BMW M140i

Little Bavarian terror can torque the talk

ENGINE 2998cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, turbo / POWER 250kW @ 5500rpm / TORQUE 500Nm @ 1520-4500rpm / WEIGHT 1475kg

THE PRO SAYS

4th Warren Luff ďA very easy car to drive on the limit.

Itís more of an understeer based car. From the moment you clear the brake itís all about trying to balance the understeer to get the car to rotate as early as possible. While itís not as fun around the confines of Winton as some of the other cars, it does produce the laptime. Itís got a great engine; gearbox is really good.

Brakes arenít too bad. Probably one of the downsides of the chassis being so stiff is in all the tight stuff itís very easy to get the ABS on the way in which generates even more understeer.Ē

TIMES

0-100km/h: 4.65sec (2nd) 0-400m: 12.76sec @ 180.53km/h (2nd) Lap Time: 1:37.8sec (1st)

SCORES

Price: $64,900 Bang Index: 128.5 Bucks Index: 104.3 BFYB Index: 118.8

JUDGESí NOTES

3rd David Morley ďLiked this car a lot. But Iíd still have an M2.Ē 2nd Dylan Campbell ďIf only it looked better Iíd probably buy one. Itís all the car Iíd need.Ē 4th Louis Cordony ďA menacing little sleeper. BYO brave pills.Ē 7th Tim Robson ďWicked engine, but it and the chassis have commitment issues.Ē

HE THING about the M140i is it makes purists uneasy. Itís that M badge theyíre fiercely protective over, and for good reason. The letter was once reserved for the companyís finest, not itís cheapest performance cars.

Now, desperate to lure as many new buyers as possible, BMWís M Performance 1 Series proves things have changed. Think of the new sub-brand as a stepping stone, like Audiís S badge, and perfect Bang For Your Bucks fodder at less than $65K.

Sure, it looks like a Toorak Nanís runabout, however, underneath its boxy body is BMWís latest weapon.

Pinched from its new modular engine family, a new turbo 3.0-litre inline-six puts another 10kW/50Nm on the tin. All up it equals 250kW/500Nm, which is enough to kick a classic M3 in the teeth.

The new engine, codenamed B58, makes the M140i BFYBís fourth most powerful. Truth is, though, it feels much more than that. Its potential is revealed on the dragway. The carís angle tweaks a few degrees under full throttle at low speeds, but once itís off, acceleration is sweaty palm, eye-widening stuff.

It erupts like a V2 rocket, and at the stripís end carries an extra three clicks on the Holden Commodore SS-V Redline Ute. And thatís pushed by a 6.2-litre V8 with a nudge over 300kW. But the BMWís engine isnít all brawn, itís a refined unit. As thrust surges down low T and builds into a heady charge by 6000rpm, revs rise so freely the 1500rpm gap from its power-peak to the 7000rpm redline vanishes in a blink.

Thereís no suspension upgrade accompanying the extra power. So the 245mm-wide rear Michelins struggle to manage in anything but a dry, straight line, instead relying on a measly inside-wheel braking system to quell single spinners. Yep, thatís right, still no LSD. If you want one, BMW Australia sells them as an option. For $4735. Before installation.

Adding woe is the fact the wheel-braking function is only available when stability controlís turned off. And even when it works, you feel it clumsily pinch at the inside wheel. Then again, its job would be a little like trying to plug a dam with a cork.

You really have to wrestle a good laptime from it, as the variable steering doesnít tell you much on the way into the corner, and itís clear the M140i could do with a sharper front-end. The brakes, while up to the abuse, could do with more feel under pump.

There are piles of mid-corner grip and it rewards clean driving. And despite a slight lack of feedback and poise, the BMW is seriously quick. That laptime, for one, is a huge surprise and achievement. It also points to how potent and well setup the rear-drive chassis can be.

No matter which way you look at it, the engine dominates the M140iís personality. If it wasnít for the A45 AMGís pesky launch control, this BMW would

have ruled every straight-line test. Itís unhinged character calls for courage, though, cause it might otherwise rip your face off.

If it were up to us, weíd ask for an LSD or more stability before power. But this is Bang For Your Bucks after all. And the M140iís meek looks, and somewhat underdone package, reward it with an asking price thatís $10K cheaper than a M240i Ė the next model in BMWís range armed with the B58 engine. And it drops the little Bavarian bullet in third place up against the formula. A solid result. Ė LC

All up 250kW/500Nm is enough to kick a classic M3 in the teeth