Yes, the BMW M2 has been grabbing every plaudit going since it was launched earlier this year, but we still love the more subtle mix of speed, suppleness and everyday usability of its lil' brother, the M235i Coupe. Alas, it is no more of this world. Rejoice, however, as it has been replaced by the even more impressive M240i. Brilliant.
In the metal
Other than the new badge on the back, there's not much to differentiate the M240i from the M235i that went before. It isn't as butch in design as the BMW M2, but it is visually differentiated from the rest of the BMW 2 Series Coupe line-up with unique items such as grey-capped door mirrors and grey 18-inch alloy wheels, along with an M Aerodynamic body styling package.
Inside, there are plenty of 'M240i' reminders, from the doorsill finishers to the instruments, while the three-spoke steering wheel has a pleasingly minimal design, all the better to see the tactile gearchange paddles behind. There are leather upholstered sports seats of course and a textured trim material BMW calls 'Aluminium Hexagon', trimmed in 'Estoril Blue'. It's all of very high quality and well-equipped with a lovely new widescreen display. There's no change to the core shape so you sit very low down if you wish, there's just about room for two adults in the back and the boot is a surprisingly useful size and shape.
In spite of the suggestive 'M' at the start of this model's name, the M240i is not a car that's suited to race circuit driving. It is, in fact, one of BMW's halfway house 'M Performance' vehicles that sit between the regular cars and the full-on M-cars like the BMW M2. And that's exactly what you get. The biggest change to bring about the new name is the introduction of a new engine. As before, it's a straight-six petrol unit of 3.0-litre capacity and it is turbocharged, but thanks to a huge amount of redevelopment it's now more powerful and more efficient than before. The peak figures you see in the Tech Specs over represent power and torque gains of 14hp and 50Nm respectively, making the M240i faster more of the time than its predecessor. The eight-speed automatic transmission has been tweaked to enhance efficiency too.
And though a six-speed manual gearbox is standard, we reckon that the automatic suits the purpose of this car. That's only because it's such a good auto, I'd like to add, giving the driver loads of options, from smooth, relaxed shifts in its Comfort mode to snappier gear changes if you slot it into Sport and full manual control if you want it. Meanwhile, that six-cylinder engine is, as ever, very special, reason enough to consider the M240i thanks to its sonorous exhaust note, silky smooth manners and effortless delivery of its considerable performance. To call this a lesser car than the M2 would be doing it a disservice.
In fact, the M240i is probably better suited to Irish roads than its extrovert sibling, thanks to softer suspension and more compliance in the whole chassis. It's still sporty feeling, but it flows beautifully with the road rather than bashing into it unceremoniously when the going gets tricky. Admittedly, it may not be as keyed in to the tarmac when the surface is good and you're really pushing on, but by any other measure it's engaging and capable. Crucially, it's a really fun car to drive, and you don't feel like you have to drive the wheels off it to enjoy it, either.
What you get for your money
As great as the M240i is, a starting price of just under €60k is a lot of money for something this small. At least it's well-equipped, with items such as satnav, 18-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, Xenon headlights, climate control and Bluetooth all standard.
It should be no surprise that we'd have a BMW M2 any day of the week over the M240i, but there is a not inconsiderable price gap between the two, which makes the comparison all but irrelevant. Away from that lofty benchmark of driving fun, the M240i stands proud on its own four wheels as a genuinely brilliant car. It mixes everyday suppleness on the road and a relatively restrained appearance with searing pace and a charismatic six-cylinder engine. A definite future classic.