2022 BMW M240i xDrive Review: A Quick but Cantankerous Coupe
BMW’s smallest coupe has a lot going for it, but the driving experience is emotionally stunted.
In an era when only SUVs are guaranteed moneymakers, a car like the new BMW 2 Series can't be called much other than bold. The new 2 as a whole—a small, rear-drive premium coupe—is an almost textbook example of how to lose money as a car company, one that could build the same car on stilts with black plastic skirts and a "Cross" badge, and make thousands more off each sale. The risk could be worth it, however, if BMW uses the 2 to prove it still knows exactly how to capture the essence of its highest-performing ///M CS models and infuse it in its most affordable M performance coupe: the 2022 BMW M240i xDrive.
It's not a risk that has paid off. While the M240i makes a good first impression with a suave and sturdy interior and a snarling turbocharged inline-six whose power I suspect BMW underrates, the luster eventually wears off. When it does, you realize its strengths don't add up to a car that's actually pleasant to drive, much less be a passenger in.
I don't know what BMW was thinking when it greenlit the M240i in this state: an M-lite car that's loathsome to drive outside of Eco mode. For a company that still operates under the slogan of "The Ultimate Driving Machine," it seems to have a woefully incomplete understanding of what makes driving enjoyable. When I review a car, I try to answer the question of why it exists; what role it and no other vehicle can fulfill in someone's life. My answer to that question isn't a cheerful one this time, because BMW has squandered its opportunity to prove it can produce a perfect driver's car at the low end of its lineup. Maybe it's my growing cynicism toward the auto industry, but I can't help but feel BMW hamstrung the M240i to make the eventual M2 seem better by comparison. Then again, considering the huge gulf between the M5 Competition and M5 CS, maybe such deliberate stratification of M cars isn't beyond BMW after all.
2022 BMW M240i xDrive Specs
- Base price (as tested): $49,545 ($57,295)
- Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 382 @ 5,800 to 6,500 rpm
- Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 1,800 to 5,000 rpm
- 0-60: 4.1 seconds
- Top speed: 155 mph
- Curb weight: 3,871 pounds
- Seating capacity: 4
- Cargo volume: 10 cubic feet
- EPA fuel economy: 23 mpg city | 32 highway | 26 combined (26.5 achieved in testing)
- Quick take: Impractical is a-okay for a performance car, as long as it's enjoyable to drive. But the M240i is nearly the opposite.
- Score: 6/10
The 2 Series is BMW's smallest vehicle and cheapest non-SUV, above only the X1. It's a two-door two-plus-two coupe with a footprint about the size of a Honda Civic, but it trades some of its interior and trunk space for room under the hood, where the M240i fits a 3.0-liter, single-turbo inline-six. Its emphasis is absolutely on performance over practicality, but it can't afford to sacrifice too much of the latter for the sake of the former—that's the domain of the more potent M2 that's coming later this year.
That doesn't mean the M240i doesn't encroach on its territory, though, with enlarged intakes in a front end with beady little eyes that make it look like a boss from The Binding of Isaac. It's a weird balance of cutesy and predatory that's tricky to make look good in photos; all the angles that work in photos are wonky in real life, and vice versa. At least it doesn't have that beaver-tooth grille. Its side profile is an improvement, with its long hood, 10-spoke wheels that almost look to be swirling, and a sweeping roofline that expertly blurs the line between notchback and fastback. The slightly pinched-off rear is business as usual, though, with taillights that I think look a bit undersized.
I was much more pleased with the interior, as I better had been for a $57,000 compact car. Its design is straightforward and uncluttered, with real buttons and knobs for climate control and audio volume, flourishes of real, cold metal, spatterings of BMW's M tricolore, and a wealth of red Vernasca leather. If I got baked enough, I'm sure I could mistake it for fondant and try to take a bite out of it. Its reclined driving position might be my favorite out of anything I've ever driven, while visibility was solid, and head and elbow room adequate. The seat could use a hair more bolstering though, and they lacked ventilation, a feature common at this price point. And while build quality was sturdy overall, passengers and I noted an occasional metallic rattle from somewhere behind the dashboard. If you think this is just me being persnickety, also keep in mind that the test car was brand-new and cost nearly 60 grand.
The noise was, of course, easily masked by the stereo, which I didn't find to be anything special for the M240i's price point, and which had to contend with some not-unnoticeable road noise. And, if you have anyone in the back, the sound of the wailing and gnashing of their teeth: the second row is too tight for adults, and the power front seats don't move out of the way quickly enough for it to be a practical place to put kids. It's a back seat in spirit only, mainly because what's under the hood will be called on more often.
The 3.0-liter, turbo straight-six's 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque zip through ZF's renowned eight-speed automatic to all four wheels, launching the M240i from standstill to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. It'll top out at 155 mph (provided you can find a place in, uh, Mexico to do that) and gobble up corners with its combination of adaptive suspension, sport differential, and enlarged M Sport brakes with four-piston front calipers.
Driving the BMW M240i xDrive
I came nowhere near Mexico in my week with the M240i, instead resorting to the nearby Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The active cruise—smarter than what's found in most other cars—kept reactions to changes in traffic smooth and organic on the drive up, while the firm-but-not-harsh ride hammered out the biggest bumps. The six-cylinder's turbo takes a second to spool up, but once it does, it'll sling the M240i past slower traffic far sooner than its official power output and curb weight would lead you to expect. (A relative of this engine in the Toyota GR Supra makes way more power than advertised, and I suspect the same is true here).
If anything, being muffled by a turbo took the usually tinny rasp out of the BMW six-cylinder, producing a sound appreciated even by a passenger who introduced me to the phrase "Bavarian Manure Wagon." ZF's eight-speed shifted acceptably in all modes, preferring lower gears and higher rpm in Sport mode, a setting that sadly accentuated the M240i's worst trait: The pedal response. From the moment I first drove the M240i, I hated both the throttle and brakes' stabby responses, the engine lurching and the brakes biting like a pit bull with the slightest brush of either pedal. They were far too imprecise for any situation where you'd push the limits of a car's performance, especially in one as quick as the M240i.
It's like the car is insecure about being an M-lite and overcompensates for being the junior model at every opportunity to the detriment of the entire experience. I honestly found the pedal calibration so unpleasant that I drove most of my journeys in Eco mode just to dampen their reactions and at the expense of steering feel. That isn't something you should ever have to do in a BMW M car.
At least it cornered like an M car should, even on winter tires, and with no notable pitch or roll. The weighty steering inspired confidence until I found a way to wash the front in a hairpin, and discovered that it really didn't tell me when I was challenging the limits of grip. Even though the badge proclaims the M240i to be an M car, it certainly did not feel comfortable reacting like one. The steering and the pedals weren't the only control frustrations either, as I found the infotainment system bloated with useless functions that, even over a longer period with the car, I would tire of navigating. CarPlay also crashed on me more than once, and I never figured out how to call up HUD functions like speed limits that are supposedly included.
Highs and Lows
The M240i is rapid, makes a raucous noise, has a superb driving position, and has an interior that, despite the weak seat bolstering and lack of seat ventilation, I found to be excellent. Unfortunately, they can't make up for the M240i's compromised credibility as a driver's car. Owing to mediocre steering and awful pedal calibration, on top of being too clumsy to be poised near the limits of performance, it's also ruined as a daily commuter. These are only underscored by its useless back seat, interior rattle, annoyingly complicated infotainment, and poor mileage for its segment. Taking all those into consideration, I'd go as far as saying it's priced a bit high; it's just not good value for money. Also, I just don't think it looks that good in the flesh.
BMW M240i xDrive Features, Options, and Competition
The 2 Series as a whole isn't poorly equipped and doesn't go overboard with options, either. A standard power moonroof opens on an ambient-lit interior with two-zone climate, power front seats (with driver-side memory) upholstered in synthetic leather, and a real leather steering wheel. Dual USB ports charge devices capable of linking to the onboard 4G LTE wifi hotspot and the Bluetooth-equipped infotainment, with its 8.8-inch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and 10-speaker audio system. Chassis-wise, all its mirrors dim automatically, there's connected vehicle tech, and a suite of advanced driving assists: dynamic cruise control, frontal collision warning, lane departure warning, blind-spot detection, and speed limit tracking. A limited warranty covers some of it for four years or 50,000 miles.
The M240i in particular also gets standard M Sport brakes with four-piston front calipers, a performance rear differential, and adaptive suspension, which helps adhere it to the road with run-flat all-season tires on 19-inch wheels. Those tires can be upgraded to a set of higher-performing options, one of them as part of a package that adds an extra oil cooler and enlarges the radiator fan for track use. Four colors of Vernasca leather, three-zone climate, active cruise with stop-and-go, and a 600-watt, 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system are all available a la carte, as are a small selection of bundles.
At the price tested, the M240i could be in contention with a huge variety of performance cars, though for the sake of comparison, I'll keep it to AWD models of similar size and nationality. That cuts it down to the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35, Audi S3, and Audi TT (though to a lesser degree, as it's way down on power). Both the four-doors don't offer nearly as much performance, being powered by turbo four-cylinders, which also don't make as nice a noise—though the Audi has better gas mileage and a famously tunable engine that can make up the gap.
As the only two-door among them, with no usable back seat and middling trunk space, the BMW is easily the least practical of the three. You might consider that a dumb point of comparison, but a car that forfeits practicality as a leg to stand on needs to perform its other functions well. As I think I've made clear, the M240i fails its chief objective of being pleasant to drive. While I haven't personally driven the AMG, my man Chris Tsui has, and he seemed to like it a fair amount. I have driven the new S3, though, and on many of the same mountain roads I took the BMW. While the Bimmer makes the better sound and is much quicker, again, I didn't actually enjoy it. By contrast, I found the S3's responsive, on-the-nose chassis easy to come to grips with, not to mention more compelling in more everyday driving scenarios. The only points I can give the BMW over the Audi are its better center console controls, driving position, and superior active cruise. If you aren't as sensitive to the pedals as I am and don't mind one less mpg, there may yet be a reason to take the BMW.
While the M240i doesn't stand out much in the way of mileage or sustainable materials, the plant that makes it was, as of 2019, the most efficient of BMW's. Its San Luis Potosí, Mexico factory boasts the lowest per-vehicle water consumption of any run by BMW, and its paint shop will be (if it isn't already) one that generates zero wastewater, while power use is either completely renewable or on the track to being so.
Value and Verdict
The 2022 BMW M240i xDrive is one of the most impractical performance cars in its price range, so it needs to justify that impragmatism by being nothing but joyful. But it doesn't. I think its pedal responses ruin what would otherwise be a solid performance coupe—one that I'd have nitpicks with, sure—but I don't like my head being shaken like a crying infant any time I consider changing speeds. It's especially disappointing for a car that, on paper, should be the best in its class, with a RWD-based drivetrain, a six-cylinder engine, and true two-door coupe styling.
Instead, BMW botched the very basics, making the M-lite 2 Series unenjoyable to drive. I'd be willing to write those stabby pedals off as a nitpick amplified by ADHD-related sensory issues—were it not from complaints from passengers about them, too, which I never get in other cars. It was just so unpleasant on a constant basis that I'd be embarrassed to subject people I like to riding in it more than I already had to. It's a car I could only be comfortable driving alone, not for enjoyment, but to exercise my frustrations with the world.
But while our emotions fade and our heads clear, the BMW M240i doesn't let go of its antsiness. It's always putting on theatrics like it wants the respect accorded to the M2 without being one. The worst part is it'd be so much better if it weren't so touchy, if it relaxed a bit into the role of the entry-level M; a softer coupe still capable of blowing the doors off anything in its price range. Instead, it's a half-baked stopgap that lashes out at its driver at every opportunity: A constant reminder that it's not the M2 you really wanted, and that it won't even be.
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