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: www.ac-schnitzer.co.uk 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
ENGINE: Twin-scroll turbo, straight-six, 24-valve / #BMW-N55
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.