I grew up in a formerly blue collar town in southeastern Massachusetts. I knew nothing about cars. Wheels were meant to get you from Point A to Point B, and that was about it. What my not-so-well-off friends and family all assuredly knew was that driving a BMW was considered the ultimate status symbol. If you (or your parents) owned a machine shop, worked three jobs, or knew people in “the family”, you might be lucky enough to get one. I remember liking the old Z3, but I knew it would be forever unattainable. I did become a teacher, after all. Before doing that, my boss used to show off while tearing around in his E46 M3 but would never let me into the driver’s seat.
Times have changed. Thanks to today’s cycle of leasing, depreciation, and CPO sales, BMWs are now commonplace. And there seem to be two types of people who drive them in 2019: tattooed, vaping tuners and women of late middle age. If you’ll pardon my stereotyping, I’ll continue; the only difference between their predilection for cellphone use while driving is that the former plays louder music. Get stuck behind one of them on a narrow road seemingly made for “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, and you might as well take a nap. The thesis behind all this generalizing is to criticize modern BMWs; their DNA has evolved to please those interested in status and comfort–not acceleration or corner carving.
Which brings us to this review. Imagine you grow up in a blue collar town in southeastern Massachusetts. You’re excited to tell your folks about the second-hand BRZ you plan to buy with all the money you’ve saved doing landscaping since freshman year. Your older brother, Michael Maloney the Second, comes home late to dinner (again), throws his letter jacket on the floor, and interrupts you to brag about his gym class heroics du jour.
This is a fun–if somewhat absurd–analogy. Let’s push it a little further. Flash forward a few years. You got that BRZ, and you drove the wheels off it. Road trips, on-ramp antics, underground autocross, commuting to a state school and increasingly better jobs. You fell in love with driving, and you’re good at it, but you’re too busy and practical to invest in a track car–even though you can afford it now. So you get an M240i or M235i off lease and continue driving for love. Your brother? He swaps in and out of the newest 3-Series every three years until his second wife leaves him for her yoga instructor.
If you think of the BMW M240i as a grown-up Subaru BRZ, you get it. It’s not an M2–too soft, too much body roll for that. It’s not a luxury sedan like the new 3-Series–too Spartan and driver focused for that. The best way to see the M240i is as an upgrade over the fun car you were lucky enough to drive when you were young. Buying a new one at over $50k defeats this purpose: it has neither the performance nor cachet to warrant a monthly payment of that caliber.
Spending around $30k, though, gets you a vehicle that enjoyed free, regular maintenance throughout what was likely a boring existence. It is tight and punchy through most corners and most of the rev-range. It can get over 30 mpg. Adults can actually fit in the back seat. It has a surprisingly usable trunk for a sports coupe. You can get X-Drive for New England winters. Consumer Reports even calls it reliable!
Working-class fun and sensibility meets upper-class quality and badge recognition. Nice job, buddy. You’ve made it. And you did it your way.