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HomeDRIVENROAD TESTEDBMW M240i CONVERTIBLE AUTO

BMW M240i CONVERTIBLE AUTO

South Africans are buying luxury cars in record numbers these days, with SUVs and other off-roaders featuring prominently on their shopping lists. Especially so when a utilitarian vehicle is required to tackle the great outdoors, right?

In reality, South Africa’s beauty was made for all who love in it, no matter what you drive, and who said you need to be forever confined to the urban jungle just because your wheels are a little less, uhm, rugged…

The BMW M240i Convertible is a prime example of a typical city lux-mobile that would likely never see a dust road in its life, but if you plan your trip carefully, even this performance machine will take you places you never thought you could go.

To prove the sassy Beemer’s mettle, the Driven team recently headed east for a weekend of adventure in the Kruger Park’s oldest private concession, Jock Safari Lodge.

THE CAR

The 2-Series is a compact tourer, and while strictly speaking it is a four-seater, in reality, it is only practical as a two-seater. Crucially, for our purposes, there is enough luggage space for two in the Cabrio’s 280 to 335-litre boot.

In this guise, the M Sport-fettled M240i is a serious performance machine. Sitting at the top of the 2-Series drop-top range, R775,786 gets you sassy 18” alloy wheels, bi-Xenon headlights, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, sports seats, leather-wrapped M Sport steering wheel, Bluetooth and a 12-speaker, 360-watt Harmon/Kardon sound system that includes DAB+ digital radio.

It also comes with BMW’s full suite of ConnectedDrive features that include automated emergency service notification in the event of an accident and live traffic updates for the navigation.

Safety-wise there are four airbags and a rollover protection system plus forward collision warning, lane departure warning and pedestrian warning. Front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are standard too.

The evolution from the 1 Series name to the 2 Series brought a bolder style to the range.

The M240i feels suitably modern and premium inside, with good quality materials and high-class fit and finish.

Its styling stays true to BMW’s design language, so there isn’t much to differentiate it from its larger convertible cousins, the 4 Series and 6 Series; it’s just a wee bit smaller inside.

The roof can be stowed or raised at speeds up to 40 km/h, but the mechanism is not as swift as some of its rivals, though.

Travelling high speeds over long distances in a Cabrio in South Africa means one runs the risk of wind noise intrusion into the cabin in lesser vehicles than this BMW. With the soft top in place, the cabin is well insulated, giving it a quiet and refined ambience. Stow the roof and raise the windows, and the wind protection is acceptable even up to high speeds, with only minimal buffeting, especially with the foldable wind deflector installed behind the front seats.

MADE FOR CRUISING

At least one-third of the 430 km from the start in Pretoria to our destination in the Kruger National Park was travelled on the N4 national highway, with the balance made up of smaller regional and municipal roads along the Heritage Route in Mpumalanga.

The M240i’s 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine is a gem; continuing BMW’s legacy of significant inline sixes. In this guise, it is tuned to generate 250 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque, a generous amount of performance for regular overtaking of trucks and other vehicles.

Push down hard on the accelerator and there is a real punch from the engine, the kind of kick you would expect from a compact performance car. The eight-speed automatic transmission supports the slick BMW engine brilliantly, providing access to the best of the six-pot with a minimum of fuss. The shifts are smooth, and while they may not be as fast as a dual-clutch transmission they don’t feel far off, and the whole powertrain is far smoother at low speed.

In despite regular stopping and starting, and irregular speed changes, the M240i used 8.4-l/100 km, which is a commendable return for such a potent car.

ON THE ROAD

The M240i handles the road in much the same way as its bigger Beemer siblings – which is both a blessing and a curse.

Befitting such a sporty convertible, and its great engine, the chassis is very responsive, and steering is sharp and well weighted. On a smooth piece of road the M240i doesn’t feel like a convertible, it feels solid like its coupé equivalent.

There’s plenty of road-holding too, with the low-profile tyres providing more than adequate grip to allow you to press on and have some open-air fun. Before you enter the Kruger Park, though.

When the road surface degenerates, however, so does the M240i’s manners. In typical BMW fashion, the adaptive M Sport suspension is too firm for most regional roads and repeated bumps quickly rattle the car. Even in the softest suspension setting, the BMW feels too uptight on any surface that is not the smooth blacktop of the freeway. Not to mention the occasional gravel road we encountered while traversing the Lowveld, and in the reserve itself.

LAST WORD

The BMW M240i Convertible may be a niche luxury offering, but it is a good car that’s comfortable enough for short trips into the countryside.  

The engine is the real star, producing excellent performance and still returning good fuel economy. Unfortunately, the stiff suspension spoils the comfort at times, but there’s no denying the M240i is a sporty and dynamic convertible that’s versatile enough when low flying through the Lowveld is on the agenda.

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