX POWER: 380hp
    • Remus powerzier
    • Remus cat back with gloss black tips and carbon insets.
    • Pipercross panel filter
    • Forge hard pipe and boost kit
    • Forge Motorsport front mount intercooler
    • 12mm TPI wheel spacers
    • Eibach/Motech springs -25mm (front), -20mm (rear)
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    Fun Factory AC Schnitzer M240i tested. AC Schnitzer works its magic on the wonderful M240i Coupé. AC Schnitzer has taken one of BMW’s finest cars, injected it with an additional dose of adrenalin and the result is an exceedingly impressive miniature missile. Words and photography: Steve Hall.

    Here at BMW Car, we’re huge fans of the M240i, which is no surprise really considering the level of affection we developed for the M235i, which like any good relationship, just got better the more time we spent in its company. Handsome, compact coupé, powerful sonorous engine up front driving the rear wheels; it’s a recipe that would be difficult to get wrong with such good base ingredients.

    So 2016’s enhancements, which arrived when the 235 became the 240, were only ever going to deepen our desire for it. Adding 14hp and 37lb ft to a model which wasn’t exactly slow off the mark (that torque figure matches the M2) only serves to demonstrate what a fabulous engine the B58 is, combining more performance than the M235i’s BMW-N55 with greater efficiency, all the while allowing the driver to enjoy the – now unique in this class – pulsating straight-six music rendered by the B58’s machinations. At £36k it’s a hard package to beat.

    It’d be fair to say we’re fans of Schnitzer too. We realise this won’t come as a shock. With an expansive (and expanding) range we’ve had plenty cause to visit Aachen this year, and are consistently left thumbing our dictionary looking for new superlatives to sprinkle into our road test assessments. It’s on a fine run of form, hitting that sweet spot that can prove the downfall of other tuners; delivering an OEM standard of quality in a package that offers tangible benefits. So dispatching an M240i to the Schnitzer skunkworks should result in a very special package…

    Our final trip to Aachen of the year may be cold, but the forecast is bright and sunny. And with the whole day devoted to this shoot we’ve plenty of time to get to know the ACS2 4.0i. So it's a good thing our guide for the day did some diligent research (thanks Mario!) and has found some terrific roads for us to play on; one stretch in particular snaking its way along, then up a tree-lined mountain – the kind of road you imagine local petrolheads carving their way up and down in the quiet hours.

    This being Germany, we have a good few kilometers of autobahn to blast down before we reach black top more akin to a British B road (okay, with a significantly better surface) and some towns along the way to explore every facet of the ACS2’s performance and dynamics. First though, lets take in some details, starting with the element which will most irk M2 owners; the small matter of an additional 60hp and 75lb ft of torque…

    There has been much forum debate about the performance of the M240i vs the M2, given that the bona fide M car has 30hp more, identical torque and 30kg more weight. Factor in the M240i’s narrower shape and less aggressive aero and it’s easy to see why separating the junior car’s straight line performance would take a stopwatch marked in thousandths of seconds, and it’s debatable which car the exercise would favour. After Schnitzer has worked its magic, the stopwatch can safely be dispatched as the sheer thunderous energy the ACS2 demonstrates in the mid-range leaves you in no doubt: an M2 would be easy meat. With power and torque curves much the same as the standard car, power delivery mirrors the M240i – mid-range grunt swells as soon as 2000rpm is registered, by 4000rpm we’re really motoring, and the straight-six happily rips round to its 7000rpm redline with increasing vigour. But that 75lb ft of extra shove makes its presence felt everywhere, whilst the additional power sees the final flourish to the redline take the ACS2 into very senior company.

    Schnitzer realise the extra horses with its tried and tested method of an additional control box which (as with last month’s M3-based ACS3 Sport) sits atop the existing ECU and manipulates the controls to allow an increase in boost pressure, whilst being easily and invisibly reversible. That Schnitzer backs this with its own two-year warranty speaks volumes for the thoroughness of its testing programme. It explains why its claimed power figures are consistently backed up in independent testing, which isn’t something that can be said for every tuned car on the market…

    There’s a typical thoroughness to the Schnitzer approach in every element of the ACS2; the aesthetic updates address one of the few areas where criticism could be levelled at the M240i, and gives the 2 Series visual attitude to back up its performance. Not so much wolf in wolf’s clothing (that’s left to the M2), but for some there’s not enough to differentiate 218i from an M240i – not so with ACS2. The M240i’s demure aesthetic could be considered a selling point, but we think Schnitzer has struck a terrific balance by dressing the 2 Series in a smattering of high quality carbon trim pieces to complement its signature fivespoke AC1 forged alloys and the lowered ride height. As befits the Schnitzer way, many of these confer subtle aerodynamic improvements have been verified in the wind tunnel. The differences may be marginal, but when you’re driving a 400hp coupé on a road devoid of speed limits, any added high-speed stability is a welcome addition.

    Stability is aided by the Schnitzer suspension package which sits the ACS2 45mm and 50mm (front and rear respectively) closer to the ground, and waives the adaptive dampers in favour of a passive system which is mechanically adjustable in bump and rebound. The factory setup is so well judged, we doubt many will utilise the adjustment, but it’s nice to know it’s there. Some may be surprised at the omission of a locking differential even as an option, but in reality the few who would really make use of such an option are well served by some of the wilder Schnitzer products; and as we will see, this doesn’t stop the ACS2 being an absolute blast to drive on the right roads…

    Thoroughly warmed up from our sojourn through the suburbs, we join the autobahn with the ACS2 ready to demonstrate the full extent of its straight-line performance. There’s a few kilometres of built-up ‘bahn to negotiate before the derestricted sign hoves into view, during which the #BMW-M2-AC-Schnitzer-ACS2-F87 proves itself just as adept as any 2 Series Sport at low speed cruising.

    We leave the speed limit behind primed in third gear and take the opportunity to indulge in what seems to be a popular past-time in Germany – full bore acceleration when entering derestricted zones.

    It’s something the ACS2 4.0i is extremely well equipped for, punching hard with acceleration seemingly unabated as we charge through fourth and fifth gears. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too busy to explore the upper reaches of the speed spectrum, but the point is made – you’re going to need an M3 to stay in touch.

    We’re now on the roads I’d really been looking forward to. Roads which play well to the 2 Series’ compact size. We’re rolling on Continental Winter- Contact tyres, which may rob the ACS2 of the final percentile of precision, but do nothing to detract from the sweet balance innate to the chassis. All of the usual M240i traits are in situ, with the volume turned up to 11. There’s more precision, more control and more grip to manage the extra performance and on this road, winding its way up the hill interspersing 180 degree switchbacks with short straights, the ACS2 is indulgent fun. Traction proves surprisingly good, but with 443lb ft underfoot it’s easy to overwhelm the rear tyres at will – at which point the #ACS2 remains a faithful, enjoyable folly. Buoyed by the crackle of the Schnitzer Sport exhaust, I take a few more runs up and down the hill than necessary; it’s that kind of car on this kind of road…

    But then, what else were we expecting? The marriage of Schnitzer’s talents and the M240i make for a five star car; of course they do. Every element of potential critique in the M240i has been addressed, so you have a more visually alluring package that sounds better, goes better and is a more pleasing place to sit thanks to the array of Schnitzer interior trim parts. And whilst we understand that the cosmetics are not to everybody’s taste, if we were to pick and choose, the performance and chassis elements are absolutely worth having, taking the M240i on to a level of performance and driving enjoyment to worry an M2.

    CONTACT: AC Schnitzer UK
    Tel: 01485 542000 Web: AC Schnitzer (Germany)
    Tel: +49 (0) 241 5688130

    All of the usual M240i traits are in situ, with the volume turned up to 11. There’s more precision, more control and more grip to manage the extra performance

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #AC-Schnitzer-ACS2-4.0i-Coupé / #ACS2-4.0i-Coupé / #AC-Schnitzer-M240i / #2017 / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-M240i-Coupé / #BMW-M240i-Coupé-F22 / #BMW-M240i-F22 / #BMW / #AC-Schnitzer-ACS2-4.0i-Coupé-F22 / #AC-Schnitzer-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-2-Series-F22 / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe-F22 / #BMW-M240i-AC-Schnitzer / #BMW-M240i-AC-Schnitzer-F22 / #AC-Schnitzer / #ACS2-F22 /

    ENGINE: Twin-scroll turbo, straight-six, 24-valve / #BMW-N55 / #N55 / #N55-AC-Schnitzer /
    CAPACITY: 2998cc
    MAX POWER: 400hp @ 6000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 443lb ft @ 3000rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.6 seconds
    50-120MPH: 8.6 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)


    ENGINE: AC Schnitzer performance upgrade (additional control unit) AC Schnitczer engine optics
    ENGINE: AC Schnitzer tailpipe, Sport black
    WHEELS AND TYRES: AC Schnitzer AC1 BiColour wheels, 8.5x19-inches (front and rear) with 235/35 R19 Continental WinterContact tyres all-round
    SUSPENSION: AC Schnitzer ‘Racing’ package, lowered 45mm at the front and 50mm at the rear, adjustable bump and rebound
    STYLING: AC Schnitzer carbon front spoiler elements, upper rear spoiler, carbon rear spoiler, carbon fibre wing mirror covers, rear skirt protection film
    INTERIOR: AC Schnitzer aluminium pedal set and footrest, handbrake handle, key holder and floor mats

    The thunderous energy the #AC-Schnitzer-ACS2 demonstrates in the mid-range leaves you in no doubt: an M2 would be easy meat.
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    THE DYNAMIC DUO M240i pocket rockets

    Testing the excellent 340hp Coupé and Convertible that offer a real alternative to the M2. The M235i Coupé and Convertible were the two standout models for those looking for a £35k pocket rocket… and now they’ve morphed into their 40s they’re even better Words: Bob Harper //// Photography: BMW

    There’s been quite a lot of talk about the 2 Series recently, and I’m not referring to the diehard BMW enthusiast’s general lack of enthusiasm for what’s being rather unkindly termed ‘BMW’s Zafira’. It’s fair to say that BMW’s first attempt at a people carrier hasn’t gone down that well in some quarters, but there’s another 2 Series model that’s more than made up for this – the M2 – and this ultimate pocket rocket has been the most talked-about performance bargain of 2016. It seemingly has everything; the badge, a brilliant engine, arresting looks and an excellent chassis – M GmbH at its brilliant best.

    The M2, it seems, is like the most popular kid at school – top of his class, captain of the football team and the guy that all the girls want to date. The sort of kid that makes the rest of us chaps sick. Away from the limelight, though, there’s always another lad who won’t take this lying down – he studies hard, practices his football moves in the privacy of his own garden till he’s got that Cruyff turn and rabona down to a tee and works hard on developing his animal magnetism. In automotive terms this lad is the M240i. The M2 might have been grabbing all the headlines but its little brother isn’t going to let it have all the glory.

    The already excellent M235i made way for the M240i this year and the name change wasn’t just to bring the car into line with the rest of the ‘40i’ badged models as the 2 Series also received the new Baukasten modular engine in 2998cc twin-scroll turbo guise. Like the M140i we tested last month we have an additional 14hp (now up to 340hp) while torque has swelled quite significantly to 369lb ft – a gain of 37lb ft. And if you’re a student of BMW vital stats it won’t have escaped you that these figures are perilously close, and in some cases better, than those of the M2.

    It seems the school’s up and coming young lion is getting ready to take on the head of the pride. Yes, the M2 has 30hp more than the M240i, but the ‘lesser’ machine can muster 26lb ft more torque than the M2 and while the full-fat M car can match the M240i with its ‘overboost’ function, so in extremis delivers 369lb ft, that’s only available in short bursts.

    And it’s also worth considering that the M2 with its beefier underpinnings is 35kg heavier than the M240i. So it should come as no surprise that there’s barely a whisker in it when it comes to outright performance, with the manual M240i taking just 4.8 seconds to reach 62mph – 0.4 of a second slower than the M2, and there’s a similar difference in performance over the 50-75mph increment in fifth gear, too. We’re talking blink-and-you’ll-miss-it differences here.

    Of course, if you want a little bit of wind-in-the-hair action to accompany your blistering performance then you’ll have to choose the M240i as the M2 is only available as a Coupé. Despite having eaten a few more pies than its coupé sibling (150 kilos of pies actually) it’s still blisteringly quick, recording a 4.7 second 0-62mph time for the eight-speed auto we’ve driven here – even the manual is only a tad slower at 4.9 seconds! It’s a crisp autumnal morn when we slip behind the wheel of the rag-top M240i and while the engine warms we pootle off from our BMW launch venue with the hood up and all the settings in Comfort mode. It’s refined, comfortable and the wellengineered hood keeps us nicely insulated from the cold, but once the heater’s started to fill the cabin with warmth and the heated seats (a £295 option which we reckon should be standard on a nigh-on £40k car) are toasting our nether regions we drop the hood and head for the hills.

    It certainly shrugs off its weight as we pass the national speed limit sign and let the M240i off the leash and it’s soon lolloping along a quite an indecent rate. The ‘six loves to rev – it’s better than the old M235i’s unit in this respect – but if you’re not in the mood for high-rev tomfoolery you can simply use the more than ample mid-range urge to teleport you into the next county. But it’s not just the sheer pace that impresses as there’s a wonderful soundtrack to listen to and a fluidity to the chassis that makes the car very easy to drive very quickly. With the hood down the exhaust really is an aural delight, popping and wurumphing to itself on upchanges and on the overrun, or simply becoming increasingly symphonic as you head closer and closer towards the redline.

    As with 99 percent of #BMW press test cars, both this Convertible and the Coupé we’ll come onto in a minute are equipped with the optional (£515) Adaptive M Sport suspension setup which in Comfort mode is reckoned to be softer than the standard setup, while in Sport it’s a little firmer. In the soft-top we find it best in Comfort unless the road’s billiard smooth as in its firmer setting you can find you get the occasional shudder through the car’s structure, and while body control isn’t quite as well-controlled when cornering in this mode the car grips well and hangs on tenaciously. As an overall package it takes some beating, especially if you like to take in the sights and the smells as you’re driving, with the added bonus that the exhaust really can be heard so much better with the hood down than in the coupé.

    While the M240i Coupé might not offer quite so much acoustic pleasure it makes up for it in other areas. Did we mention it was quick? Even though the stopwatch might suggest there’s only a whisker in it, the less weighty Coupé does feel fleeter of foot, particularly in the mid-range, and it would have to be a very well driven M2 to be able to pull away from an M240i on a well-surfaced back road. The young pretender feels lithe and alive when tackling a favourite back road – it’s keen to change direction and while you might not get a huge amount of information back through the steering wheel as to what the front tyres are doing you can just about guarantee that they’ll be gripping unless your corner entry-speed is hugely overambitious. On slippy sections the traction control light does like to illuminate itself pretty often but if you switch the DSC into its halfway house mode it does allow for slightly more slip which aids rapid progress without the electronic nanny intervening so often.

    Like with the Convertible the suspension settings can sometimes feel like a bit of a compromise depending on the quality of the road you’re attacking. For the really rough stuff we reckon you’re better off in Comfort as the less stiff setup does allow the tyres to remain in contact with the road to a better degree, although the trade-off is less than perfect body control with the softer setting allowing quite a bit more roll. The flip side of the coin is that if you elect for the Sport setup you have improved body control but every now and then you do encounter a little bit of patter from the wheels as they struggle to resolve themselves between bumps and undulations.

    Ultimately the young pretender doesn’t quite have the chassis control or agility of the M2, but, and it’s a big but, you’ll only discover this when you’re on a real gung-ho back road blast at ten tenths. Notch the pace back to slightly saner speeds that 95 percent of us would still probably judge to be very brisk indeed and you’ll be hard pushed to spot the difference. When you’re sitting in the cockpit of the M240i you won’t feel hard done by either, as bar a smattering of M badges and some blue stitching the two cockpits are virtually identical.

    And here’s the thing; an M2 has a list price of £44,080 whereas the young pretender weighs in at £35,090 – virtually bang on nine thousand pounds difference. For us that makes the M240i a no-brainer – it’s as quick as an M2 in all but five percent of situations and will be cheaper to run, too. Just about the only area where the M240i loses out is in the looks stakes, lacking the M2’s pumped up arches and visual aggression, and for those who like to travel very quickly under the radar that might also be a plus point too…

    The less weighty Coupé does feel fleeter of foot, particularly in the mid-range.
    The less weighty Coupé does feel fleeter of foot, particularly in the mid-range.

    TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-F23 / #BMW-M240i-Convertible / #BMW-M240i-Convertible-F23 / #BMW-M240i-F23 /
    ENGINE: Straight-six, 24-valve
    CAPACITY: 2998cc
    MAX POWER: 340hp @ 5500rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 369lb ft @ 1520-4500rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.9 seconds (4.7)
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (155)
    ECONOMY: 34.0mpg (38.2)
    EMISSIONS: 179g/km (163)
    WEIGHT (EU): 1690kg (1705)
    PRICE (OTR): £38,535 (£39,935)
    Figures in brackets refer to eight-speed automatic tested

    TECHNICAL DATA #2017 #BMW-F22 / #BMW-M240i-Coupé / #BMW-M240i-Coupé-F22 / #BMW-M240i-F22 /
    ENGINE: Straight-six, 24-valve
    CAPACITY: 2998cc
    MAX POWER: 340hp @ 5500rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 369lb ft @ 1520-4500rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.8 seconds (4.6)
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (155)
    ECONOMY: 36.2mpg (39.8)
    EMISSIONS: 179g/km (163)
    WEIGHT (EU): 1545kg (1560)
    PRICE (OTR): £35,090 (£36,520)
    Figures in brackets refer to eight-speed automatic tested
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    / #Prior-Design 2 Series #wide-body-conversion / #BMW / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe-F22 / #BMW-F22 / #2016 / #BMW-F22-Prior-Design /

    Available now from M Style is this wide-body conversion for the 2 Series Coupé by Prior Design. The conversion kit consists of front and rear bumpers, side skirts, front wings and rear quarter add-ons, front bumper widening and rear bumper widening. For an even more dramatic look Prior Design also offers an add-on front splitter, bonnet and rear spoiler. Painting and fitting are available at M Style’s East London tuning centre.

    Price: £4895 (supplied only). Painting and fitting costs extra Contact: or 020 8598 9115
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    The Everett Fleet / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-2-Series-F22 / #BMW-218d-M-Sport-Coupé / #BMW-218d-M-Sport-Coupe-F22 / #BMW-218d-F22 / #BMW-F22 / #2016 / #BMW

    For reasons I’ll go into another time, I found myself driving a new 218d M Sport Coupé this month. This silver dream machine was one of Sytner Sheffield’s service loan cars and with just 63 miles on the clock, was literally out of the box.

    This is the first time I’ve driven a diesel version of these and I have to say, it’s very good. Like the 1 Series Coupé before it, the BMW-2-Series-Coupé is not a looker. The proportions hint at a Hyundai Accent from 20 years ago and from the back, it appears to have borrowed Joan Collins’ shoulder pads – the front three quarter angle is just awkward. But it’s what you might call a ‘grower’ – whilst I thought the car looked ridiculous last year, seeing a few on the road has given me a new take on it. It’ll never be regarded as ‘pretty’ but it has a certain purposeful charm and enough of the 1 Series Coupé’s wilful ugliness to set it apart from both the bland Audi A3 (do you actually notice these on the road?) or the B Class Merc that to all intents and purposes is a three-pointed star on last year’s Astra. BMW probably doesn’t care what I think because with full order books, the 2 Series has been a good cash cow for BMW.

    The thing is – you can’t look at it when you’re in the driving seat and BMW has expended most of its efforts to create another car that really is superb to drive. Judging by the way BMWs of various types walk away with first prize in most if not all comparison tests, BMW really does get the important stuff right – and once again, on this car, it really has. For a start it’s the right size. I find an F10 a bit too big for city driving and as competent as the F30 is, it’s outgrown what the original 3 Series concept stood for – small and light with a manual box and so on. For once, I got out of a BMW and back into an E36 and the old car hasn’t felt tiny. Sure, the pillars could be thinner, but the car is just the right size.

    The sight of M Sport badging made my poor back groan but on the road, the ride is perfectly judged and soaks up Sheffield’s potholed atrocities well enough – given roads that have been maintained, the car rides superbly with well-judged springs and dampers plus bushes that do the right thing.

    It’s now powered by the new B47 2.0-litre diesel, basically the old N47 with a few nips and tucks. The oil pump, unlike on some applications, appears to be chain driven and not electric, and the unit still has a proper belt driven water pump. With a single turbo (despite the TwinPower moniker) it pumps out 150hp and 236lb ft of torque – about what a 320d did back in the days of the E46.

    As a result the 218d never feels fast, just usefully brisk and depending on what you’ve just stepped out of it never feels underpowered – but given the choice, I’d forget about the M Sport package and settle on the Sport but in 190hp 220d form – given that the 218d M Sport retails at over £28,000 and the 220d Sport is £26,000, I’d choose the 40hp willingly over the dubious extra value of the M Sport – spec a Sport in a good bright red or gloss black and it looks pretty much as good and both cars come on 17-inch wheels – spend the savings on a set of 18s if you like. Experience with the F30 and 4 Series has shown me that the Sport model handles extremely well with an even better ride and any advantages in handling are generally in extremis.
    What else is there to like? Well, the chunky wheel, sports seats and that magic invention – the mechanical handbrake lever. Without being blighted by that sodding button, the F22 Coupé is a car that can be driven in the normal way. And whilst I’d normally spec an automatic box with a 3 or 5 Series, somehow the stubby six-speed manual suits this little hero just fine.

    Of course, there are things on any car that grate – for me it’s auto stop start (so disable it with every engine start, and save wear on the battery, starter motor and timing chain) and that’s about it. The car is probably no better built than anything else these days but even so, it’s nicely finished with not a creak or squeak. The Harman Kardon sound system isn’t anything special really (it comes as part of the M Sport Plus package fitted to this car) and 18-inch rims, a boot spoiler, headlight wash, Xenons and M Sport calipers are all nice stuff to have if you’ve money to burn but it is then more expensive than the £29,000 the staggeringly good 228i Sport costs. Start going over £30k with options and you are too close to the almost bargainous M235i, £35,000 without options, which is just right as it comes thanks. Mine’s gloss black if you’re buying…

    Have I made this 218d sound good? It is good, a fine driver’s car that’s closer than ever to perfection for what many like myself actually want from a car these days. You may think that BMW, when dabbling with upmarket Zafiras and such nonsense, has lost the plot. Don’t believe it for a second. The truth is, there’s never been a better time to get behind the wheel of a new BMW.
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    Light Speed

    We get up close and personal with AC Schnitzer’s wildest creation, the absolutely stunning ACL2. #AC-Schnitzer-ACL2 . Hitting the road in this stunning 570hp M4-engined lightweight. AC Schnitzer’s bonkers ACL2 Geneva show star has been on a serious diet and packs an enhanced M4 punch – it’s an absolute belter Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith.

    Wait for it, wait for it… I whiz past the derestriction sign on the Autobahn and can finally let Schnitzer’s latest, and perhaps wildest, creation off the leash. There’s torque in abundance from the tuned M4 motor but for maximum attack I really need to drop it down a cog or two to experience the full savagery of what this bespoke show car has to offer. At the same time as I grasp the stubby yet tactile gear knob the lumbering arctic that’s chugging along in the nearside lane somehow decides that the headlights spearing through the morning gloom aren’t moving that fast so he pulls out and indulges in some elephant racing with another truck for an absolute age.

    The quicker lorry seems to be moving with the speed of cold treacle but after what seems like an eon its millimetric progress is completed and I can finally hit the loud pedal. And loud it certainly is. I’m in third gear and as I plant the throttle pedal firmly into the carpet the rear end hunkers down as the nose rises a smidgen and all the hounds of the Baskervilles are unleashed somewhere back where the rear seats used to be and the ACL2 takes off like the proverbial bat out of hell.

    In what seems like a nanosecond I’m reaching for fourth and then fifth as the ACL2 gobbles up the horizon like the best Sunday lunch it’s ever experienced. The speedo needle seems to be heading round the dial at the same speed as the rev counter and our pace is only slowed again as another truck in the distance heaves its way into the outside lane to prevent further progress towards the ACL2’s quoted top speed of 330km/h – 205mph.

    The fact that the ACL2 is quick should really be a given – it has 570hp after all and has been on a pretty severe diet too – but what does surprise while I’m sitting at an enforced 100km/h behind the truck is quite how civilised it is. Yes, there is a pretty severe exhaust drone when sitting at a constant throttle at certain revs, but shifting up or down a cog soon gets rid of that. And then there’s the ride quality – this might have Schnitzer’s Clubsport suspension setup, but it’s by no means overly harsh… a little jiggly in places, but then this isn’t a 7 Series is it? No, this machine was designed to go fast, and preferably fast away from the Autobahn so after one further acceleration fest we turn off in search of some better driving roads.

    Naturally enough it’s the photography that comes first though so once we’ve found a location that’s to Smithy’s liking we let him get busy with the cameras while I chat to the Schnitzer chaps and delve a little bit further into the technology underneath the ACL2. Schnitzer has a long tradition of making some pretty stunning show cars – the CLS (lightweight tuned E36 M3), the CLS II (ditto but based on the E36 Evo), the V8 Roadster (a Z3 complete with 4.4-litre V8), the Topster (an E39 M5-engined Z4)… there are plenty more in the company’s archives but this year the company wanted to go all-out and produce a machine for Geneva that would put the new M2 in the shade and really stand out from the crowd.

    No doubt life would have been very much easier for the company had it revealed the ACL2 a few months down the line as it could have used the M2 as the basis for its conversion, but if the car was to be ready for Geneva an M235i would have to be used as the donor car. The aim was to produce a car with plenty of power, but one which had also lost some of its excess fat too. One of AC Schnitzer’s tuning mantras is ‘less is more’ so putting the M235i on a diet was a must and while tuning the M235i’s 326hp was certainly possible it wasn’t going to produce the results Schnitzer wanted for the car so an engine swap was on the cards, too.

    Thus out went the N55 straight-six to be replaced by the altogether rortier S55 from the M4, but even with 431hp the M4’s lump needed some further fettling to reach the sort of power-to-weight ratio that Schnitzer craved. The intake system was optimised and clad in sexy carbon while a Schnitzer exhaust with sports cats and a certain amount of electronic jiggery pokery soon released the engine’s potential to give 570hp at 6100rpm and a monstrous 546lb ft of torque at 3500rpm. Healthy gains I think you’ll agree and when combined with the M235i’s diet programme the ACL2 now has a better power-to-weight ratio than an M4 GTS and a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. No surprise, then, that it’ll knock off the 0-62mph sprint in 3.9 seconds and will accelerate from rest to 125mph in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 10.9 seconds.

    In order to ensure that all this power can be safely transmitted to the road Schnitzer elected to fit the front and rear axles from the M4 to the M235i and the wider track necessitated the fitment of the front and rear wheel arch extensions, along with the more aggressive front spoiler assembly and a gorgeous carbon rear diffuser. Schnitzer elected to paint the whole car in what it describes as ‘Classic Racing Green’ and the colour’s a nod back to the company’s past as the CLS II was painted in a similar hue. In an ideal world it would have liked to have called the ACL2 the CLS III, but another German manufacturer now owns the rights to the CLS moniker…

    Personally I’m not a huge fan of the rear wing – I must admit I don’t like the BMW one on the M4 GTS either – aesthetically I’d much rather see a ducktail item a la M3 CSL, but given the speeds this Schnitzer machine is capable of I can see that you’d want to ensure a decent amount of downforce at over 200mph. There are liberal doses of carbon littering the exterior of the car and there are some neat touches such as the new LED indicators housed under Schnitzer’s new side gills. The bonnet itself is carbon fibre to reduce weight.

    Externally there’s no getting away from the lightweight forged AC1 alloy wheels with their bright orange/polished finish – I wasn’t quite sure on the finish in the harsh light of the Geneva show halls, but now seeing them out in the open I think the colour scheme actually works rather well. They are 10x20-inch all round and shod with 285/25 ZR20 Michelin Pilot Super Sports – only the best for Schnitzer’s pocket rocket. Nestling behind the rims are a set of monster brakes – carbon ceramics measuring 400x38mm at the front and 380x28mm at the rear. If those measurements sound familiar that’s because these discs are also donated by the M4, although Schnitzer has changed the yellow six-and four-pot callipers to black.

    It wouldn’t be a proper show car if the interior hadn’t been upgraded and Schnitzer has really gone to town with the ACL2 – it’s a wonderful place to spend wheel time. The heavy standard M235i seats have been dropped in favour of a pair of carbonshelled racing buckets that have been exquisitely trimmed in green and black Nappa leather while the door trim panels have been clad in black suede with contrast green stitching. The dash highlights have been picked out in green as have the steering wheel inserts, and the actual wheel is a Schnitzer ‘Evo’ item. One of the dash vents has been replaced by an Awron digital screen that displays all sorts of data from peak power and torque to temperatures to boost levels and so on. It doesn’t do all that much when stationary which leads to all sorts of hilarity when I later ask Smithy to get a picture of it with some high outputs displayed. Apparently trying to point a Nikon with a big lens at a particular part of the dash while going for a full bore standing start isn’t all that easy!

    Elsewhere inside, the rear seats have been ditched and the remaining platform has been neatly carpeted, again in the interest of saving weight, and there are a few Schnitzer goodies around the cabin such as a pedal set, handbrake handle and aluminium ‘Black Line’ gear knob. The handbrake and gear lever gaiters are trimmed in the same suede as the door trim panels and the overall effect is pretty stunning. It does get a little warm though as the air conditioning has also been ditched in favour of saving weight.

    Eventually Smithy’s finished with the static pictures and I linger a last few moments drinking in the underbonnet detailing which is lovely, with beautifully finished carbon fibre and a smattering of green on top of the air intake. I gingerly close the bonnet, taking care of that one-off piece of carbon fibre and once again slip behind the wheel to find out how well this rocket ship performs away from the motorway.

    Once the car-to-car photography is complete it’s time for some serious action. Just starting the ACL2 for the first time really gets one’s automotive juices flowing as the exhaust sounds seriously aggressive and at idle it’s a bass-heavy rumble that would make your neighbours go off you very rapidly indeed. At slower speeds it’s relatively muted, but hit that Drive Performance Control switch into Sport mode and put the hammer down and all hell breaks loose. It sounds very, very angry – in a good way – and the harder you push the car the more spine-tingling the exhaust note becomes. It dominates proceedings, bellowing its approval as you run up and down through the gearbox, eliciting a veritable barrage of pops and bangs every time you change gear. It almost wouldn’t matter if it turned out the ACL2 handled like a skateboard on an ice rink, such is the aural delight developed by Schnitzer’s work.

    Fortunately though there’s more to this car than a very noisy set of quad pipes as the harder I push it the better the car responds. In the back of my mind is the fact that this is a very expensive one-off creation and while it would be easy to hide it in the green grass that’s surrounding our chosen section of road I don’t think Schnitzer’s top brass would be too impressed. The roads are smooth and well-surfaced though and the corners are relatively well sighted and the ACL2 devours them with real verve. I’m pleased for the tight-fitting bucket seats when I begin to tackle the corners with vigour. There’s plenty of feel coming through my fingertips translating what’s going on with the front wheels while the tight seat allows you to get a real idea of what the chassis is doing too. Given the monster rubber, the dry conditions and the Drexler limited-slip differential Schnitzer’s fitted there are staggeringly high levels of grip on offer, but accelerating away from a standstill in a straight line demonstrates that the ACL2 will certainly break traction more or less whenever you want it to.

    In deference to the one-off nature of this machine I’m not going to go all gung ho and attempt on the lock stops drifting for the camera, but with the traction control in its halfway house there’s enough movement from the rear to get a feel for what a well-balanced and poised machine this really is. It might have a sledgehammer under the bonnet but there’s a delicacy to its responses to small inputs that’s most gratifying.

    Then there’s the fact that everything that’s supposed to work, works properly. The M4 engine in the car was originally mated to an M DCT ‘box but for the ACL2 Schnitzer wanted to fit a manual as it weighs less than the DCT and also represents the ultimate driver’s spec. Getting the new manual to talk to the various control units was a bit of nightmare but Schnitzer has done such a good job that even the blipping of the throttle on down changes works as seamlessly as it does in a standard M4.

    If you stop driving like a loon it’s also surprisingly easy to pilot the ACL2 along – the controls are perfectly weighted and the throttle response is exemplary, with minimal inputs offering the appropriate gentle acceleration. At the other end of the spectrum, large doses of throttle induce the sort of grin that becomes painful after a few minutes. As a way to have fun the ACL2 really can’t have many, if any, peers.

    All good things come to an end though and before too long it’s time to head back to Schnitzer’s Aachen HQ. Time for one last acceleration-fest as we blast past the lorries that thankfully stay in their correct lane and once again I’m blown away with the massive levels of acceleration as well as the high-speed stability that’s on offer. On the odd occasion that a slower machine does wander into my path those carbon ceramic stoppers wash off excess speed with alacrity and all the while that monster exhaust rises and falls in timbre, signalling its approval at giving it a proper work out.

    The styling might not be to everyone’s taste, but you really can’t criticise the engineering integrity that’s gone into this Schnitzer project car. As a light weight concept that goes like lightning it’s the real deal. The only question that remains is how to persuade Schnitzer to build another one for my collection…

    AC Schnitzer UK
    Tel: 01485 542000
    AC Schnitzer Germany
    Tel: +49 (0)241 56 88 130

    / #2016 / #AC-Schnitzer-ACL2 / #S55-AC-Schnitzer / #S55 / #BMW-S55 / #AC-Schnitzer / #Drexler / #BMW-M2 / #BMW-M2-F87 / #BMW-M2-AC-Schnitzer-F87 / #AC-Schnitzer-ACL2-F87 / #BMW-M2-AC-Schnitzer / #BMW-F87 / #BMW-F22 / #2016 / #BMW

    ENGINE: Replacement of the standard M235i engine with M4’s S55 with AC Schnitzer performance upgrade, speed limiter removed by programming of the control unit, optimised carbon air intake
    MAX POWER: 570hp @ 6100rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 546lb ft (750Nm) @ 3500rpm
    0-62MPH: 3.9 seconds
    0-125MPH: 205mph (330km/h)
    DRIVETRAIN: Six-speed manual gearbox, AC Schnitzer/Drexler limited-slip differential with 25-95 per cent locking
    EXHAUST: AC Schnitzer downpipe, AC Schnitzer sports silencer system with special catalyst (200 cell), AC Schnitzer ‘Racing Evo Carbon’ tail trims
    BRAKES: Front: six-piston callipers, carbon ceramic brake discs in 400x38mm diameter (perforated). Rear: fourpiston callipers, carbon ceramic brake discs in 380x28mm diameter (perforated)
    SUSPENSION: Exchange of the standard axles with M4 items, AC Schnitzer Clubsport suspension, height adjustable and adjustable in compression and rebound, M4 carbon strut brace
    WHEEL SET: AC Schnitzer lightweight forged wheels in AC1 bicolour – red anodised/polished. Front & rear: 10x20-inch with 285/25 ZR 20 Michelin PSS tyres
    AERODYNAMICS AC Schnitzer special paint – Classic Racing Green, AC Schnitzer carbon bonnet with bonnet vents (black), AC Schnitzer front skirt with carbon front spoiler elements, front splitter and carbon front side wings (two each side), AC Schnitzer special sports mirrors, AC Schnitzer carbon rear diffuser, AC Schnitzer carbon rear wing, AC Schnitzer front and rear wheel arch extensions (70 mm wider each side)
    INTERIOR: AC Schnitzer bicolour leather interior: green and perforated Nappa leather in combination with black suede leather with green stitching, interior panels painted matt in Classic Racing Green, rear seats removed, AC Schnitzer carbon racing seats bicolour with black/green nappa leather and leather in carbon design with ACL2 emblems, AC Schnitzer three-spoke sports airbag steering wheel ‘Evo’ with Nappa and perforated leather and green suede, carbon door handles and center console, AC Schnitzer control display for oil temperature, intake air temperature and boost pressure etc, AC Schnitzer aluminium pedals, footrest, gear knob and handbrake handle.
    WEIGHT: 1450kg
    PRICE: Concept only – not for sale

    The rear end hunkers down as the nose rises a smidgen and all the hounds of the Baskervilles are unleashed.
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    Tackling the North Coast 500 in an M235i. North by North West The North Coast 500 is reckoned to be the UK’s best road – we tackle it in an M235i. Is the #North-Coast-500 the UK’s best road? Matt Richardson climbed aboard an M235i to find out what it has to offer… Words and photography: Matt Richardson.

    The first shafts of sun are starting to cut through the early morning mist which hangs across the mountains to our right, while on our left the hills are mirrored in the perfectly still loch water. Ahead of us lies a deserted twisting road, disappearing into the horizon. In this incredible landscape it’s hard to focus on the road, but the growl of the M235i brings things sharply back into focus and it’s proving to be the ideal car for this trip on what must be the best set of roads in the UK.

    The story starts two years ago on America’s Main Street, when my best friend from school and I decided to do something big for our 40th birthdays and drove Route 66 across the USA. We loved it so much that we started looking for another road trip, this time closer to home and seeing as the North Coast 500 route is touted as Scotland’s Route 66 we had to take a look – but this time there would be corners, lots of corners. Thus we wanted a lively rear-wheel drive manual car instead of a dull rental. What could be better than a #BMW-M-Performance machine? We had driven to the start point of Inverness the previous day, checking into a motel after midnight.

    Over breakfast it occurred to us the 600 miles we had driven the previous day was actually further than the route of the North Coast 500. Nevertheless we headed west out of Inverness through light drizzle on to the A9, the scenery gradually improving as the city shrank behind us before heading onto the A832 to Muir of Ord and our first distillery stop at The Singleton. Just time to look through the door, sniff the whisky and get a stamp in the Classic Malts distillery pass booklet (an Eye Spy for whisky) before continuing.

    We’d picked our time to drive the route well – later in the summer the roads would be clogged with caravans and motorhomes, and any earlier in the year parts of it would have been closed by snow. We were fortunate to have the highest temperatures in the UK all week, so when we reached Achnasheen the sun was shining and we could bear left to take the seasonal route through Glen Carron along the tiny A890 and deeper into Wester Ross. This is Game of Thrones country and it certainly looked like Winterfell might be nearby.

    As the landscape became more dramatic the road got narrower and twistier. We only got to stretch the car’s legs for moments at a time before slowing for the next blind bend. The road runs around the top corner of Loch Carron’s coast before looping north inland towards Torridan. As our first sight of a big tidal loch, we were stunned by the inland sea and paused a couple of times to walk down to the water.

    Heading along the shore road we stopped for lunch at what would be the start of a recurring theme – amazing food in remote places. The Loch Carron golf club is in an isolated and beautiful spot, and locals immune to the scenery were amused at the two southerners sitting outside with the wind whipping their Tshirts, lifting salad from the plates, but to us it seemed crazy to go inside and not be immersed in the landscape. As we neared Torridon the road started to rise and offered more startling views of the water. Climbing higher the roads stayed single track with rock and scree fields on the side of the mountain but with great sight lines ahead we could press on and enjoy the curves. At the top snow was on the ground so we had to stop in a passing place for a snowball fight and to take in the silence at the top of the world.

    After a day of driving we’d covered only 100 miles on small, slow-going roads in a large loop, ending back at Achnasheen, but our night stop delivered an unexpected treat. To reach our hotel at Ledgowan we took a spectacular section of the A832 past Loch a’Croisg – the road rose and dipped across sweeping curves, and the BMW came alive on this gentle roller coaster. After a day of swapping turns at the wheel I was the lucky driver on this section, Barry consoled knowing he would be at the wheel the other way the next morning. We stopped for the night at Ledgowan Lodge, a grand Victorian hunting lodge of dark timber and mounted trophies at the foot of a heather-covered mountain. Before the light fell we headed out to hike to the top and try to see the loch behind before heading back for dinner.

    When we set out early the next morning the mist was hanging heavy across the hills again. In the morning light it looked like a different landscape and in the still air the loch water became a vast mirror, the mountains stretching above and below. I annoyed Barry by insisting we stop and take pictures, and could have shot hundreds more. However, the road was calling and we pushed on the other way along the A832 towards the west coast and further into the Highlands. With Loch Maree on our right we blasted though the national nature reserve, enjoying the deserted roads, quiet apart from occasional tractors and water-board 4x4s, which seemed to be everywhere. The M235i was proving to be the perfect car for these roads – small enough to squeeze down tight lanes but with plenty of power and control for the faster sections. We were both relieved to have a car with such a good manual gearbox to enjoy through the endless bends and hills.

    By the time we reached Gairloch on the coast we were ready for a break, so we pulled over for coffee and cake with another stunning view of the water before filling up and heading on the Aultbea where we thought we could kayak out into Loch Ewe, but alas we couldn’t – the downside of coming early in the season is that many attractions are not yet open.

    Stopping to take pictures at Aultbea a lady told us about an incredible beach she had just come from, so we turned back and took little more than a dirt track to Mellon Charles, a perfect sandy beach surrounded by rocks, where we had a picnic of our leftover motorway snacks from the drive up and discussed how this would be a great spot to bring our families back to.

    The road turns back inland along Little Loch Broom at this point and although the backdrop was still breathtaking, we were starting to become a little ‘landscape fatigued’ as each bend brought another amazing vista, so Corrieshalloch Gorge was a welcome change. The 60 meter deep gorge is narrow and has a suspension foot bridge so you can properly enjoy the waterfall and sheer drop below.

    We stopped for the night at Ullapool, one of the biggest towns on the west coast where large ferries sail for Stornaway. As evening came, we sat with a pint of the local beer (and later the local single malt) and Loch Broom could easily have passed for the Italian lakes.

    Next morning was again still and bright with mist hanging over the water. Driving north on the A835 the world was a green and brown mix of gorse and heather over rugged hills which the road snakes through. Again we were alone on the road and could make the most of the BMW’s handling. Over dinner we talked about whether a more hardcore M2 would have been more fun, but decided the M235i was the ideal combination of power and composure as we were tackling such a mix of roads.

    I had been concerned that finding the route would be tricky, but as it turned out there were almost no other roads to take. However, on this particular morning we took the route into our own hands and stopped at a scenic spot I had wanted to see. We stopped to shoot some pictures of the car with water behind it before I climbed a high bank and there it was, the ruins of Ardvreck Castle mirrored in the water of Loch Assynt. I didn’t have long to look as a moment later a blood red BMW was screaming past for photos but we were soon parked up to go all Scooby Doo over the spooky wreck. Once home to the Clan MacLeod (lots of Highlander jokes and movie lines shouted here) the castle is still claimed to have two ghosts lurking. We didn’t see them but Barry’s phone started behaving oddly.

    Here we had the choice of turning left towards Lochinver down a tiny single track loop (marked ‘drive with caution’ on the map) or go straight on towards the top of mainland Britain. Barry was driving so got the deciding vote and settled on the single track loop. The 15 mile section was undoubtedly beautiful, a barren landscape of muted colours, big rocks and deep pools of water and narrow Tarmac with endless blind crests and tight turns. A buttock-clenching 45 minutes later we emerged unscathed back on the main road – though we were not far past where we had started at Ardveck! This route was probably a mistake as we still had the longest leg of the route to drive and a distillery tour booked at 4pm that night in Wick. With the entire north coast of Scotland ahead of us, we needed sustenance and found it at Cocoa Mountain in Durness. From an ex-cold war RAF lookout station it serves ‘the best hot chocolate in the world’ and it certainly set us up for the short drive east from Durness to Smoo Cave – yes really – once home to smugglers. It is also a spot where a pirate lord threw his enemies to their death. The perfect spot for sandwiches.

    As we sped along the sweeping A road past Loch Eriboll we noticed a strange old fort-like building on an outcrop far below… so we had to go down to investigate. The structure turned out to be four peat kilns, and the 60 meter deep loch had been used as safe harbour for Royal Navy ships who’s crews spelt their ships names on the shore in white rocks. Interesting.

    We had definitively reached the North Coast part of the route by this point and the coastal scenery was rugged and weather-worn. The weather was becoming greyer by the minute but the roads were still clear and we could see miles in both directions. As we passed through Strathy and Srcabster we caught up with a Ford S Max. We had a brief moment where we thought about passing the car but the clearly local driver knew the line through every corner so we followed in his tracks.

    By the time we reached Thurso and passed the Dounreay nuclear plant the fog had fallen and before long we were at John o’Groats, almost the most north eastern spot on the mainland. Certainly it’s the most far flung cafe, but the true honour belongs to Duncansby Head. We stop and walk out to the lighthouse, and mid-boast about how good my boots are I slip and go trouser first down a muddy slope.

    Happily, the heated driver’s seat dried my jeans on the A99 towards Wick, where a side of our hotel occupies Ebenezer Place, the shortest street in the world – a fact we knew in advance and so had planned a photo stop… which we unfortunately forgot. We ended up arriving after 4pm and so missed our tour of the Old Pulteney distillery and whisky spotter’s stamp, so made do with a pizza in town. But it was a novelty to see a town with multiple streets after a few days in the wilderness. We left Wick on a sunny morning and drove south on the A9 into a very different landscape to the west coast. Rugged cliffs, blasted landscape and sheer drops gave way to rolling hills and open farmland but there were still cliffs hugging the coast and the road still entertained.

    We called in to the Clynelish distillery but the visitor centre wasn’t open yet so we drove on. Off shore they build oil rigs here and I’d happily stop to look at that but we had another distillery tour booked at Dalwhinnie south of Inverness so yet again we plugged on, reaching the coldest spot in the UK mid-afternoon. We drove past the official end of the NC500 route in Inverness and carried on towards Loch Ness. I wasn’t coming all this way and missing the monster. Needless to say, despite lingering over a cup of tea, Nessie didn’t put in an appearance.

    Our NC500 road trip was finished, but as we stood in the snowy car park at Dalwhinnie we tossed a coin – stay on another night or press on for home. Heads won which meant we were destined to head for home. We left at 3pm and were home by midnight – not bad going for a nigh-on 600-mile trek. The M235i ably demonstrated the other side of its character going from determined B-road blaster in sport mode to relaxing cruiser in eco mode eating up the miles back to Kent in what seemed like no time.

    Overall it was an amazing trip – perhaps not quite as epic as Route 66, but it’s a hell of a lot closer and the roads are a lot more interesting, especially if your weapon of choice is an M235i. I can’t think of anything that would have supplied the same blend of abilities as the M Performance pocket rocket for the trip.

    TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-M235i / #BMW / #2016 / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-M235i-F22 / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe

    ENGINE: Straight-six, 24-valve, #TwinPower turbo
    CAPACITY: 2979cc
    MAX POWER: 326hp @ 5800rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 332lb ft @ 1300-4500rpm
    0-62MPH: 5.0 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph
    ECONOMY: 34.9mpg
    EMISSIONS: 189g/km
    WEIGHT (EU): 1530kg
    PRICE (OTR): £35,225
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    / #BMW / #2016 / New four-pot turbos for 1 and 2 Series / #BMW-120i / #BMW-220i / #BMW-125i / #BMW-228i / #BMW-F20 / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-1-Series /

    It’s not just the six-cylinder M Performance halo machines that have seen a power hike, as the TwinPower four-cylinder turbocharged petrol units in the 120i/220i and the 125i and 228i have also seen improvements for the next model year.

    The ‘20i’-badged machinery sees an increase in power from 177hp to 184hp, while the 125i also sees a seven horsepower rise to 224hp. However, the 228i, while also receiving a seven hp bigger increase, somehow now receives a new 230i moniker. In total it now packs 252hp which makes it a pretty rapid machine. For example, it takes just 5.6 seconds to complete the 0-62mph dash in automatic guise.
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