BMW has met what we’d consider its primary objectives, in that it has effortlessly blown away the M240i’s closest rivals, even though in an obscure way the M2 is its biggest threat.
From Audi TTS to Peugeot RCZ R, via Volkswagen Scirocco R and even Nissan 370Z, there isn’t a compact coupé that provides the same blend of handling agility and driver engagement as this. The car is also a huge improvement on the rather blunt, unsatisfying old 135i coupé, it should be noted.
But, as likeable as it is, the M240i isn’t beyond criticism and nor is it quite one of the all-time sporting greats. There are niggles and disappointments in its dynamic mix.
The car’s basic handling is crisp, grippy, muscular and direct. The steering wheel has sensible but plentiful weight but – since BMW's variable-ratio steering system is standard – it picks up pace a little too quickly off-centre to allow the most intuitive kind of control. Nevertheless, on good surfaces the M240i corners flat and hard, with good authority from the front wheels and a good balance of stability and adjustability from the driven rears.
The adaptive M Sport suspension of our test car served it fairly well. But it may be that BMW’s passive standard setting is a better all-occasions bet than any of those available through the adaptive set-up. Because, by polarising those Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes, BMW has failed to produce a perfect-handling sports car here – as far as we could tell.
There is too much body movement over really uneven surfaces in this car, whichever setting you choose. The dampers permit just enough vertical movement when softly set to prevent the car from hunkering down like it should, while in their firmer programs the body is often no more level with the ground as it fidgets and hunts for an equilibrium.
All of which leaves the M240i a little short on the outright poise it’d need to rank as a truly outstanding driver’s car. It’s not short on lively interactivity or boisterous rear-drive charm – just a final degree of finesse.
Aside from affecting outright performance, bad weather prevented us from revealing the BMW's full potential on MIRA’s handling track. Experience elsewhere suggests it might have been spectacular, but not as spectacular, we’d wager, as it would have been had our test car come with the optional mechanical LSD and trick suspension.
In the wet — and on worn tyres — the car had much more performance than it could put down and handled as if up on tip-toes. The same initial balance and bite we found on the road was present to begin with, but the progressiveness and controllability of the car quickly ebbed away at the limit of grip with the stability control disabled.
Above a certain point, the BMW ran seriously short of grip and started to understeer markedly. Better that, however, than run out of stability at the rear end first.
It’s a shame, but we can conclude that M240i owners would be well advised to keep their tyres fresh if all-season usage is what they intend.