BMW’s classiest tuners work their thoughtful magic on the ultimate diesel X3
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£39,910 when new
What’s this? The new BMW M240i Convertible, which justified its name change from the old, identical-looking M235i Convertible by having a new engine. A better one. Still 3.0-litres, still one turbo, still a straight-six. But it’s one of BMW’s new ‘modular’ engines that share cylinders with Mini engines, and it’s both more economical and less polluting than the old inline six. Claims of 38.2mpg and 169g/km – yes, we’re talking about the more test-friendly automatic here – are rather robust. Specced with said £1,400 eight-speed paddleshifter, the M240i Convertible is a £39,935 car. Its clearest enemy is the all-wheel drive Audi S3 Cabriolet at £40,670, and for around the same money a Porsche 718 Boxster S, albeit with half the on-board seating, makes an interesting counterpoint. But let’s not complicate things just yet. So, a soft-top straight-six Beemer. All the better to hear it with? Don’t mistake the M240i for a howling, baleful CSL-spec wailer. As the internet has frothed over the speakers faking engine sound for far too long now, we won’t reopen those wounds, but suffice to say that the ‘augmentation’ of sound is subtle to the point of imperceptible most of the time, and for a turbo motor, this six has a pleasing engine note that rewards adding revs upon revs. Above 5500rpm is gains an angrier, raspier edge, and pulls inertia-free to 7000rpm. Okay, as it’s a drop-top you could want for more eardrum-troubling noise for tunnel runs, perhaps. An optional M Performance exhaust could add more bang for more bucks, but the M240i pretty much does the job. The newly engineered-in overrun chunter and part-throttle downchange pops add a dollop of naughtiness to this sensible drop-top. It’s worth remembering that in offering 335bhp, this car is more powerful than one of BMW’s all-time great fast cars, the E46 M3.
How is it as a cabrio? BMW can get these things wrong *coughZ4cough*… Agreeable. It’s a workable four-seater, the 2 Series cabriolet, but not having a bulkhead immediately behind the front seats can lead to a swirling mess of turbulence invading the cabin and ruining roof-stowed excursions. Happily, that’s not in evidence here, which means you needn’t bother wrestling the cumbersome wind-deflector from its zippy bag in the boot. Roof operation is a bit tardier than we’ve got used to in modern soft-tops, as BMW prefers to half raise/lower the roof before opening the tonneau cover. This leaves the roof untidily handing in mid-air during the operation, which makes you look like a bit of a prat if you’re operating it on the move. All told, it takes 20 seconds, at up to 30mph. Take it from us – make your roof position decision while parked. I’m right in thinking the M240i Coupe is a pretty sorted piece of kit, yes? Yes, indeedy. So does the soft-top ruin that? Not by any means. I know we’ve stressed this with the other ‘40i’ cars, but having an M2-matching 369lb ft on tap makes this family of cars deceptively, exceedingly quick down the road. And that applies to even the Convertible, which is a right porker at 1690kg. That’s 145kg more than the hard-top. It’s actually heavier than a mid-spec Range Rover Evoque. Better be rigid then… If you’re looking for it, you can spot the windscreen shuddering slightly on a B-road, but it’s a fleeting glimpse rather than an impression of a bouncy castle. And the ride clatters more than the hardtop, because everything’s been nailed down harder to girders and beams to keep everything lined up. It’s subtle, and doesn’t embarrass the M240i versus its hardtop sister. Cabrios aren’t aimed at, and aren’t bought by, a customers seeking to star in a Nürburgring compilation anyhow. This ‘40i’ Convertible is the one we yearn to own least, because we live under a perma-sodden umbrella in England. But it’s far from an afterthought cabrio.