With 250kW connected to your right foot and power to go from 0-100 km/h in a blistering 4.6 seconds, we delve deep to discover what this M140i brings to the driven pocket rocket ring.
Good news for the disheartened gearheads on a budget: BMW have been offering a solution to this dilemma. In a kind of automotive cross-breeding, BMW have been opting to infuse a bit of Motorsport blood into existing “civilian focused” models. These new models, demarcated by an “M” badge slapped to the front of the existing model name, aren’t quite made for the track but aren’t exactly made for the street either.
While enthusiasts drool at the thought of owning a hardcore and track oriented flagship in the BMW M lineup, the BMW M3 and M5 at the forefront is an investment that is actually impractical for daily use. But if you have the dough, you may not care otherwise.
The 2019 M140i is one of these models that exemplifies the new M-ish lineup nicely. A modestly designed, 5-door hatchback with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres and a 250kW, 3.0L inline 6 is an interesting arrangement to say the least.
Upon first approach of the M140i, you’d have to really know your stuff to be able to distinguish it from a typical 1-series hatchback. An ever-so-slightly more aggressive front air dam, black kidney grilles and painted metallic silver mirror caps are the only frontal details that blow the M140i’s cover. In the rear, the only distinguishing features are a dual exit exhaust and puny “M” badge just right of the roundel. I suppose BMW have always taken the incognito approach to their performance vehicles, but this is a new level of nonchalance.
In terms of the civilian / performance split, BMW certainly opted for a civilian approach for the interior of the M140i. Many of the interior elements in the M140i are what you would expect to see in a run-of-the-mill 1-series, not to say that is an entirely bad thing. A large, and prominent, 8.8-inch infotainment screen sits centrally between the driver and front passenger, providing ample surface area to use BMW’s integrated navigation and entertainment features. Apple Car Play is also offered as an additional package for $623 for extended ease of use to iPhone users. To enhance the in-car entertainment experience further, the M140i comes standard-equipped with a Harman/Kardon sound system, typically a pricey upgrade in a standard 1-series. Other standard equipment that should be a provided in a car in the $60,000 tier include: Park distance control, rear view camera, and cruise control. While all work as advertised, it would be nice to see an upgraded adaptive cruise control system included as in many of BMW’s other premium models.
It is easy to see why BMW has chosen to let many lower-level interior details bleed into the M140i chassis, but there are a few spots where the higher trim level fell short of what is expected from a premium luxury automobile. The vast majority of these shortcomings involve interior build materials. Many of the M140i’s interior components feel cheap to the touch and give off a plastic-y creak when fiddled with. While the M140i does have some nice leather accents, primarily on the steering wheel and seats, a continuation of premium materials through the cabin would have been preferred. Additionally, while fitted with an impressive 1,200 litres of boot space with the rear seats folded down, the power liftgate is heavy and with a high lip which makes loading up more difficult than need be.
So, with the design and interior elements described and concluded, so are all of the “civilian” aspects of the 2019 BMW M140i. From here on, the motorsport transfusion really takes hold.
First comes the raw power. From a standstill, the M140i can rocket to 100km/h in a staggering 4.6 seconds, giving any other hot-hatch competitor a run for its money. The M140i’s linear powerband is linked to a straight six motor, producing a whopping 250kW. While the M140i can thank it’s missile-like speed to this impressive kW figure, the car’s acceleration is really it’s shining characteristic. With 500Nm of torque to play with on demand, the M140i is only 0.2 seconds slower to 100km/h than the pure-bred, track oriented BMW M2. This small, unassuming, five-door hatchback has the potential to rip the doors off of many V8 opponents from a launch. How special is that?
The automatic transmission fitted to our test vehicle did a decent job laying down the power in the dry. I repeat: “In the dry.” With brutal upshifts at 7000rpm, a pull of either shift paddle will leave your head pinned to your headrest. On paper, the 8-speed Sport Automatic is said to slice off 0.3 seconds from 0-100km/h, but in practice it’s hard to be sure. That being said, a vehicle as unique as the M140i feels more at home when equipped with a 6-speed manual.
While the ample power and astonishing acceleration treat enthusiasts to the straight-line performance that they dream of, performance does come at a slight cost to daily-drivability in various seasonal conditions.
As with the majority of modern BMWs that we have reviewed, the suspension equipped on the M140i is stiff. Sometimes uncomfortably stiff. BMW’s aim is to provide rigidity through bends without destroying your lower back and for the most part, they succeeded. Speed bumps and broken roads can be taken easily at speeds above a crawl and smooth roads can be taken comfortably. Where the suspension is lacking, though, is through high-speed curves. Considerable body sway is noticeable when taking a chicane at above 60km/h, which can be equally attributed to the spongy 18-inch alloy wheels as much as the suspension.
In sport mode, the electronic power steering seems to be turned to max, with adjustments to wheel input being slightly more difficult than probably needed. For a vehicle with electronic power steering, road feel is surprisingly well amplified due to BMW’s integrated steering input sensor array. With small sensors located on the inner wheel-well, road input is sent to the steering wheel to provide the driver with a more connected experience. Definitely a welcomed addition, be it under extreme late braking or lead-footed exists, in practice composure was a truly astonishing experience.
As an attempted middleground between daily-driver and racecar, it is pretty clear that BMW’s motorsport division was a bit heavy handed. The 2019 BMW M140i in the wrong hands could end a joy ride in poor fashion. This certainly isn’t a car for someone looking for the more practical side of family wagons. The M140i was clearly intended for a niche market, the same enthusiasts who needed a dash of everyday feasibility to a purebred track machine for their investment to be worthy. That being said, if you happen to be one of those individuals, rejoice!