The Modern E46 BMW M3 You Can Buy Right Now Is the 2022 BMW M240i

  • The 2022 BMW M240i brings the E46 M3 formula into the modern age
  • BMW’s newest M240i lets you know its leaving room for the new M2
  • An M240i is one of the best modern small sports cars you can buy

Spec-for-spec, the 2022 BMW M240i is about as close as you can get to buying a brand new E46 BMW M3. Both have approximately 300-400 horsepower, an inline six-cylinder engine, and a long-nosed coupe body. And the similarities don’t end there. If you’re shocked and appalled at the going rate for a low-mile E46, this might be the BMW sports car for you.

A white 2022 BMW M240i xDrive shot from the front 3/4 on a dirt road
The M240i has almost 100 hp more than the E46 M3 | Chase Bierenkoven, MotorBiscuit

A 2022 BMW M240i is cheaper than an E46 BMW M3

As specced, my loaner 2022 BMW M240i came out to $57,295. This included the $1,450 “Driving Assistance Package” and other modern niceties, such as Apple Carplay, a heated steering wheel, BMW’s xDrive AWD system, and an $875 Harmon Kardon sound system. In short, this Mineral White over Tacora Red Vernasca leather M240i offers the best features available in a new car.

And for that money, it’s cheaper than a very nice E46 BMW M3. After all, one just sold on Bring a Trailer for $84,000. More to the point, that Bring a Trailer car had more miles than my loaner. On paper at least, the 2022 BMW M240i is the successor to the small M Cars of yesteryear, like the E46 M3. The newest M3 and M4 are, well, ugly, and have 473 hp, far more than the E46’s 333 hp. But how does the M240i live up to that winning E46 M3 formula on tarmac?

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The 2022 BMW M240i is AWD fast with RWD fun

First, the good. The M240i is shockingly fast. Far faster than its 382 hp would suggest. We measured our M240i’s 0-60 sprint at a rapid 3.7 seconds, thanks largely to xDrive (and on all-season tires nonetheless). The 8-speed ZF automatic transmission bangs off shifts faster than some dual-clutch transmissions, and the ride can be adjusted depending on your mood. Gentle corner-exit slides felt safe and easy to manage while still making you feel like a hero. Despite some high beltlines, the forward visibility makes picking your line easy, and xDrive makes sticking to it even easier. This is perhaps the best rear-biased AWD system I’ve driven. Ever. In short, a killer BMW sports car.

But, the M240i has some drawbacks. And nearly all of them play to the E46 BMW M3’s strengths. First, the motor. Modern emissions standards simply don’t allow for a soulful engine like the E46’s S54 inline-six anymore. So, I can forgive BMW for that one. However, BMW doesn’t let you hear much of that new inline-six, and what of it you do hear could use a boost. This car could benefit greatly from a valved exhaust. Then there’s the steering. I have not experienced something this devoid of feeling since my ex-girlfriend. I understand that room must be left for the new M2, but the numb steering makes sussing out what the wheels are doing extremely hard. Thank God the AWD system works so well with the shocks.

The M240i manages to stay close to the M Cars of yesteryear

A black E46 BMW M3 shot from the rear 3/4 under a street lamp at night
The E46 BMW M3 still has something the M240i doesn’t | Chase Bierenkoven, MotorBiscuit

While the size, power, and even in some regards, feel of the 2022 BMW M240i gets you very close to the E46 M3, the E46 is far more a driver’s car. Modern cars can’t compete with its feel and experience, and that gives the E46 an unfair edge. The rules just weren’t the same back in ’04. That’s part of the reason values for the E46 are so high.

But if you want 75% of the E46 experience for less money, the 2022 BMW M240i is the perfect car for you. Should you want a new car, with a warranty, that you can pound on without ever having to worry about it, I struggle to think of a better candidate than a new BMW M240i. That is until the newest BMW M2 graces a canyon road near you.

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