Although BMW doesn’t consciously dabble in the business of psychology (unless you’re after the therapeutic effect of a proper M car), the new M240i xDrive is somewhat reminiscent of a chapter in the theory of middle child syndrome.
With proper being the operative word – and by implication denoting behavioural characteristics that the M240i xDrive inherently lacks – where does that leave the newcomer?
Until the next M2 arrives, the M240i xDrive tops the newly launched 2 Series (the local coupé-only range codenamed G42 and additionally comprising the 220i priced at R771 900 and the 220d at R819 278 respectively) and is built on the current 3 and 4 Series platform while sharing the same interior.
Of course, BMW’s penchant for slapping M badges on anything and everything only serves to create – if admittedly a little diluted – magic and misperception in equal measure.
Which is why you’d be forgiven for frowning at the M240i. If only ever so briefly.
Longer, lower, wider and stiffer than the model it replaces, it’s 35 more kilowatts more powerful than before (torque from the turbocharged B58 motor remains unchanged); at 4.3 seconds it’s 0.3 sec quicker to 100 km/h and owing to the added bite from its permanent all-wheel-drive configuration – now concedes mere 0.1 second to triple digits than the outgoing F22 M2 Competition.
The M240i xDrive’s ironing board-like torque curve (peak torque is on tap from 1800 r/min and stretches to 5000 r/min) blesses the car with hugely abundant pace. As the revs build and the horizon is devoured, there is the familiar aural delight of the straight-six’s thrum-turned-wail at the red line.
The abundance of torque and comparatively short wheelbase means that as with its RWD predecessor, lateral mid-corner adjustability is still easily on demand.
The wider footprint, thanks to its more generous proportions; and adaptive suspension, an active differential (both fitted as standard), along with 50/50 weight distribution (it was 53/47 in the F22 M240i) all contribute to the G42 being a sharper, more confident handler than its predecessor.
As a perennial criticism, the ubiquitous ZF 8-speed gearbox lacks the crisp, hard-wired feel of a twin-clutch unit perhaps expected of a car wearing an M badge, even if the latter has been issued rather than earned. In addition, the xDrive system also pushes the M240i xDrive’s mass up by 205 kg (though very likely only noticeable if the old and new cars are driven back to back), but crucially, the front/rear torque split cannot be manually adjusted: a trick perhaps saved for the upcoming M2.
The steering, while laser-sharp in its directness, also lacks feel: the addition of xDrive has blessed the M240i with extra performance but taken away some of its purity; but such is the price of progress.
Given the inevitability of the totem M2, set to fully exploit the potential of the chassis’ and drivetrain, as a lesser sibling the M240i feels purposely crafted to walk the tightrope between sensibility and insanity. On the other hand, as the only six-cylinder sports coupé in its segment, it offers thundering pace framed as a blank canvas to all the thrills you’ll ever seek.
And yet one cannot completely wish away its intentionally hampered DNA as a placeholder for its more revered sibling. That is the dilemma of the overachieving middle child.
Damn you, M2.
BMW M240i xDrive Coupé
Price: R1 062 420
Engine: front-mounted, turbo, 2 998cc, straight-six
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Power: 285 kW @ 5 800 – 6 500 rpm
Torque: 500 N.m @ 1 800 – 5 000 rpm
Driven wheels: AWD
0-100 km/h: 4,3 seconds
Top speed: 250 km/h
Fuel consumption: 9,6 l/100km (combined)
CO2 emissions: 185 g/km
Rivals: Audi TT, Porsche Cayman, Toyota Supra
Words: Braam Peens