Ah, finally, cruising in the BMW M140i! A sporty, practical, 5-door, 5-seat, 250kW, 500Nm beast!
Before we get to the Beemer, let me tell you how I came to choosing it. So I was trapped in the YouTube black hole for many months; Golf R, second hand M2, etc etc.
I drove the Golf R and was very impressed with it. After all, anything new after owning a 15 year old Audi would feel nice. It launched well, the interior quality, the door weighting when you open the door, the lighting, and the new leather smell were all excellent. I wanted one. I then drove the special edition with the Akropovic exhaust and was impressed, but not at $67k.
I spoke to my local, friendly, amazing client partner at BMW, who suggested I should take the M140i for a drive. I arrive to a beautiful white M140i with black wheels, looking quite nice!
I was immediately impressed with the driving position, the steering, the seats and the exhaust note. Taking off in the M140i was a blast. There was just so much power accessible, and that smooth power! If you haven't driven a semi-powerful car before, you would be gobsmacked by the fist punch into the back of your seat.
Putting the car into Sports mode, naturally, firmed up the car and made the throttle response more sporty, holding the revs, being more aggressive, and made the car sound sportier. I then used the paddles and was overwhelmed with the continuous delivery of power coming from BMW's B58 twin-scroll turbo 6 engine. It just kept pulling, with no fuss and no wheel spin (save that for Sports+ mode).
The Beemer did draw some attention from the office workers, even though it's not a fully-fledged M car. Not that it matters, but it was good to see some fellow humans appreciating the baby M car. On this day, it had started to drizzle, so I quickly pulled over and took some photos of the car. It looks quite nice in Alpine White and black wheels; the white really brings out the lines of the car, the signature BMW side cut, the two blacked-out exhausts, the front end with the signature kidney grilles, and the rear... well not exactly signature but nevertheless nice.
With my test drive almost up, like any minute now, I called my client partner to let him know I was on the way back. With very little time remaining, I gave the M140i a boot-full. It just kept pushing and pushing me into my seat.
When stopped at the traffic lights, I put the car into neutral and gave it a few revs. Crackle, crackle, pop, pop! It sounded nice, and "expensive", without being too loud or over the top. After I had settled down, I put the Beemer into Comfort mode and out of the paddles, and it drove like a normal comfortable car. Do I use Comfort mode much now? Definitely not!
Even though I'm a Beemer fan, I have to admit that neither of my choices were perfect. The Golf R had all-wheel drive, a seemingly higher quality interior and build, and felt as though you could chuck it around a bit easier. It also had a more features such as adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring, lane assist (the car would steer you back into line), reverse assist, and generally felt a bit more solid. My local Euro mechanics also suggested the Golf R would have a less troublesome life (subjective of course). This doesn't discount VW's DSG or Dieselgate past.
However, at around $59k plus on road costs, the BMW was more appealing. It was more sports car like with the 6-cylinder turbo engine, rear-wheel drive, low slung driving position - and I admit to having more interest in wanting a BMW in general. It was the last time I could own such a car with these characteristics for a relatively affordable price, which was also brand new.
I decided I could always get a Golf R at a later stage, whether a Mk7.5 or the new Mk8. I could have ordered a built-to-order M140i, but I missed out, almost due to the model being discontinued.
It had to be white, blue or grey with black wheels. Time was running out. A brand new grey M140i was available from my dealership. I drove past and saw it sitting there in all its beauty, Mineral Grey, BMW signature kidney grille, and all the leather wrapped in plastic. It looked mean. I pulled the trigger, got a great deal and put my $1000 deposit down and waited for my finance approval. My client partner greeted me with a some BMW goodies and I drove off into the sunset. The smile on my face was massive. It felt amazing. Finally making a big purchase that was for myself and for my own happiness.
I ended up with a 2018 Mineral Grey M140i. The options included were a sunroof (mandatory for me), black leather with blue contrast stitching, wireless charging, auto park and tinted windows. I waxed the car myself with Autoglym HD wax, put some custom Euro plates on and I was all done!
Out in the sun, the car definitely didn't look as "phat" as I was hoping it to, but the metallic Mineral Grey in the sun took my mind off it. I have grown to really appreciate the M140i when compared to, say, an M2. It's quieter - a sleeper you could say - more practical (as I learnt the magic of a hatch back with foldable rear seats) and just an all around comfortable place to be.
My favourite part of the car would be the front end. The front looks much more aggressive than the back, and reminds me of the aggressive M2. Overall, I do appreciate the subtle nature of the car. There are no boy racers trying to race me, as they might do if I were in a more aggressive-looking vehicle.
As for the interior, though it's lacking in some notable safety features mentioned earlier, and is now a "dated" cabin, I find the M140i interior to be a lovely place. The ergonomics are spot on; the chunky steering wheel, the low slung supportive seat, the relationship with the controls while driving, all are fantastic.
The iDrive system is a pleasure to use whilst driving, with little distraction. My Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ unfortunately doesn't work with the wireless charging due to its larger size, and no work around has been offered yet. The GPS sometimes isn't clear enough in its directions, especially when in big cities. Android Auto is still not available (or not installed in my car yet) from the dealership. So it does feel quite lacking in these areas, and one would want to be more impressed especially when upgrading from a 2006 Audi to a 2018 BMW, when most cheaper cars even have these features.
The same goes for the lack of blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and the like. But these last two features don't make a difference to me, as when I tested them in some other vehicles, I found them to be over-intrusive and counter intuitive (as in the Subaru loan car I have at the moment). The auto park function didn't work too well; I tried a few times and it just wouldn't park, missing the parking spot all together. I worried about my new wheels (first world problems), so it was back to good old fashioned DIY driving!
The M140i is a pleasure to drive as mentioned above; smooth when you want it to be, and then fast and aggressive in Sports mode. You'd want to be very careful, as the speed packs on rapidly, enabling a couple hundred dollar fine from the local policeman in his BMW M5 patrol car. The suspension can be quite firm and harsh when on rough surfaces and potholes. You would want to test drive it on such surfaces to see if it's acceptable.
The handling is very good, though the Beemer can get a little overwhelmed when throwing it around at rapid paces. Enthusiasts highly encourage a limited slip differential and perhaps lowering the centre of gravity a little to alleviate some of this. Though I am not keen on doing any modifications while in warranty, and want to wait a while to decide whether I modify it or go for an M2 or even an M340i next.
The passenger space is an improvement over the Audi A4 B7, but can still be a little tight depending on how the front passengers have positioned their seats.
My particular M140i has had some issues. The Beemer would "creak" when going up driveways. BMW partially fixed this by applying a special sealant into the inside of the door on the rubber seals. The rear wiper plastic bolt cover fell off and cracked while washing the car - another common issue apparently. The biggest issue was receiving a drive train error while driving the car around town. Something to do with cylinder 5. BMW picked up the car and made some changes to the software but the issue is not yet fully resolved.
All these small niggles go away when you turn on the beast and just go for a drive. My favourite driving mode is Sports+ with manual mode, using the gear selector to change gears. The noise is lovely and you get the added exhaust and engine noise to go with it, while having better control of the car in manual mode. When toning it down, I like to drive in auto and use Sports mode. Just be careful when accelerating, as it can go up to the red line, finding yourself in license suspension territory.
The Beemer would definitely be more usable for pure speed and acceleration on track, which I am yet to do. Thank you BMW for making such a cracking car with excellent value right towards it's end of life. I am very pleased with it, and in the age of downsizing engines and emissions regulation, it's the best car I could have purchased. My client partner was extremely thorough and accommodating towards me and my OCD, and thanks to him I am a happy chap.