Less than 12 months ago the M235i was riding high. Occupying a unique position as a premium hot coupe but with purist appeasing rear-wheel drive, it was the right size, more than fast enough and far from silly money. Then the M2 rocked up with its bulging pecs and tore it a new parking space.
Even though the M Lite has been transformed into the beefier-sounding M240i it’s difficult not to be distracted by the idea of something better around the corner, but unlike the Leave campaign there’s some substance to it. Both the 1- and 2-series receive the latest 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol, already at work in the 3-series but more importantly boosting the M240i to 335bhp and 369lb ft at just 140orpm- hardly figures to be sniffed at.
There are other mechanical tweaks, including automatic throttle blips on downshifts for the manual while the eight-speed auto gets wider ratios and launch control.
BMW also claims improved engine smoothness thanks to a vibration damper and better noise via an acoustic shield. Modest improvements maybe but they contribute to a classy and intoxicating powertrain. Smooth and responsive at low revs with impressive linearity for a turbo unit, it still gives a high-rev punch. Zero to 62mph is done in 4.8 seconds, faster with the automatic – both quicker than the four-wheel-drive Golf R.
It might be something of a cliche but giving the front and rear wheels their own jobs to do pays dividends when you start to play. The steering is sharp but not hyper and the rear drive gives plenty of scope for artistic angles of corner entry. There’s more than enough power to make things really interesting but when you’re just pressing on it never feels like it’s fitted with castors. Add in the delightfully snickety six-speed manual and you’ll almost certainly end up annoying your passengers.
Visually the M240i is as before, the M Performance add-ons helping to disguise the slightly odd 2-series proportions, while the cabin design is the usual BMW-slick although the materials are not of the order of bigger models. But all this extra – including a slight improvement in mpg – is via a price increase of just £355. At £35,090 for the manual it’s £3k more than a Golf R, but almost £9000 less than the M2, which is sold out for the next 12 months anyway. Maybe baby brother isn’t the lesser choice after all.
BMW M240i Coupe
Engine: 2979cc 6cyl turbocharged
Power: 335bhp @ 6500rpm
Torque: 369lb ft @ 1400rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Top speed: 155mph
On sale: Now
Only M2 owners can rip you for it