Test Drive: New BMW M240i convertible a joy to drive
BMW discontinued the Z4 roadster after the 2016 model year, but that doesn't mean the German automaker stopped building fast, sweet-handling little coupes and convertibles. BMW’s entry in this relatively uncluttered segment evolved for 2017 into the 2 Series, offered as a coupe or soft-top convertible.
Just as summer heat started turning to autumn cool, we were treated to a week with a 2017 BMW M240i convertible. Equipped with an inline 6-cylinder engine rated at 335 horsepower, it had a 6-speed manual gearbox and luxurious Oyster Dakota leather seats, a $1,500 option. Unlike the old Z4, it can transport four people — as long as the two in back are quite small or possessed of unusual forbearance. Adding to its functional advantage over the Z4 is its comparatively large trunk, which checks in at 11.8 cubic feet.
Like most soft-tops, the M240i presents challenges to drivers in parking garages like the one in downtown Danbury, where the tight spaces had us relying on the car’s excellent rear-view camera system. But we liked the soft-top better on the highway. Wind noise, often a problem in such vehicles, was barely noticeable.
Our Melbourne Red Metallic M240i was priced at $58,370. Without options — including the paint job, special upholstery, cold-weather package, two driving-assistance packages, Apple CarPlay compatibility, wireless charging, navigation system and premium sound system — it was priced at $50,145. Drivers who are satisfied with the available 4-cylinder engine’s 248 horsepower will see the price of admission dip to about $40,600 for the convertible and $34,800 for the coupe. Curiously, BMW’s popular sport sedan, the 3 Series — roomier, more functional, and just as much fun to drive — starts just $100 more than the base 2 Series.
We always enjoy driving BMWs, and the M240i didn’t blunt the fun … much. We confess we would have preferred a shorter throw on the stick shift, and the position of the interior door handles was awkward, especially in narrow parking spaces like the one we slipped into in Danbury. We also found that when the bucket seat and the beefy steering wheel were positioned comfortably, our tallest driver couldn’t see the turn-signal indicators on the dashboard.
The convertible’s ride and seats both were firm but comfortable. The adaptive suspension allows the driver to select riding and handling qualities, from soft to firm — depending on the circumstances and the driver’s mood. Meanwhile, the windshield effectively protects tall and short drivers from wind blast when the top is down.
The 2 Series is a safety winner on two fronts. First, it’s extraordinary handling diminishes the probability of an accident caused by loss of control. Second, it’s crash-protection qualities led the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to rate it a Top Safety Pick Plus.
BMW sold more than 15,000 2 Series models last year, a record, but sales have slumped this year. Sales of the 3 Series have ranged from about 100,000 to more than 140,000 in recent years.
2017 BMW M240i Convertible
Engine: 3.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged inline Six, 335 horsepower, 369 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 3,790 lb.
Suspension: Double-pivot spring and strut-type front; five-link fully independent rear
Wheels: 18x7.5-in. front, 18x8-in. rear, double-spoke orbit grey
Tires: Front, 225/40ZR18; rear, 245/35ZR18, performance
Seating capacity: 4
Luggage capacity: 11.8 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 13.7 gal.
Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway
Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)