Thursday, 3 August 2017

Finance: The BMW M240i convertible is a great luxury drop-top for less the $60,000

Good times!

We got our hands on the M240i convertible recently and saw how it serves up open-air motoring fun during some spirited driving.

These are not good times for high-performance sports sedans, much less sports coupés. People want crossovers and SUVs, and all the German carmakers have responded.

For BMW, this is something of a tough pill to swallow, because the Bavarians invented the sports coupé and brought it to America in the 1970s with the magnificent BMW 2002. Many iterations have followed, with convertibles and four-doors added to the pack.

These have always been fun to drive yet relatively practical. And give the BMW M-Sport the high-performance treatment, and the fun becomes excessive. So who cares if all people want are crossovers? That just means more cars like the BMW M240i for the rest of us.

BMW sells both proper M-cars and vehicles that live a notch lower on the price and performance ladder. So in the 2-Series realm, there's the M2 — a stonking machine — and the M240i, which replaces the wonderful M235i.

We got our hands on the M240i convertible recently and could see how it does the job of serving up open-air motoring fun during some spirited driving in suburban New Jersey.

The M240i replaces the M235i in BMW's lineup. I richly enjoyed the hardtop a few years ago. It was serious fun.

Read the review »

But BMW has also rolled out the spectacular M2 — the 2-Series given the high-performance M-Sport treatment. It's insanely good.

Read the review »

The new M240i occupies a rung below the M2. It's what you might call near-high-performance, versus the M2's full-on performance orientation. Out test car was the convertible version.

The engines aren't hugely different. The M2 and M24oi are running turbocharged inline six-cylinder units of 3.0 liters each, but the M2 cranks out more horsepower. Beyond that, the M2 has a limited-slip differential, which makes for more sure-footed handling at speed and has a stouter suspension.

Bottom line: The M2 is something of a track weapon, while the M240i likes winding country roads.

Here it is with the offbeat, gray denim-y top up. The lid stows in under 30 seconds, using an automatic system operated by a switch on the center console. Already, we can't fairly compare the M240i with the M2, because hardtops always perform better than ragtops.

Taking the top off the car reduces its overall rigidity and makes it less tight in the corners. That said, you really won't notice it much unless you're pushing the car very hard. My colleague Ben Zhang felt that the top stowed kind of slowly, but it didn't bug me that much.

With the top down and in a "Melbourne Red Metallic" paint job and with an "Oyster Dakota" leather interior (about $1,200 extra for both), our 2+2 two-door looked pretty spry, like a roadster that has been working out. Our tester's sticker was $58,370, and it was nicely optioned.

As current bimmers go, the 2-Series' proportions are just right — not too big and bold, not too demure. Of course, the BMW badge is right up front, above the signature double-kidney grille. Headlights are modern-day swept-back and narrow.

By contrast, the BMW M3 is more aggressive.

From the rear with the top down, the M240i could fool you into thinking it's a roadster — just the rear headrests are a giveaway that it isn't.

The distinctive M240i badging.

Yep, it's an M-car ... sort of.

The lines of the car make it ever so slightly wedge-shaped, with character lines connecting the front headlights and fenders to the rear.

Inside, there's more M-Sport badging — and in some odd places, such as on the left-foot dead pedal.

And as long as we're down there, yes, this car has three pedals — the outstanding clutch is conjoined with a six-speed manual transmission.

The driver's seat is where the action happens, but the passenger seat is also comfy and supportive. You get a nice, fat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, too.

Like I said, PHAT! Also, check out those old-school gauges. Analog all the way!

Some nicely shaped and sculpted leather there, folks.

The rear seats are not capacious, and there's space for only two. Even my second-grader found it a tad cozy.

And trunk space is, well, not generous. The folding top takes up a lot of space when stowed. But you could still get a couple of fashionable duffels in there for a long weekend road trip.

Not a big fan of the 6.5-inch infotainment screen that juts from the dash, but it functions reliably.

Just beneath are climate controls and some old-fangled audio things, and even a CD player! The Harman Kardon premium system is an extra $875 and totally worth it. You also have satellite radio and the usual Bluetooth connectivity with USB/AUX ports.

Plus navigation, which is quite good.

And a fine back-up camera.

It's all part of BMW's iDrive system, once derided but is now pretty serviceable. It's operated using this hockey-puck controller and the buttons. Note the cool silvery carbon-fiber detail, by the way.

And what's this? A working cigarette lighter (er, charging port)?

It could definitely light something.

YES! A mechanical parking brake! Jerk it up, and you're parked! I can't stand electronic parking brakes, so I'm delighted every time I get one of these babies.

Time to pop Mr. M240i's hood and have a look at ...

... a big ol' hunk of plastic covering the 335-horsepower inline six-cylinder twin-scroll turbocharged motor. The power bump is about 15 horsepower over the M235i's engine, but this is a new powerplant for BMW.

It's a great motor, making exactly as much power as most driving-loving humans could reasonably need. I felt like I was getting into all of it, which is not something I've been able to say of the more beastly vehicles we've tested.

The power is managed with this exquisite six-speed manual. The shifting is crisp, positive, and satisfying. The car does endlessly nag you to upshift, but you're the boss, so you can hang out in the sweet spot of third, fourth, and fifth gear all you want and enjoy torque heaven.

Some reviewers have complained that the brakes are wimpy. I didn't think so, but I wasn't on a racetrack with the car either.

Unlike the full-on M-Sport cars, the M240i's driving modes offer a little less variation. But you have Eco Pro (for fuel economy), Comfort (for everyday driving), Sport (you know what) and Sport Plus (for, I don't know, drag racing without traction control, I guess). I used Sport the most.

By the way, the MPGs are a decent 19 city/29 highway/23 combined, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The center cluster tells you what's going on with driving modes ...

... and the infotainment screen allows you to configure the drive settings to your taste.

Let's disable the annoying — though gas-saving and environmentally conscious — auto-restart feature and fire this little sucker up!

Quick aside: The best days for driving convertibles are cloudy days. It's no fun to have the harsh summer sun beating down on you.

So what's the verdict?

The M240i convertible is certainly good, clean, top-down German motoring fun. To be honest, however, I didn't think it was quite as good as the M235i, although it isn't a fair comparison. I think the M235i had more snap because it wasn't a drop-top.

Otherwise, there isn't much to grumble about here. The single flaw — and Zhang and I both noted this — was some pop lacking on launch. It's as if the turbo were taking some time piping the juice to the wheels. But this vanishes in second gear, and from there on up to fifth it's party time. That said, the 0-60 mph is a quick 4.6 seconds (a few tenths quicker with the automatic), and the top speed is 155 mph.

The car has great balance, and in Sport mode, the handling, suspension, and acceleration combine to form what might be one of the best vehicles for carving up back roads that money can buy for less than sixty grand. I certainly adore the M2, but for my moolah, the M240i is a better everyday value. (FYI, the convertible adds about $5,000 to the price tag, while the M2 we sampled was about $54,000.) The M240i also seems as if it really, really wants to rotate at times, so if a dab of oversteer is your bag, this could be an excellent choice in automobiles.

As it typically is the case with convertibles, I spent quite a bit of time just tooling around in the M240i, rather than burning up the pavement or thrashing the corners. Ragtops just engender that mood in me. I wasn't even particularly bothered by the rev-matching feature, which ensured perfect downshifts every time, even if you're doing your own, feeble rev-matching simultaneously.

You can buy cheaper drop-tops, but the M240i has assembled so much juicy bimmer-ness in one package that you're likely to be tempted. I sure was. But then again, I think this strain of BMW is almost ideal.

from - Nigeria's entertainment & lifestyle platform online

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