BMW's halfway-house to M car ownership just got a little bit faster, thanks to a power boost for the M135i and M235i. They don't quite offer the full motorsports experience, but the new M140i and M240i could give AMG and Audi RS owners a few sleepless nights.
At the core of BMW's updated cars is an updated version of the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six that currently powers the M135i. The M140i gains 10 kW (13 hp) over its predecessor, bumping peak power up to 250 kW (340 hp) – exactly the same amount as the unruly 1 Series M Coupe built in 2011 and 2012. The new M Sport cars also have the same amount of torque as the 1M Coupe, with 500 Nm (396 lb.ft) on tap between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm.
Proving just how far the automotive game has moved in the past five years, the new almost-M version of the 1 and 2 Series is faster than the pinnacle of the range from 2011, undercutting its 4.9 second 100 km/h (62 mph) sprint by 0.1 seconds when it's fitted with a manual gearbox. That figure improves to 4.4 seconds if you choose an all-wheel drive car with the eight-speed automatic gearbox, putting it perilously close to the 4.3 seconds it takes an automatic M2.
Working in tandem with the more powerful engine is a reworked eight-speed automatic gearbox, which can now make multiple downshifts at once. We'd still go for the six-speed manual, though, because of the extra involvement it offers. The stick shift will now rev-match on downshifts, too, so there's no excuse for those who can't heel-and-toe to avoid the clutch pedal.
In spite of the extra performance on offer, fuel economy has improved by up to seven percent compared to the outgoing car. That means the rear-drive variants of the M140i and M240i use 7.1 l/100km, while all-wheel drive cars use 7.4 l/100 km on the EU combined cycle.
These impressive figures come courtesy of some tinkering from BMW's engineers. The new engine has an aluminum crankcase and cylinder head, and latest generation variable valve timing is designed to improve responsiveness. On the fuel-saving side of things, the coolant pump only operates when it's actually needed, while auto start/stop, brake energy regeneration and electric power steering all contribute to the savings.
Thanks to more sound deadening, the engine should sound and feel more refined than those that have gone before, although we're hoping the changes haven't cut down on the beautiful induction noise that characterizes BMW's best inline-sixes.
On the handling side of things, M Sport cars are fitted with suspension that's 10 mm lower than regular cars, 18-inch wheels and a smattering of metallic gray highlights on the exterior. Pricing details are yet to be released.