Arguably, the most famous multiple personality combination – real or imagined – is the Jekyll and Hyde tale by Robert Louis Stevenson and it is this ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ combination that best suits the character of the BMW M240i.
From being an ideal top-down docile beachfront cruiser, it can transform, instantly, into a ferocious, snarling beast.
In Eco mode, the car returns excellent fuel consumption for a straight six, the suspension copes so much better with rippled and potholed roads and the rate of progress is kept to genteel increments.
In Sport Plus mode there is sense the whole car is doing an Optimus Prime thing and all of it is transforming by growing tighter around the driver as well as tweaking suspension and gearbox settings.
It is then the beast will play.
The 240i is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the fastest accelerating or most rapid car on the road but what it is capable of, is made to feel more impressive because of the contrast in characters.
The new model features sharper front-end styling, LED headlights fitted as standard, interior upgrades and new connectivity services.
Both coupé and convertible models are now fitted as standard with bi-LED headlights and the main headlights can be specified in adaptive full-LED form as an option. The familiar twin-circular-headlight look has a hexagonal interpretation, while a larger kidney grille gives the front end of the new models a wider look and allows it to project a sportier impression.
The outer air intakes in the three-section front end are now larger and the rear end features single-piece rear lights (LEDs as standard) with hallmark BMW L-shape extending well into the flanks.
The interior of the new BMW 2 Series models features an all-new design for the instrument panel, which gives it a more spacious and clearer feel. New cloth or leather seat upholstery variants, interior trim strips in aluminium or fine wood and high-gloss black panels with chrome accents provide even greater scope for individualisation.
At 4 432 millimetres in length, the Convertible condenses its sporting prowess into a compact package offering 335 litres of boot space and 280 litres with the top down – enough for a quick weekend getaway or grocery run. The boot is relatively deep but its narrow opening means getting particularly wide bits of luggage inside could be a struggle.
Up front, space is generous for both driver and passenger with good headroom (with the top up) and legroom, a decent glovebox, deep door pockets and a central cubby.
Nominally, a 2+2, the 240i rear seats are quite difficult to access, especially with the top up, and the space is really cramped and uncomfortable over anything more than brief squirt down to the coffee shop.
Still, the four seats do offer a plus compared to its main rival in class, the Porsche Cayman.
The M240i – weirdly – still offers only manual seat adjustment as standard fare and this is a hassle to get the absolute perfect positioning so it worth spending the extra to have the electronic adjustment fitted. The sports seats are comfortable and supportive though, both absolute necessities when it comes time to unleash the fun.
Standard items on our test car included multifunction steering wheel, M Sport brakes, locking wheel bolts, sport automatic transmission, variable sport steering, alarm system with radio remote control, wind deflector, rain sensor and automatic headlight control, cruise control with brake function, M Sports Suspension and M aerodynamic kit.
Options fitted to the test car included 18-inch double-spoke wheels shod with run flat tyres, Chrome-line exterior, rear view camera, interior and exterior mirror with automatic anti-dazzle function, seat heating for driver and front passenger, headlamp washer system, Park Distance Control (PDC), front and rear, automatic air-conditioning with micro filter, adaptive LED headlights, navigation system and a Harman Kardon sound system.
This made the on-road price R896 235,99
The options are mentioned simply because, like any BMW, these come as listing nearly as long as ‘War and Peace‘.
The high-resolution 8,8-inch central display now comes in touchscreen form if the optional Navigation system Professional is specified. This provides the driver with another way of operating various functions, in addition to the latest generation of the iDrive operating system (standard), the Touch Controller and the intelligent voice control system.
The standard SIM card integrated into the car enables connectivity and access to BMW services via BMW ConnectedDrive, without the need for a linked smartphone. These include Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI) with hazard preview and access to the vehicle via Remote Services.
However, it is what lies under the bonnet that truly counts. The 3,0-litre straight-six engine with direct injection and M Performance TwinPower Turbo technology develops 250 kW, propelling the BMW M240i from 0 to 100 km/h in 4,7 seconds with fuel consumption combined 7,4 l/100 km. CO2 emissions combined are 169 g/km.
The M240i’s six-cylinder engine is superbly strong from low revs and it has absolutely no issue being at the other end of its rev band where it triumphantly roars out its challenge to all and sundry.
In fact the M240i could be accused of having a bit too much to offer – in Sport Plus mode the rear tyres struggle to put the power down on damp or uneven roads, making it quite lively, albeit not for the faint of heart or untrained in the art of rear wheel driving.
Sport Plus does not completely disengage the ‘nanny’ systems – just tempers their reaction time to allow for much more pro-active driving. The throttle, steering and optional adaptive dampers are primed for action and all feel their best in this mode, ensuring the M240i is poised, agile and communicative.
Our car came fitted with the 8-speed auto gearbox and this responds instantly to driver input from the wheel-mounted paddle shifts.
Keep the M240i in its Comfort or Sport driving modes and the traction control is quick to step in and save the day.
Because it has this Jekyll and Hyde personality, its ultimate performance handling is not quite as good as the Cayman, for example, whereas its soft ride status does iron out more of the ripples than the Porsche. We were also impressed with the overall body stiffness of the convertible and the fact scuttle shake has been almost completely eliminated.
I remain, personally, not a great fan of convertibles – except for boulevard cruising – and prefer solid metal around me when pushing things to the limit, but the 240i would be on the list if I changed my mind.