Road Trip Test Drive: The 382-Horsepower 2023 BMW M240i Is Silly In All the Right Ways
In driving a nearly $60,000 2023 BMW M240i around Connecticut for four days, I learned that BMW still has it, even if ‘it’ looks a bit different than our nostalgic E46-tinted memories. To say that it’s underrated is an understatement.
2023 BMW M240i Highlights
What We Like: Stunningly fast, supremely comfortable, surprisingly practical
What We Don’t: Very evident 3,800-pound curb weight, lacking in features for the price, no manual option
2023 BMW M240i Road Test Fast Facts
|Price as Tested||$58,890|
|Engine||3.0-liter BMW TwinPower Turbo Inline-Six|
|0-60 mph||3.9 seconds|
|Fuel Economy (EPA)||22 city/32 highway/26 combined|
|Fuel Economy (Real World)||16 city/30 highway/24 combined|
This little BMW coupe is great for getting around the city
Let’s face it, our modern world is more chaotic than ever. Never was this clearer than in trying to get the BMW M240i out of midtown Manhattan and onto the Cross Bronx Expressway for my toll-free escape to the eternal suburb that is Southern Connecticut. Immediately, I learned one thing: for a small car, the new BMW 2 Series feels big.
That long hood definitely takes some getting used to, especially if, like me, you’re used to hatchbacks. But this little BMW coupe offers plenty of proximity sensors to let you know where the corners are. After 10 minutes of heavy city traffic and just two pings of the proximity warning, it was easy to be confident behind the wheel.
For a sports car, it was surprisingly capable in city traffic. Typically a six-cylinder turbo would be a festival of turbo lag. But BMW’s TwinPower system and the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission all but eliminate that problem. It’s not EV instantaneous, but it also doesn’t ask questions. Put your foot down, and the M240i goes like hell.
In leaving the congestion of Manhattan for the roads of Connecticut, the little BMW coupe never failed to put a smile on my face. Light turns green, foot goes down, and you’re seemingly teleported past another series of fast-casual restaurants and strip malls until, eventually, the world opens up. Once beyond the suburbs, the BMW finds its home in a rural landscape that is yours for the taking. And take it you will with this much power underneath you.
[Full Disclosure: BMW provided me with an M240i RWD test car to review surrounding the IMSA race weekend at Lime Rock Park.]
The BMW M240i is a phenomenal grand tourer
Driving around the city is one thing, but that’s not why you buy a sports car. The open road is where the BMW M240i really finds its footing. Look, it’s a rear-wheel drive, relatively high-powered sports car. You probably want me to talk about things like how it drives ‘at the limit’ or if it can do a burnout (it can). It’ll hoon as competently as its flashy purple exterior implies. But that’s not how you drive 90% of the time.
For getting onto and off of highways, for ripping through the winding back roads of Connecticut, and for getting me to Lime Rock Park with a smile on my face, the M240i delivered. And it delivered big.
It’s hard to overstate just how bonkers it is to take a car with 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque on such a mundane drive. It’s the type of trip you’d normally take in a Toyota Camry. Or a Nissan Rogue. Or a BMW X5. But since I was headed to the race track, it seemed something a bit more sporty was on the cards.
I was prepared for a harsh riding, way-too-fast-for-its-own-good, maddeningly inefficient drive. I only ended up with one, and it was the good one.
Is the BMW M240i fast?
Yes, the M240i is fast. When left to my own devices, I’d easily find myself approaching extralegal speeds. Despite the turbo, power delivery is direct. You can hear the turbo (as soon as you turn down the ridiculous piped-in engine noise) more than feel it.
For some, turbo lag is an experience. For others, it’s in the way. I tend to fall into the latter camp, so having this 3.0-liter turbo inline-six deliver such on-demand power was a delight. Going from zero to 60 mph in less than four seconds doesn’t hurt, either.
On ramps were a giggle-inducing experience. At first, I found myself self-consciously accelerating away from a stop. When you’re driving a metallic purple BMW with the types of sounds this thing makes, people already have a formed opinion of you before you take off in a cloud of smoke and crackling exhaust notes. I was determined to not be that person.
That did mean, however, that a lot of angry SUVs and pickup trucks would be in my rearview mirror for the first hundred yards of an on-ramp. And at the point where it felt like they were so close they were about to reach into the trunk and steal a drink from the cooler, I’d unleash the hounds, as it were.
In a moment, a haphazardly backlit RAM logo went from 75% of the rearview mirror to a mere wisp of light in the distance. After a few of those pulls, I realized that maybe BMW’s stated 382 horsepower is, in itself, an understatement.
A comfortable coupe, no qualifiers necessary
What really surprised me about the M240i wasn’t the power, but everything else.
Firstly, the Oyster White Vernasca leather seats are supremely comfortable. At six feet and 245 pounds, I’m not a light nor small person. Sports car seats are the bane of my rather American-sized existence. But in the M240i, it took just a few minor seat tweaks to keep me comfortable for hours of endless cruising. The only drawback? This $60,000 grand touring luxury sports car came without ventilated seats.
But it’s more than that. It’s easy to say that the BMW 2 Series coupe is comfortable for a sports car. But moreover, it’s just a comfortable car. In getting back into my daily driver, a TDI Sportwagen, I immediately missed the superior comfort of the BMW. I used to love those VW seats. Now I feel a twinge of regret every time I get behind the wheel.
Ride quality and handling in equal measure
Traditional thinking says that if a car handles well, it is probably uncomfortable. Once again, the BMW M240i disrupts that notion. This is, however, where you’ll start to notice one or two compromises.
The ride quality in comfort mode is practically perfect. Even on the worst Connecticut city streets (Seriously, what is happening in Torrington right now?), it would soak up the bumps with little disruption to the driver. It’s not a Rolls Royce. But it’s far from the jarring experience you get in a GTI, let alone a fully-fledged M car.
In sport mode, however, you gain harshness without much else. The steering is overboosted and the suspension overdamped, making the whole thing feel a bit jittery on uneven surfaces. It’s not the worst thing in the world on bigger bumps, but on rippled, frost-heaved New England roads, the washboard texture unsettled the tires enough to be a real problem.
Even for my performance-minded brain, I preferred the stability and confident grip of comfort mode. My spine was grateful for it as well. Sport is beyond excellent on the perfect pavement of CT 8 or US 44. But on more well-worn back roads, where you can really enjoy a sports car like this, the Comfort settings deliver a better drive.
My recommendation? Use the BMW Individual settings to dial in a better ride. The engine in Sport Plus, the transmission, suspension, and steering, all in comfort. You can use the paddles to shift on command when you want to rev it out and let it settle back into the lower-revving automatic settings when you just want to cruise. The engine response is immediate, the steering direct if a bit numb, and both grip and ride quality balance out to immense satisfaction.
Is BMW’s iDrive system good?
Yes. Just yes. I’ve screamed about there being too many screens in cars for months now, but BMW’s iDrive system allayed my angst. The digital instrument cluster is crystal clear and unobtrusive. And putting the navigation map in the center is an excellent addition.
The infotainment half of this dual-screen display is a bit more complicated. There are probably too many icons, and making quick adjustments while driving is practically impossible. However, the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant comes through here. The “Hey BMW” feature made it easy to adjust temperature and sound settings without looking away from the road. And unlike other voice command systems, BMW’s worked well every time I asked for something.
Better yet, there are buttons for the things that matter. You can select window defrosting with a button on the main dash. There are simple buttons for drive modes, parking sensors, and auto hold. I do wish there was a dedicated section for climate settings, but overall, it’s a good take on a modern infotainment setup.
A BMW coupe that’s practical for your road-tripping needs
The reason I was on this trip from New York to Connecticut was for the IMSA race weekend at Lime Rock Park. That meant packing a suitcase, a cooler, a grill, and of course, my laptop and camera bags in the trunk of this little sports car. The BMW coupe asked no questions. Everything fit with enough room for me to make one last grocery stop on the way to the track.
The 14 cubic feet of trunk space pales in comparison with the wagon I started the weekend in. Yet still, the M240i had no trouble.
But, there’s a big BUT here: the trunk gets HOT. The M Sport differential sits below the trunk lining, and it melted the ice in my cooler in just five hours of cruising around. When I reached the track, the trunk floor was noticeably warm to the touch. If you’re bringing home a typical grocery run, maybe put the perishables in the back seats. At the very least, have a cooler on hand for the trip home, and try to keep it short.
Premium Audio from Harman Kardon
The BMW M240i I tested featured a ton of premium add-ons, including the Harman Kardon premium audio system. My other passion being music, I always consider the stereo when evaluating a vehicle’s quality. And with the H/K audio setup, I came away impressed, but not overwhelmingly so.
The sound system is balanced for the most part, but songs with too much bass can become a bit muddy. It’s great if you just want to feel the bass, but it washes out a lot of the other details to get there. That said, there is a customizable equalizer that can help remedy that a bit. But even on a fairly low setting, it was easy for the bass to take over.
Problems with the BMW M240i
Overall, there is little to complain about with the 2023 BMW M240i. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and there are a few things I’d change to make the car a better overall experience.
For starters, this car needs a manual option. It’s metallic purple. It looks like a miniature muscle car. It’s rear-wheel drive. That there isn’t even a manual transmission option is a big swing-and-miss. I know that BMW’s Ultimate Driving Machine mantra doesn’t mean what it used to, but dammit, give us a three-pedal variant. To get this B58 engine with a stick, you’ll have to venture to the new Supra instead.
Second, the rear seats are as bad as the front seats are good. There isn’t much room back there, they’re way too firm, and the hard center section makes it hard to find any agreeable seated position. Kids would probably be fine. But the average adult isn’t going to have a good time back there.
Furthermore, it’s feature-light for the price. No ventilated seats, no lumbar seat adjustment, and no adaptive cruise control are strange omissions for a GT sports car at nearly $60,000.
Finally, there’s the fuel economy. Cruising highways in the neutered EcoPro mode, I could achieve an indicated 30 mpg. In the city and in Normal mode, I couldn’t get more than 16. And in sport mode…just be glad the in-dash nav lets you plan fuel stops into your trip. Perhaps the 3,800-pound curb weight has something to do with it.
And the final problem isn’t with this car, but its predecessor. The F22 M240i is beautiful, compact, and nimble. Comparatively, this is none of those. In a vacuum, the current model is excellent. But compared to what we had, it feels less like a continuation and more like a completely new concept.
It’s not a small, chuckable sports car anymore. It’s a GT car. That’s not a bad thing by any means. But if you’re coming out of the old car hoping that this one carries the same energy, it doesn’t. It’s a bit too grown up now.
Why should you care about the BMW M240i?
As EVs, crossovers, and trucks continue to take over, the BMW M240i feels like the last of a dying breed. Finding a car that blends style, legitimate fun, and comfort into one package isn’t an easy task. If able, I would make this thing my daily driver in a heartbeat.
Look, the BMW M240i is silly. But it’s silly in all the right ways. The mini muscle car looks grew on me quickly in person, but you can’t deny that this car looks a bit weird at first blush. It’s got way more engine than you’ll ever need. It’s so fast that it might be the first thing I’ve experienced that had a chance at outrunning my ongoing existential crisis.
Overall, the M240i is a last bastion of that old-school grand tourer. It forces no compromises (other than backseat space), while delivering the type of drive that almost anyone can jump into and enjoy immediately.
It’s a specialty vehicle, yes. But it isn’t as limited as its two doors and rear drive layout might make it seem. It’s as comfortable in the city as it would be on a track. And in between, on highways and winding mountain roads, it makes sure you never want to stop driving.
That it is so underappreciated in the current market is a shame. As more of our favorite cars go electric, we may one day regret looking at the current M240i as if it is already passé. It’s not. And in fact, it might just be the most well-rounded sports car we have right now, even with its flaws.