2017 BMW M140i Performance Edition Review
Alex Rae’s 2017 BMW M140i Performance Edition Review with pricing, specs, infotainment, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The BMW M140i Performance Edition is the brainchild of BMW Australia and might just be the ultimate M140i…
2017 BMW M140i Performance Edition
Pricing From $71,900+ORC Warranty three-years, unlimited km Service Intervals 25,000km Safety Not rated Engine 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder petrol Power 250kW at 5500rpm Torque 500Nm at 1520-4500rpm Transmission six-speed manual Dimensions 4324mm (L); 1765mm (W); 1411mm (H) Boot Space 360 litres Spare Space Saver Weight 1418kg Fuel Tank 52 litres Thirst 7.8L/100km
AS WE LEARNED during our time with Audi and its RS3 sedan, we Australians have a thing for performance cars. Almost one third of Audi A3 hatch sales have been RS models and its Bavarian rival hasn’t been missing out either. In terms of the percentage of BMW M models sold here compared to normal BMW series models, Australia is the strongest market in the world. Stronger even than Germany.
But if there’s one thing lacking in the BMW lineup, it’s a strong hatchback rival to the likes of the RS3 and Mercedes-Benz AMG A45… even the VW Golf R. And although the M140i is quick, it lacks a bit of grit when compared to the others. But because M success Down Under is so strong, BMW Australia has some leeway when it comes to tricking up M cars, and so it developed the M140i Performance Edition.
So, what is the BMW M140i Performance Edition?
The M140i Performance Edition is what the boffins at BMW Australia think the ideal M140i is – it comes with either a (no-cost option) six-speed manual with LSD or eight-speed automatic transmission without LSD, louder exhaust, better looking alloys and a performance oriented interior with plenty of carbon fibre and Alcantara bits.
Unfortunately, only 60 BMW M140i Performance Editions will be made available, and of that only 15 are manual (tested). Considering the manual gets an additional LSD not available in the auto equipped model, and there’s no manual transmission available in any German competitors, we hope there are more coming – BMW tells us there’s not at this stage.
It’s also rear-wheel drive – a rarity among the predominantly all-wheel drive hot-hatch competitors – and has the largest engine of the lot, powered by a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged engine which produces 250kW and 500Nm of power.
With the addition of some trick factory-backed M Performance parts it’s $7000 more expensive than the M140i but, at $71,900 (+ORCs), it remains cheaper than the $78,616 (+ORCs) Audi RS3 Sportback and $75,042 (+ORCs) Mercedes-Benz AMG A45. On paper, the M140i PE reads as a bang-for-your-bucks German. So what’s it like to drive?
What’s the BMW M140i Performance Edition interior like?
The M140i PE is a little bit narrow and so inside it feels as such. But there’s a good amount of arm space between the front occupants and in the second row two adults will fit in the outer seats without too much sacrifice of leg space. In the back there’s also two seat back pouches, an air vent and 12v plug for plugging in things like a USB charging outlet, although there’s one of those up front anyway.
Up front, the foot well space is adequate for tall drivers and the manual equipped M140i PE has solid feeling aluminium pedals that don’t feel slippery when wet. The steering wheel has good adjustment for both tilt and reach and the front seats have a good range of adjustment. It’s a good seating position for a driver’s car and the addition of Alcantara and carbon fibre parts enhance the feeling.
The two main touch points for the driver – the steering wheel and the manual transmission – are heavily clad with both materials and feel terrific in the hand. The steering wheel features plenty of Alcantara and has a red stitched centre marker to further the performance cred. The manual gear knob is a solid item with plenty of carbon fibre, and Alcantara boot and ‘M Performance’ embossed on top. The little touches add up to enhancing the M140i interior and driving experience.
Around back, the boot offers a modest 360 litres although it expands via 60:40 split-fold seats to 1200 litres. Seats up, it was enough to fit a large pram into but not much else.
What’s the BMW M140i Performance Edition infotainment like?
Infotainment is delivered on a centrally mounted 8.8-inch infotainment screen with connectivity limited to Bluetooth and USB device management – no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. However the current operating system, iDrive 5 (going to iDrive 6 when the 1 Series LCI lands later this year), is well sorted, and provides for good connectivity to apps like Pandora and Spotify. There’s also useful information such as weather and traffic conditions, which help the navigation system modify guidance to avoid traffic jams.
The infotainment is easy to use thanks to the quality rotary dial below the transmission and some shortcut buttons that have evolved over the generations of iDrive to provide the most commonly used menu options. The unit is hooked up to a 12-speaker Harmon/Kardon sound system that provides more power and improved clarity over the standard 7-speaker system.
Voice recognition is the other trick iDrive can use to operate the infotainment and its advanced natural voice recognition works well, even with a bit of an Australian accent and odd street names.
What’s the BMW M140i Performance Edition like to drive?
The M140i Performance Edition carries over the M140i’s 10mm lower adaptive M suspension, variable-ratio steering and larger M Sport brakes. What it gets over the M140i is the M Sport exhaust and, in the manual, a real rear-axle limited slip differential.
While the exhaust doesn’t actually increase the claimed performance figures of 250kW/500Nm, it does add some much needed aural excitement. So much so that it’s fair to say you’ll struggle to not get noticed when taking off briskly. On idle, it provides a dirty bit of gurgle that highlights the large and unique-in-its-class six-cylinder engine, and when accelerating it smoothens into a lovely rasp.
Acceleration also remains quick, which is 0-100km/h in 4.6sec in the auto and 4.8sec in the manual. For the purists, there’s no question the 0.2sec penalty is a worthy sacrifice for the enjoyment of driving a manual; the bonus is the rear-axle LSD which the auto doesn’t get.
The benefit of having a real differential in the rear is that the interference of traction in an ‘electronic diff’ isn’t apparent. This means the M140i PE is more predictable when cornering quickly and throttle input feels more responsive and accurate. An electronic diff by comparison will shave acceleration power as it tries to figure out what’s happening at the wheels and not deliver the huff when you need it… Needless to say, the M140i PE feels a bit quicker and more engaging to drive because of it.
The steering is quick to turn-in and accurate and the variable-ratio steering input doesn’t feel overly artificial, but it feels more communicative in comfort mode without the extra steering weight added. Controlled via the nice-in-the-hands Alcantara steering wheel the whole experience is lively. The manual transmission enhances this further too, and its short throw and solid but not overly large gear knob feels predictable to shift.
The M140i tips the scales at just over 1400kg, so it has a bit of weight behind it, but the larger spec M brakes don’t feel overwhelmed. They’re a little vague in feel if being picky, but they never felt unsure.
In sport mode the adaptive suspensions is at its most firm setting and provides too brittle a ride for daily commuting. On a smooth road, however, the M140i benefits from less bounce and a more stability when driving quickly. Turning on comfort mode the M140i plays Jekyll and Hyde well, and is a compliant on rougher road surfaces, although the manual might become a chore if commuting through the city.
Running on large 19-inch alloys with 225/35 front and 245/30 rear run-flat tyres mean it is a little noisy on the road, and noisy on coarse chip bitumen.
What about the BMW M140i Performance Edition’s safety features?
The BMW 1 Series has been awarded a 5-star ANCAP rating. Standard safety includes adaptive LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors and speed limit information. It doesn’t get AEB, adaptive cruise control and lane departure which come with the extra-cost BMW Driving Assistant package.
So, what do we think about the BMW M140i Performance Edition?
There’s no doubt the M140i Performance Edition is worth the extra money, even at a ten per cent premium over the standard M140i. It has the extra bits needed to feel like it competes, and looks, like a rival to the other Germans, and it remains a more affordable alternative despite the extra coin.
The LSD adds the most discernible difference when driving quickly, but it’s only available in the manual. For automatic buyers it’s available as an M Performance accessory. And for those that don’t care so much (and the electronic diff is still good), the extra interior bits and exhaust note are more than enough to enjoy a Sunday drive in the hills.
More than just out-and-out performance the M140i has a calm ride in anything but sport mode and is a good town car, and even if the manual is tiresome in heavy traffic it’ll reward keen drivers on the weekends.