How the quest for efficiency killed the BMW M140i

How Bavaria’s rear-drive hot hatch was given the boot

The end of the BMW M140i
Gallery3

When the axe fell on BMW’s M140i in 2019, it sliced clean through what was once considered a core part of the company’s DNA – that is, a compact rear-driver powered by a six-cylinder engine.

And surely we all felt a twinge of sadness a few years earlier when hearing the news that the subsequent F40 generation would adopt BMW’s front-drive UKL platform. This is the company, remember, that once promoted its rear-drive strategy so vehemently that it had a print-ad campaign that depicted various animals – a rabbit, frog and racehorse – photoshopped with huge front legs, and the tag line: “That’s why we don’t have front-wheel drives”.

The M140i, which made its Aussie debut in 2016, was an evolution of the M135i, first introduced in 2012 as part of the second-gen F20/F21 1 Series’ line-up. When the M135i lobbed, Wheels was instantly seduced by the N55 six, a smooth, punchy 3.0-litre turbo making 235kW and 450Nm, funnelled to the rear wheels via an eight-speed ZF auto or six-speed manual.

BMW M140i engine
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We pitched it against the Renault Megane RS 265 in February 2013, and the BMW was good enough to narrowly edge out the ultra-focused front-driver. Which you may have expected, given the massive price discrepancy: the M135i was a whopping $72,400 when it arrived, and nearly hit $80K (before on-roads) in as-tested form against the $43K Megane.  

Rear packaging was compromised by the RWD layout, though, with the transmission tunnel making life tough for anyone unfortunate to get the middle seat. Not helping the case was the lack of comfort and amenity features in the rear.

The move to the M140i model designation in 2016 saw the introduction of BMW’s B58 engine, an evolution of the N55, bumping compression to 11.0:1 and upping the boost. Peak power jumped to 250kW at 5500rpm, but the torque hike was significant; up 50Nm on the M135i to 500Nm, while claimed 0-100km/h was cut to 4.6sec.

The lack of a limited slip diff did attract bit of criticism but was really only an issue when driving properly hard on tight roads, or on a track. A price drop in 2018 saw the M140i come in (just ) under $60,000. Pity the resale of those who bought the M135i five years earlier…

The M140i did receive a bit of a send-off, with BMW Australia offering the Finale Edition which included metallic paint, 18-inch double-spoke M alloy wheels in Orbit Grey, sunroof, darkened headlights and tail-lights, and black chrome exhaust tips. Given the sunroof alone was a $2000 option, the tag of $62,990 meant it was actually considered reasonable value.

BMW M140i interior
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But perhaps not the most illustrious end for the M140i, given the significance of its axing. 

The last BMW M140i sold in Oz

The very last M140i to roll out of an Aussie dealership? That was from Sylvania BMW in Sydney’s south, a red auto snapped up by Scott Tye, a reader of sister title MOTOR who got in touch with our website in April. “For me, this is a keeper,” said Scott. “The last of a breed.” 

Australian BMW M140i sales figures
2016 – 74
2017 – 515
2018 – 885
2019 – 661
2020 – 7

 

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Ash Westerman
Journalist

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