It's no secret that we Brits love a convertible, be it the brutal Audi R8 V10 Spyder, an indulgent Rolls Royce Dawn or the world's best-selling convertible for the past 25 years, the feisty Mazda MX-5. True lovers of topless motoring know there are many reasons for having one on your driveway and, bragging rights aside, most come down to the full-on sensory overload it affords.
The sense of motion heightened by the passing rush of scenery and the fragrance of fresh, open air as dappled shade flickers across your oversized Western Front sunnies. The arresting dissonance of a well-tuned engine, a gasping turbo or two and a canorous finale via a handsome set of rear steel pipes.
My affection for the BMW 2 Series is well documented. Together with the larger 4 Series, they alone have re-ignited my affection towards the German car-maker. My philosophy for driving a convertible in the UK is simple: if it isn't raining, get the roof down. If it is raining, get the roof down and drive a little faster so you don't get wet.
Recently and for one chilly day only I slid behind the wheel of the hottest 2 Series convertible currently available – the BMW M240i.
What's in a name? The M240i is the same car we used to know at the M235i. It's got an all-new engine, so the new '40i' badge merely aligns the car nicely with its larger BMW 440i sibling and similarly re-engined M140i warm hatch.
The recently updated BMW 2-Series has a little more glass and a lower window line than you might expect and there's a mish-mash of lines flowing around the sides and across the bonnet, none of which is overly aggressive, but nor are they hugely expressive.
The double kidney grille is a touch wider and the front air intakes larger and I think the M240i Convertible's front and rear styling hits the sweet spot without being too dull or too dramatic. The whole effect is almost Audi-like in its subtlety.
There's generous space for two adults in the front, with good head and leg room, a decent glovebox, deep door pockets and a central cubby to stow your belongings.
As with most four-seat convertibles, things become a little trickier if you want to use the rear seats. Access is a reasonable 'step-through' once the front seats are moved forward, but once there, anyone over six feet tall is likely to complain about the shortage of knee, leg and roof-up head room for anything but the shortest journeys. Average-height adults should find the rear accommodations reasonable.
The 2 Series Convertible's boot capacity is 335 litres with the roof up (280-litres when down), which is slightly more than the Audi A3 Cabriolet's boot. However, access is not as practical and makes loading wider items of luggage inside just that little more difficult.
M240i standard & optional equipment
BMW has thrown both toy and tech kit bags at the M240i Convertible, which takes the kit spec from the penultimate M Sport trimlevel and adds additional M Performance body styling which includes lowered front apron with larger air intakes to cool the brakes, side skirts and a rear diffuser and twin tailpipes. There's a set of exclusive 18" light alloy wheels in M Double-spoke design.
Of course, it also receives the M Sport suspension with individual M240i set up, variable sport steering and chunky M Sport brakes.
BMW's modular engine, drivetrain and performance
All BMW's engines, with the exception of the ones it fits to proper M cars like the M3, M5, etc., are of modular design. The M240i Convertible still uses a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six, but now it's a new unit from BMW's range of modular engines. In simple terms, the engineers 'bolt together' modules of half-litre cylinders and strap on a turbo or two until they have the right motor for the job. It's not that simple, of course, but essentially that's what happens.
That's why smaller BMW's and MINI's have 1.5-litre 3-cylinder engines (three modules), mid-sized Beemers have 2.0-litre 4-cylinder (four modules) units and on performance cars such as this week's M240i, we have 3.0-litre 6-cylinder (six-module) engine. Genius!
The engine powering the BMW M240i is the top athlete in the convertible segment. With its 340hp and 500Nm of torque, it unites impressive acceleration with incredible agility and usability within the torque range. Via the eight-speed automatic gearbox, acceleration from a standing start to 62mph is an impressive 4.7 seconds (manual 4.9s), peaking at a limited 155mph.
BMW's eight-speed automatic gearbox is excellent. Its shifts are rapid and smooth and it kicks down a gear exactly when you want it to.
Fuel consumption on the combined cycle is 34.4mpg and CO2 emissions are rated at 189g/km.
The BMW M240i Convertible is heavier than the coupé, but is still dollops of fun to drive. Its added weight comes partly from the additional folding roof mechanism, but mostly from the necessarily beefier chassis.
As with any convertible – from the Rolls Royce Ghost, Bentley GT or the more humble Audi A3, its structural integrity is severely compromised once the roof of the car is removed. Automotive engineers must re-engineer the car's chassis to offset the lost strength and rigidity that a fixed roof brings. It does, however, bring added kerb weight which by default, impacts on body control, handling and overall performance.
Ride and handling
The M240i Convertible is a safe and predictable car in terms of handling, although you do feel the car's additional weight over the coupé. It steers with precision and feels more agile than an Audi A3 cabriolet. In fact, with its sportier steering and suspension setup, this car is sheer, unadulterated fun and feels keen to turn in and is more composed through bends than the Audi.
The car rides comfortably on our irregular roads too. Even with the standard 18-inch alloy wheels, the convertible is surprisingly supple on poor surfaces. The stonking (not a technical term) 3.0-litre petrol engine is super-smooth and makes a wonderful noise at full chat, but fades to a discreet hum when cruising.
The electric power steering system is one of the best of its type – the rack is quick and accurate, though mid-corner bumps can sometimes make it feel a tad unsettled if you're really pushing on.
With the roof down, wind protection is good for those in the front seats, but those in the rear may find things a little more blustery. With the roof-up, the cabin is exceptionally well insulated against wind and road noise.
Style is a very important factor in the compact convertible sector and the BMW 2 Series rag-top is among the most desirable models currently available. The regular BMW 2 Series convertible – with its variable trim, engine and transmission options – is an exceptional open-top cruiser. A selection of mid-life updates last year made it a stronger rival than ever for the Audi A3 Cabriolet.
However, the BMW M240i Convertible raises that lofty bar even higher and – with the added poke from the 3.0-litre engine – adds additional character to transform the car into a truly great driving machine. There's bags of grip on offer, plenty of feedback from the chassis and a reasonably comfortable ride that makes it an impressive all-rounder.
Without the M2 in the range, the M240i certainly would feel complete as a performance choice. It's potent and, with most of its torque available low in the rev range, it's also hugely entertaining. If you're after more fun and liveability from your everyday BMW 2 Series convertible, but couldn't live with the feral M2 (or wait out its current 13-month queue), then the M240i is the one for you.
It would be for me.
➤ Check out our current special offers on the BMW M240i Convertible here, then call our award-winning Customer Service Team on 0800 043 2050.
By Wayne Gorrett (@WaynesWorldAuto), News & Road Test Editor.