BMW’s resurrected coupe looks great. But is it really? We can use CLA 45 S and Cayman to help us make our decision
Relax. Relax and enjoy the moment. It’s your right.
BMW-land is a confusing maze of strange contours, large grilles and transverse engines. There are endless crossovers and mass. You get the whole house when you buy an iX. It is a BMW, but not a BMW. Are they still making these for people who are unable to afford an M5 CS?
They do. The new G42-gen BMW 2 Series Coupe’s monolithic bonnet will reveal that the car has an engine. It’s also set lengthways, rather than sideways. The car is also rear-driven.
The silhouette is clear, the kidneys are right-sized and there’s the two-door version, which is becoming an increasingly rare form in today’s world. We can say with no exaggeration that all this is a huge relief. For a while, we thought the subtle non-M Beemer driver was gone.
Let me explain: In 2019, eyebrows were raised after the decision to shift the rear-driven BMW 1 Series hatchback onto front-drive. One year later, the discomfort turned into a distinct jitteriness after the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe was introduced with the same underpinnings. Things looked grim with the announcement of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer MV.
The two-door Coupe was rumored to be following the lead of Aston Martin, Ferrari and nearly every other great BMW and replacing it with one preferred by Volkswagen and Vauxhall. It is clear that the 2 Series Coupe would be better off being thrown out as the last remaining example of BMW-ness, affordable and thoroughbred (because let’s face the truth, the gawky BMW 4 Series doesn’t even exist anymore). The worst? If that had happened, no one would have been so surprised.
You are now at the end of your search for some respite. It comes in the form the PS45.795 M240ixDrive – the most expensive 2 Series before the BMW M2 arrives later in the year. This is the M division’s 50th birthday present.
The Coupe has a more conservative body style than the 2 Series’ slenderer coupes. It is built on the same CLAR platform that the 4 Series, and therefore is more precise in its hardware. CLAR allows the M240i to have a 368bhp straight-6 turbo engine. This instantly makes it an appealing, old-school option. There are also four-cylinder options lower down in the range.
Caveats? Only four-wheel drive is available and the car has an automatic gearbox. These elements are more likely to add to the M240i’s appeal as an all-weather, junior GT car than to diminish its qualities as a fun and reliable driver’s vehicle.
The mechanical condition of this example is normal. It has 19in wheels and Pirelli P Zero tires (Pro Pack cars have Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres). The suspension is the regular M Sport two-mode setup, rather than the PS500 M adaptive set-up. The UK standard includes an electronically controlled M Sport differential, and M Sport front seats.
It’s amazing! We’re curious to find out. This one is in Thunderlight metallic, a dark purple that is reminiscent of Techno Violet, which first appeared on the E36-gen BMW 3 Series Coupe.
The Porsche 718 Cayman is one of them, and it costs nearly the same as the BMW in its entry-level version. It is impossible to buy either of these cars without looking at the other.
The Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S is the final member of our trio. Although it comes in Plus trim, it still costs more than the Porsche or the BMW. However, it is the most well-designed non-V8 AMG ever made. It deserves to be there to help frame BMW’s efforts.
After driving from London in the supernova-bright Porsche this morning, the first few runs of the M240i on one our favourite test roads immediately highlighted two things.
The BMW is first and foremost, incredibly refined. The BMW’s cabin is a model of the 4 Series and is both beautiful to look at and well-constructed. Add in the brand’s trademark driving position and the expansive view above the power-domed bonnet, and you have a very comfortable place for day-long drives. And so quiet. Too quiet, perhaps.
The 718 Cayman is smaller and more compact and places you right at the forefront of progress. It is closer to the BMW in terms of isolation than the former Lotus Exige. This makes it more challenging, but also more exciting. Is the M240i too cultured to be a sporty coupe?
The BMW is also a bit tubby. It is. It weighs 1690kg and has four-wheel drive. It doesn’t matter if that seems like a large number. The car’s predecessor, the M235i xDrive M235i, weighed in at 1525kg when it broke cover in 2014. The M4 Competition, which was the previous generation, weighed just 1595kg. It also had an extra turbocharger and a larger footprint.
The Porsche with its heavy dual-clutch box weighs in at 1365kg. The mad Merc – all four doors and torque-vectoring clutch pack, front driveshafts and 20in wheels – is just 5kg lighter than the M240i. BMW speaks of weight-minimizing wheel bearings and wide use of aluminum in the suspension and body. This is a fine car, however, it is too heavy.
The car’s ability to point in a sensational manner is made all the more remarkable when you know how much weight it carries. The M240i is a seamless combination of the Cayman and Cayman. However, the direction changes are not performed in perfect harmony between the axles.
The M2 should feel more chuckable, with a bit less nose led, more voltage at turn-in, and more iron-fisted rear axle damping. But that car’s Mlite understudy doesn’t seem imprecise nor flabby. It is precise and well-constructed.
The M240i can even be thrown if it isn’t. It seems to enjoy being abruptly poured into bends. There, both ends load up quickly, and you can enjoy the rear-biased power delivery, throttle-on adjustability, and powerful acceleration.
Comfort is the more controllable mode of the two dampers. It can handle all roads except those with extreme conditions. Sport might be a better choice. Either way, Comfort provides enough control for all roads except those with the most challenging roads. This helps to make up the lack of confidence caused by the electrically assisted steering that is primarily numb and muscularly weighed.
Overall, the experience is more slick and sophisticated than a light, sleek sports coupe. It’s not exactly what you want in this class but it’s fiercely satisfying.
The performance was amazing. Wow. BMW’s overhaul of the 3.0-litre B58 straight 6 is that, between 1900rpm to 6500rpm there is only a 500rpm interlude where you aren’t being fed all 368bhp and all 369lb.ft. Thrust is massive by any standard, upshifts are merely flickers of interruption while downshifts are even more fleeting. Traction is truly difficult to understand.
They have succeeded in one thing. The way the tyres can be easily untied mid-corner if desired. But once you are on the other side, the stability is incredible. The M240i’s limits have been well judged by them. There aren’t many cars I know that can instinctively tell when to grip or slip. The xDrive system is very effective, but there’s probably some wickedly clever ESP tuning happening behind the scenes.
Sound is a mix of synthetic elements and the engine may feel a bit distant, but at this price you won’t find any other sounding or as richly layered.
It’s not possible in the Porsche. The CLA and 718 Cayman both highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the BMW, but the Porsche is more important because of its rear-driven layout and price. It probably loses more against the BMW than it wins, but it wins big when it wins (more details to follow).
This basic model’s 296bhp flat-four sounds very agricultural after the M240i six. It plods at idle, revs in hollow, labored fashion, while the ratios of its seven-speed PDK box are too long to allow the power and torque outputs to rise above the Cayman’s low mass. It is a tool, but the engine in the BMW may be the main course.
This example comes with the GT sports steering wheel which is a beautiful, minimalist design. However, the standard seats are too short for the task and not enough to support the heavy, bulky items found in the M240i. The new BMW is superior in every way: visibility, road roar, cabin technology.
You’re not paying too much attention to these trivialities because, even as you pull out of the lay-by the steering is already talking to your in a way that’s completely alien to the BMW. It feels amazing. The rack has a lower level of assistance and elasticity. It is also less direct, but it’s still very responsive. It’s already stunning at 30mph. The chassis’s deftness makes it even more impressive.
The engine can only maintain momentum. This is true despite it revving higher than the BMW’s. However, maintaining momentum in Porsche is a pleasure.
You can feel the ease with which the suspension handles load, even through subtle changes in heading. Beautifully cushioned, with a little roll. It’s sophisticated and, regardless of the corner profile, both the outside and inside wheels share the burden equally. Initially, the BMW would lean more on its front axle, then shift it backwards.
The Porsche is extremely intuitive in a short time. Although the BMW is reliable and true, the off-camber bends, with the stream of water just below the white line and the ditch just inches from the outside, and oh, that’s tightening sooner than it appeared – those are the ones – are spliced though with nary an lift. The M240i would have required a bit of brakes and a break to the flow.
Although the Porsche 911 Turbo is often regarded as the ultimate tool for sight-reading exciting back roads and the Porsche 911 Turbo is the best, the truth is that a basic Cayman is better because it is smaller, organic, and more transparent in its movements. The optional PS926 torque-vectoring system and mechanical limited slip differential are available on this car. I believe that is all you need.
You can adjust the car’s settings almost inaudibly. This is why you will find yourself setting the angle of the steering wheel on curves, and then miraculously not needing to make any changes for the entire corner. This is a common occurrence in Porsches, but not so often in other cars.
The Mercedes-AMG is left until the end. It’s the same reason I would leave the tequila-drenched chocolate Guinness cakes until after the sea bass carpaccio. This is an absurd creation.
You’ll notice that the buckets, which are supercar-grade, are higher than the rest. The overall feeling is like having your nose against the windscreen. This car is a hatchback. Doesn’t last, mind.
The M139 2.0-litre engine produces 416 bhp. It’s rotated 180deg so the turbo faces forwards and the intake manifold faces backwards. This allows for better cooling.
People who are enamored with the M240i’s GT capabilities will be disappointed. Porschephiles will also be disappointed. The AMG is aggressive and well-controlled. The AMG is a brash and locked down machine.
It’s a test of technical prowess. You’ll be amazed by the sensationally smooth body control, light steering, wild speed, and the unexpected playfulness that clever rear axle creates.
It’s amazing how it feels. Imagine combining an old Subaru Impreza Turbo and any modern Audi R8. It occurs to me, however, that the 45 is not a CLA unless you are driving at escape velocity. They may be divergent, but Porsche and BMW are special at all speeds, especially the little yellow one. Speed is not everything.
Who is the winner? Let’s say that seven out of ten people would be most happy with the M240i. The new generation is luxuriously long but will not let you down on the right road and right time. It is a unique and highly capable device, that can turn around your hips in one instant but will blitz 250-mile drives with no fuss. It seems a bit too detached for a junior BMW offering, with a hint of M in its make-up. It is, however, still compelling overall.
Two of the 10 will own the Porsche, and they will love its feel and finesse. They will not consider any other car and the sacrifices of a lack of power and refinement are worth it. The M240i is a sports car that’s purebred, while the M240i is just a moonlight. This G42-generation car is far more GT than its predecessor and has too little dynamic contrast with the 4 Series and 6 Series. While the Porsche is flawed, it is unmistakable. The BMW is excellent, but almost universally so. Munich offers food for thought.
The AMG? This is for the one in 10 or maybe one in 100. It’s for headbangers, whose dedication to warp speed I admire, but cannot quite believe, especially at PS60,000. It ranks third in my book, after the BMW and Porsche.
3rd Place: Mercedes AMG CLA 45 S 4Matic+ Coupe
“A cross-country exhibition. It was a lot more exciting than any Golf R, but it is a bit too one-dimensional for this company.
2nd Place:BMW M240i Coupe
“Latest hot 2 Series increases the refinement, performance, but is playful when the right conditions are met.” A remarkable everyday choice.
1st place: Porsche 718 Cayman PDK
It lacks the BMW’s versatility, and this is not just because of its small dimensions. The BMW isn’t spartan but it’s not boring and can take the driver to places that others cannot. “
MercedesBenz C63 AMG:AMG’s 6.2-litre M156V8 is a great road car engine and the W204 C Class chassis is a perfect match. Although not cheap to operate, the car is now available at around PS18,000. At this price, it’s difficult to imagine a more entertaining and versatile coupe.
Porsche Cayman S This is the most powerful late 987-gen Caymans, with the post-facelifted 3.4-litre flat six. It has the same power as the base 718, but a much more musical engine. You can get a more reliable example of the 981-gen successor for a little more.
BMW M3 E92 The E90, which is the only M3 road car to have eight cylinders, is more expensive than its predecessor the E46. However, it’s still a great GT-cum-sports car.