BMW's 2 Series Coupe was once a 1 Series with a boot. Now, it's a bespoke two-door, and you can have it in 374hp four-wheel-drive M240i form. What's it like to drive?
In the metal
This might come as a bit of a shock, but here's a new BMW that's neither 'challenging' nor, as some people might put it, 'downright ugly.' OK, so the new 2 Series Coupe isn't quite as classically pretty as some others, but thanks to having a shallow, wide design (with very prominent and obvious active air vanes) instead of the more recent pinched-and-upright BMW grille, it's off to an incredibly good start.
It helps that it now doesn't share a platform with the 1 Series hatchback. The old 2 Series - handsome though it was - was always obviously a 1 Series with a boot. Now that the 1 Series has gone front-wheel drive, the 2 Series Coupe switches to the same rear-drive 'CLAR' platform as the 3 Series and 4 Series, and so its proportions are more 'proper.'
It's longer (by 105mm), lower (by 28mm) and wider (by 53mm) than the old car, and looks miles better for it, even if some of the detailing is a little heavy-handed. In fact, the 2 Series Coupe has been styled by BMW's talented Mexican-born designer, José Casas Pena, and it just so happens that the car is built in Mexico, too. Pena says that it consciously references the classic BMW 2002 (which was actually a two-door saloon, not a coupe, but who are we to pick nits?), which is why it has single headlight lenses, rather than BMW's usual twin-lamp layout.
We love the big and aggressive-looking 'power dome' on the bonnet, while the rear view, with those wide arches topped by a turret-like roof, has distinct overtones of seventies Touring Car racer about it.
Inside, things are all a bit more familiar, and the 2 Series Coupe lifts its cabin fixtures and fittings directly from the 3 Series and 4 Series. That's OK though - doing so means the 2 Series inherits the same high-quality fit and finish of those cars, which is a welcome upgrade compared to the old one.
Up front, there's plenty of space, and lots of storage areas with USB sockets (including a big area with cupholders and a wireless phone charger that lives under a flap in front of the gear shifter). Rear seat passengers get their own USB sockets and air conditioning controls, as well as more room than before - thanks to a 51mm stretch in the wheelbase. It's still on the tight side back there, though, and it's not the easiest car to get in and out of in the back.
The boot, at 390 litres, is decent, but a touch shallow. The rear seats do split-fold as standard, though - that used to be an option for the old 2 Series Coupe.
Also standard is the 12.3-inch digital instrument pack, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash. That infotainment can be controlled either by poking at the touchscreen or using BMW's usual click-wheel iDrive controller located down on the centre console - along with the buttons for the Sport and Comfort modes, and the engine stop-start.
This being the range-topping (until the new M2 arrives) M240i model, you also get a muscular body kit, 19-inch lightweight forged alloy wheels and - gloriously - metallic purple paint on the car we drove. More cars should be purple.
There is, clearly, a limit to how bad the M240i is going to be to drive. The basic ingredients are so perfect - it's a powerful straight-six engine in a relatively light, certainly compact, two-door coupe body, with chassis tuning expertise by BMW M - that it would have had to try pretty hard to muck it up.
Thankfully, it hasn't - the M240i is an utter joy to drive. That starts with the steering. Lifted from the 3 Series and 4 Series, it's one of the best electrically-assisted systems around, and sets the standard for feel and feedback, as well as weight and response. The whole structure of the M240i is hugely stiff (it gets extra internal bracing) and BMW claims that aerodynamic lift at speed has been cut by 50 per cent.
Whereas a 3 Series or 4 Series will turn with elegant poise and fluidity through a series of corners, the M240i approaches them with jabs and punches, like a welterweight boxer. The whole car pivots neatly around your hips in a turn, and feels lighter and more agile than its 1,700kg kerb weight would suggest.
That agility is helped by the xDrive four-wheel-drive system. Not only is it biased to the rear wheels, but it effectively is also rear-wheel-drive unless the system detects slip at the front wheels and has the brilliant M differential to apportion power between the rears. Shod with high-performance Michelin tyres, that front-end slip doesn't happen very much, but even so you'll have to be trying hard (a bit too hard for the public road...) to get the rear end moving around too much.
The M240i is more about nailing an apex and then grabbing, gripping and going than it is about classical drifting. To be honest, on slippery autumnal roads around Munich, that's the better option.
The uprated M Sport brakes help, too - they're effortlessly powerful. The ride quality is quite firm, though, and that's a conclusion drawn on incredibly smooth German roads. Even in Comfort mode, with the optional adaptive suspension, the M240i feels really quite solidly sprung, even more so in Sport mode. Quite how well that's going to work on Irish tarmac remains to be seen.
The M240i's greatest trick is its engine. The vital stats say a lot: 3.0 litres, turbocharging, variable valve timing, 374hp and 500Nm. It'll hit 100km/h in 4.3 seconds and the performance sounds as if it's being delivered by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - there's a rich undertone with a smooth six-cylinder shriek on top. Is some of that augmented by the stereo? Yes. Will you care? No. It's a wonderfully tractable engine too, pulling hard from low rpm and never complaining, and is as happy bumbling around town as it is hitting v-max on an Autobahn. Ahem.
What you get for your money
The M240i's value proposition is a little mixed. At €70,845 it's basically the same price as the old M2 was when that was launched in 2016, and comes with the same power output as that original M2. It does have four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox as standard, as well as improved safety equipment (including an uprated automated emergency braking system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as traffic stop-go for the optional active cruise control, an optional head-up display system - which is a must-have - and automated parking).
It's still unavoidably pricey though, and the rest of the 2 Series Coupe range has moved from being surprisingly affordable to really rather expensive, which is a shame.
The M240i itself is also thirsty. BMW quotes a best figure of 8.1 litres per 100km, but we couldn't do much better than 10.6 litres/100km.
There won't be cars like this for much longer. There won't be compact two-door coupes with big, shouty six-cylinder engines and delicately poised handling in the medium future. The fact that BMW is still making one at all is a bit of a surprise, to be honest. Thank goodness it is, though. The M240i is every inch a Munich legend.