The M140i is the last of it’s kind
It’s always difficult to write about your own car without emotions getting in the way so I’ll be frank - this won’t be a completely objective review. Always best to get these things out of the way.
Since lockdown relaxing, it was time to do more driving than writing so after a month’s hiatus, a couple of long trips and an oil change it’s back parked with a few more miles under its belt. The newfound freedom of grabbing the keys at any given opportunity is a welcome return to some sort of normality.
Now down to business
This was never coined as a full blown M car and the introduction of the softer M half-way house cars was designed to close the gap between the best of the ‘normal’ BMWs and the full blown M cars.
In typical BMW fashion I think they almost made the M140i by accident. It’s one of those cars which is over-engineered making it feel a lot more sophisticated, and not just because of the 6 cylinder - more on that later. The interior of the shadow edition does have extra leather effect accents and is near as dammit identical to the 3 series. As impressive as the new 1 series is from a technological standpoint with is ambient lighting, newer iDrive system and digital cluster there is a sense of cost cutting to wean buyers of the cheaper models away from competitors. The M140i would have been an example of purchasing the engine and you get the rest of the car absolutely free but you don’t sacrifice interior ambience or comfort - particularly with the adaptive dampers which are a must on the UK’s orange peel roads.
I’ve completed some lengthy road trips recently and it manages to be comfortable and quiet on the motorway whilst transforming instantly when one’s right food gets turned on. Amazingly even without switching everything to sport the M140i knows when you want to get going and this is a BMW party piece which brings that M magic to everyday driving. I’ve experienced this even on lesser models as well. I’ve found with other fast versions of competitor cars you have to drive hard to unlock the excitement and in the real world that usually ends in making a decision between a lampost or the nearest ditch. With M140 the power is always there, controlled and even the slightest acceleration puts a smile on your face - as long as you stay away from Sport Plus which lights up a few traction warning lights moving the responsibility fully on the driver.
It isn’t all glowing I’ll admit, there a few shortcomings. The steering is electric and whilst it’s a good example I do miss the hydraulic feel and the omission of an LSD can the make the rear end twerk on anything but sun kissed roads. The edges of the rear seats are also angled inwards due to the rear wheel drive architecture. If you’re carrying 5 people rock, paper, scissors is the only way to force the unlucky 5th passenger to remove unnecessary body parts and squeeze in. But I’m nitpicking, on reflection these are minor points.
So the drivetrain. That drivetrain! The way the ZF automatic is married to the B58 engine is a masterpiece. The gearbox subtlety changes down even at slow speeds meaning that a prod of the accelerator waking up all 6 cylinders is met with a deft accuracy from the gearbox’s choice of cogs. Which is just as well because the engine is a peach. Deeply impressive, powerful, sonorous and enjoyable all the time without needing to shout about it. This makes it a brilliant all rounder and gives the car real Q status. From the outside it could be a 118d but nestling underneath it gives any driver that quiet confidence to make most other cars around irrelevant. It actually makes you drive more calmly with a smile on your face in the knowledge that it’s got the ability to annihilate an impressive hit list of other cars.
To sum up you can drive a number of super cars, grand tourers and super saloons in the same way you can go out to exotic restaurants, which dazzle you with unique culinary methods, exotic ingredients and a unique ambience - but there’s nothing like a home cooked meal. This is what the M140i is. Whenever I get back into it, press the start button and hear the straight six explode to life it’s the one car I’m glad to always go back to. Pound for pound there’s not much else that’s small enough to slip through width restrictions, sit in traffic, carry around life in general and then absolutely blast down a motorway or B road. It’s the last of an era.