For nearly a decade now the BMW 2 Series has, in the eyes of many enthusiasts, represented the sporting soul of the German brand. While most other spots in the BMW showroom expanded to accommodate the heft and bulk of increasingly cushy cars and crossovers, the 2 Series stayed true to the roots laid down by its 1 Series predecessor: a lightweight coupe (or convertible) that made good on the brand’s old-school “Ultimate Driving Machine” credo by way of a boisterous engine and playful suspension tune.
As with all things, time has transformed the 2 Series mission statement, first broadening it to include a less athletic four-door “gran coupe” model in 2020, and then this year completely redesigning the two-door model to bring it in closer concert with its larger 4 Series sibling.
Is the effort still there, despite the changes, to ensure that the automaker’s entry-level rocket retains the respect of prospective pilots? After several hundred miles in the range-topping M240i xDrive, it’s clear that while some things have been lost to progress, BMW’s pint-size performer still flies the flag for the faithful.
Bulking Up at the Gym
If you’re curious about the biggest difference between the new 2 Series and the old, look no further than the extra beef. For 2022 the M240i xDrive is a couple of inches wider and stuffs a similarly stretched wheelbase inside a package that is roughly the same overall length as it was the year before. Roll the coupe onto a scale, and you’ll quickly discover an extra 200 lbs. or so of curb weight compared to the older all-wheel drive model, and about 300 lbs. more mass than its rear-wheel drive predecessor.
That last point is an important one, because currently you can’t order BMW’s mightiest 2 Series engine unless you pair it with four-wheel traction. A rear-wheel drive model is on the way later in the year, but there’s another omission on the current build sheet that won’t be corrected: both the M240i and the more affordable, four-cylinder 230i are no longer available with a manual gearbox, forcing ZF’s eight-speed automatic across the board.
In consolation to third-pedal loyalists, the 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine sitting between the M240i xDrive’s front fenders has been buffed up to help move all the extra meat. There’s a claimed 47 additional horsepower from the turbocharged unit — bringing the total to 382 — but it’s hard to tell whether the figure represents an accurate increase, as BMW’s sixes are notorious for punching above and beyond their on-paper acumen.
That impression continues for 2022, as the M240i xDrive is almost a full second faster to 60 mph than the car it replaces, and also manages to leverage its all-wheel-drive grip to launch itself past the ostensibly mightier, and certainly lighter, BMW M2 Competition model of that generation.
Still a Sprinter
Despite suffering from some of the same bloat that has pushed the rest of the BMW lineup into softer, suppler territory, there’s no question that the BMW M240i xDrive has surpassed its previous potency when the road opens up enough for it to escape traffic and approach the asphalt on its own terms. Acceleration, as noted above, is bar-none ballistic, and while the absence of a manual gearbox does add a layer between driver and driving, the eight-speed is thoroughly excellent at predicting the appropriate gear (and provides the ability to intervene via paddle shifters if desired).
As with current BMW fare the drive can be curated via several selectable modes. While Comfort is reasonably dialed-back, you’ll still feel undulations and uneven pavement through the vehicle’s relatively stiff (and optional) adaptive shock absorbers. In Sport and Sport+ the effect is further magnified, ratcheted up alongside the vehicle’s exhaust volume and the possessive nature of the transmission as it jealously holds each ratio until the last possible moment.
Switch stability control to Sport (something that oddly doesn’t automatically happen in either similarly named drive mode), and the M240i takes full advantage of its xDrive system in maintaining a steady and stable pace. On snow-drifted roads it was easy to transition the car from clouded to clear surfaces, with throttle steer predictable and controlled. The extra weight, again, is another insulator from the outside world, which tends to make the outrageously quick 2022 2 Series feel a little less electric, and certainly not as complicit, as the original model.
Chiseled, Not Pretty
Even in the absence of wheel time, the new M240i xDrive’s dimensional drift hints at the changes that have been made under the skin. Although not as face-focused as the enormously flared kidney grilles in the BMW 4 Series coupe with which it shares much of its mechanicals, svelte styling has given way to a chunky gym bod that seeks to overpower rather than seduce the eye. It’s not necessarily less attractive than before, but it’s a different approach that hints at its power instead of highlighting athletic potential.
In a puzzling turn, the wheelbase stretch afforded the 2 Series has actually resulted in less room for rear passengers, transforming the back seat into a prison from which only the tiniest of children will escape with their lower legs un-pretzeled. The front two positions are more generously appointed, and while the interior hews to the same smart layout found in most BMWs, there are a few areas — tweeters plunked non-decorously at the door corner, frameless side glass that whistles in the wind — that felt a little bit below the brand’s high standards.
An Unrelenting Instrument
As an instrument of weaponized speed, the 2022 BMW M240i xDrive has few peers. With enough boost to blow past the pounds it picked up on the drawing board, the redesigned 2 Series is faster than ever before, and at a starting price of $48,550 it represents perhaps the most civilized two-door luxury sport choice in the compact segment.
Does its standard (for now) all-wheel-drive setup and lack of a manual transmission point towards BMW’s brand future where outstanding acceleration is underscored at the expense of all-out driver connection? Most likely yes, but it could also leave room for a rear-wheel drive M2 redux that’s free to focus on handling and visceral thrills above all-out numbers. That being said, we might have to wait for the CS edition of the car for that to happen — after all, uppercase M cars can’t be left in the dust by their lowercase siblings right out of the box.
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