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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Fate had it in for the M240i on the day we figured it. The MIRA proving ground was saturated with rain and BMW sent us a test car with a manual gearbox (so no launch control), no limited-slip diff and a worn set of tyres.

In light of those things, cracking 60mph in 6.3sec and 100mph in 14.7sec was no mean feat. A Vauxhall Astra VXR takes longer on both counts – in the dry.

A redesigned cooling system and ECU allow BMW to crank 335bhp out of the M240i's turbocharged engine

We can well believe the car would probably be quicker than BMW’s 4.8sec 0-62mph claim in perfect circumstances, because once our test car found traction, it took off at genuine sports car pace.

From 80-130mph it matched the figures set by a Porsche Cayman 2.7 to the tenth, despite stronger wind and a near 200kg weight penalty. And on in-gear flexibility – pulling from 30-70mph in fourth – the BMW obliterated the Porsche’s time by almost 4.0sec. In the real world, in other words, on anything other than the toughest mountain road, a Cayman would be fairly easy meat.

The fact that BMW's turbo six is capable of such smooth tractability without ever feeling inhibited by its forced induction is key to the engine’s appeal. This remarkable powerplant gives the M240i a feeling of unburstable, ever-ready performance. It feels mechanically rich and expensive, too, in a class where anything other than four-pot engines are thin on the ground.

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Truth be told, the engine – broad-shouldered, sweet-sounding and yet willing to rev – is probably the best advert for this car. Its manual gearbox has a typically springy, mechanical action. It isn’t the slickest of instruments, but it is pleasing to use.

Not pleasing enough, though, that we’d be inclined to choose it over BMW’s eight-speed automatic, which makes the car faster, more fuel efficient, cheaper to tax and more likely to retain its value better.