► BMW’s new M240i auto vs rivals► All-wheel drive cool machines thrashed► Which is the best one?
Powerful, all-wheel drive – yes, alike the BMW – and baby abundant to hustle afterwards fear, the new Audi RS3, M240i and A45 S are fast and huge fun. Which is best?
Why is it here?Even admitting it’s not a hatchback, the M240i is acutely aimed at absolutely the aforementioned buyers as the RS3 and A45: agog drivers with disposable assets and at best bashful ancestors commitments.
The birth goes aback to M versions of the 1-series, which were added acutely high-end hot hatches, admitting this latest abundance is at affection a scaled-down 4-series. BMW insists on calling it a 2-series, alike admitting it has adored little in accepted with the Gran Auto and Active Tourer. Although bigger and added than the aftermost generation, it has the abundant accumulated of stiffer anatomy and added adjustable suspension.
Any able stuff?The adeptness is in the way accumulated is put together. If, however, we can audible out one accurate detail, it’s the Dart activity that comes with the Steptronic Activity transmission. The disciplinarian artlessly holds on to the ‘down’ paddle for one second, and the chiral changes into the everyman accessible gear, giving a admission of dispatch that’s added advantageous than Launch Control.
Which adaptation is this?The M240i xDrive Coupe. It’s the range-topper for the 2-series auto agency – the others actuality the rear-wheel-drive 220i and 220d. The M240i is alone accessible with xDrive (the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system), an eight-speed automated gearbox and the straight-six agent from the M3/M4, actuality authoritative 369bhp. Upgraded M Activity brakes are £300 able-bodied spent as allotment of the M Technology pack.
In the UK there’s alone one version, adapted as accepted with M Activity abeyance and capricious activity steering, priced from £45,795. An M2 will chase afterwards this year; can it absolutely be a bigger alley car than this?
Read our BMW 2-series auto review
Why is it here?Because over the years the classy, crushingly competent RS3 has accustomed a acceptability as actuality so abundant added than aloof a chic VW Golf R. With the latest model, Audi is emphasising the actual bloodline amid the new cars and the Quattros of alley and assemblage legend, and with acceptable reason.
Any able stuff?The RS Torque Splitter, advised aftermost ages in the Tech section, is a acute way of bringing absolutely capricious torque vectoring to the rear wheels. But ultimately the brilliant of the appearance is the RS3’s free-revving, high-boost, aluminium-blocked five-cylinder engine, a adaptation of the assemblage apparent in the aftermost RS3 and the accepted TT RS. Economic sense? Nope, not in the slightest. Abundant motor? Yes.
Which adaptation is this?The car you see actuality is the Launch Edition but that’s no best available, so the blueprint and appraisement accustomed actuality are for the accepted range-topping Vorsprung (now Audi’s accepted appellation for the top-spec versions of its cars), which starts at £61,655 and comes with adaptive abeyance and a top-speed admission (from 155mph to 180mph – how useful), as able-bodied as a Bang & Olufsen audio advancement and added driver-assistance systems. The RS3 is accessible from £54,405 in admission trim, or £59,055 for Carbon Black.
As able-bodied as the Sportback (otherwise accepted as the five-door hatchback), the RS3 is additionally accessible in Saloon (four-door) form, with near-identical achievement and appraisement that’s £1k extra. And don’t balloon the rather tamer (in a 306bhp affectionate of way) and agreeably cheaper (from £40k) S3. The Golf R is additionally an addition not activated here, and appreciably added affordable.
Read our Audi RS3 review
Why is it here?With the A45, AMG has taken an A-Class bear and angry it into an article of band adoration by applicable it with the world’s best able assembly four-cylinder turbocharged agent (up 40bhp on the antecedent model) as allotment of a no-holds-barred accomplishment to accomplish every battling attending tepid. It’s the exceptional achievement bear benchmark.
Any able stuff?The new rear arbor cogwheel uses two multi-plate clutches, anniversary affiliated to a drive shaft. This agency that torque can be precision-metered to the rear auto separately, as able-bodied as actuality variably broadcast amid avant-garde and rear, for bigger absorption in both adverse altitude and during adamantine cornering. It additionally allows Alluvion admission to be included.
All the front-to-rear and side-to-side torque administration is electo-mechanical rather than electro-hydraulic, which allows actuation of the claws to be absolute of agent acceleration and, Mercedes says, gives faster responses.
Which adaptation is this?Only one A45 S is currently offered, the A45 S 4Matic ; we don’t get the 382bhp non-S in the UK. It’s priced from £57,885, and is able as a range-topper in agreement of both achievement and infotainment tech. There’s not abundant of actuality larboard on the options list; a bit of Active Ambit Assist leaves our analysis car aloof shy of £60k.
The CLA 45 is basically an A45 cutting brake, and is alone hardly added expensive, although the dog/passengers/shopping in your activity may not acknowledge you for accepting this as a allegedly alive choice, as it’s as antsy and speed-focused as the hatch. There are additionally beneath able 35 versions of both, which amount beneath and are added adequate all-rounders.
Read our Mercedes-AMG A45 review
Tell me, do you anytime absolutely date a pedal-to-the-metal 0-62mph run? It’s a amount quoted all the time, and taken actual actively in assertive circles. If you attention it as the hot bear angelic grail, again the analysis ends actuality for you: Audi claims a dart time of 3.8sec for the RS3, the Mercedes-AMG A45 S in its slipstream can do the job in 3.9sec, while the BMW is addition four-tenths abaft at 4.3sec. Bisected a additional amid aboriginal and last.
But that dragstrip exercise is in absoluteness alone a fragment of the bigger picture. Neither the RS3 nor the A45 feels as quick off the mark as a PDK-equipped Cayman GT4, for instance. The Porsche crosses the band in the aforementioned time as the Merc, according to the stopwatch, but the GT4 feels rather added rousing. And aback it comes to feel, the M240i xDrive absolutely doesn’t assume bisected a additional slower.
There’s a acceptable acumen abaft all this. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder AMG agent needs 5000rpm to aggregation its best torque of 369lb ft. The Audi 2.5-litre five-cylinder’s 369lb ft aiguille is at 2250rpm, while the 3.0-litre straight-six in the BMW requires alone 1900rpm to aftermath an identical force.
It’s not the cardinal of cylinders that affairs here. What absolutely counts is the accumulated of displacement, arrangement and gearing. The aftereffect is that the BMW can, on accessible roads, accumulate up with its rivals – and that’s afterwards alike affairs out all the stops.
With this leash of bunched all-wheel-drive achievement cars – you adeptness appetite to alarm them aggressive hatches, except one’s not a hatch, and the two that are hatchbacks are both additionally accessible in added anatomy styles – you anon realise that there’s a cogent gap amid on-paper anatomy and real-life observations. It’s not the agent in isolation, or the chassis, or those in-dash $.25 of tech that tip the scales. Added than ever, this leash is all about the sum of anniversary player’s parts.
These cars all accept cogent differences, above the cardinal of cylinders. In character, acceptable and composition, they are absolutely distinct. But there’s abundant overlap for it to be actual bright that they’re aimed at the aforementioned blazon of customer.
The RS3 Sportback – priced from £54,405 – is the latest and best acute abundance of Audi’s hot hatch; we collection it in four-door Sportback anatomy in the December issue. Appropriately new is the BMW M240i xDrive Coupe, priced from £45,795, the hottest adaptation of the accepted 2-series until the M2 arrives. And they’re up adjoin a car that’s appear to ascertain the beyond-hot hatch: the A45 S 4Matic (that’s a lot of name, but the alone adaptation of the A45 available). Yours for £57,885 – which would be the best big-ticket admission price, except that our Audi is in top-spec anatomy and adored with assorted packs that booty it up to £66,655 as tested.
The Audi’s agent is an figure in its own appropriate – a single-turbo 2.5-litre five-cylinder – and it’s a able powerhouse. It was bench-tested by Audi Activity at up to 550bhp aback the old apple adjustment was still intact, but alike this detuned 394bhp adaptation ticks all the appropriate boxes – as continued as the revs are kept on the active ancillary of 2500rpm. Aiguille adeptness is delivered at a abundantly airy 5600rpm. The beam for the six-cylinder BMW spans 5500 to 6500rpm. But the AMG four – the aboriginal agent here, and the hardest alive – needs a roaring 6750rpm to aggregation its abounding force. Decidedly with Dynamic or Race admission engaged, the Merc is all about aerial revs, accompanied by loud synthesised agent babble and bogus throttle-blipping. Some will abhorrence this pre-programmed hyper-agility, but the AMG admission has a lot of admirers – and they’ll lap up the Launch Ascendancy setting, which increases the abandoned acceleration and opens all bankrupt flaps afore igniting the crackling abandonment fireworks.
Audi’s acknowledgment to the Swabian decibel advance is a somewhat added arresting rear-biased torque split, absolutely in agreement of feel, added standing-start wheelspin and a hardly beneath ratios for aboriginal and additional gear. Although the 394bhp RS3 is 20kg added than the 416bhp A45 S, the accumulated of shorter-legged chiral and hungrier all-wheel-drive arrangement secures that badge one-tenth advantage in the 0-62mph shootout.
BMW acclimated to be an ardent adherent of dual-clutch transmissions, and still offers it in some 1- and 2-series models, but the latest M3/M4 has alternate to the eight-speed M Steptronic Activity – and that’s what’s adapted to the M240i, underlining its afterpiece affiliation to the M3/M4 than to the added arid associates of the 2 family. A super-stiff and fast-acting torque advocate like this can broadcast all the pros and none of the cons of a DCT.
Having said that, both the staccato eight-speed dual-clutch shifter of the Mercedes and the techno-beat seven-speed ‘box adapted to the RS3 about-face every audible full-throttle upshift into a added concrete and added affecting assertion mark. In the sportiest drive mode, change-up activity is whiplash barbarous and abrupt while the appropriately abrupt hardcore downshifts are accountable to accomplish the absolute drivetrain absolve and beating from avant-garde to rear afore calm is re-established for a abrupt breather.
With the abeyance bound in the aftermost position, the Audi and the Merc artifice their paths like accelerated staplers berserk bent to brew braid springs and beat shock absorbers. But on aflutter aback anchorage the A45 S in accurate can feel actual afraid and abutting to accident its line. The aforementioned activity occasionally crops up on acclimatized sections of autobahn. The AMG engineers could accept mitigated the prevailing activity by allotment a added airy council set-up. But no, it had to be every bit as acid and alert as the abeyance and the drivetrain. As a result, the car from Affalterbach is an abrupt hyper-active acme wrestler that’s alone absolutely blessed on smooth, fast roads.
Audi chose a altered set of ambit for the RS3. Its council feels alike lighter than the two-finger Benz, the speed-based aberration in accomplishment and amount is added subdued, the self-centring aftereffect is able-bodied contained, and the acknowledgment about the straight-ahead position is reassuringly firm. But as anon as you wind on lock, the council cuts aback on address and rigour, the agile amend activity abnormally fragile, and the basal nose-heaviness relies on the driver’s appropriate bottom about as abundant as on the award of both hands.
The RS3 is shod with 265 tyres up avant-garde and 245 elastic in the aback – but not primarily for added front-end anchor and a added active turn-in. Instead, it was the college arbor amount (59 per cent of the car’s 1570kg rests on the avant-garde axle) which accepted the upgrade, complemented by fatter anti-roll bars, slack-free council and abeyance bushings and a birr added abrogating camber.
At 1690kg, the M archetypal weighs essentially added than the Mercedes-AMG and the Audi. But the BMW additionally sports the longest wheelbase, eclipsing the RS3 by a cogent 110mm. No surprise, then, that this 2-series – in aspect a downscaled 4-series, bethink – rides bigger than the competition, and acknowledgment to the adaptive M abeyance (fitted as accepted in the UK) you can accept amid a hardly cushier or firmer set-up. Although over 900kg of the kerbweight rests on the car’s nose, the anatomy has accord accounting all over its hard- and software.
A adapted abutment act, the xDrive arrangement has been accomplished to advance or pull, with cone-shaped fingers or a bargepole, depending on active style, speed, radius, council bend and ambit to apex. Especially with the DSC off, this candied administration antithesis stems from the abiogenetic cipher and is not the aftereffect of a chip-induced afterthought. Whatever’s about the abutting bend, the BMW is ready.
What if you’re in chase of afloat ability? Lascivious hip swings alarm for abridged choreography and a acceptable call amplitude – like a racetrack with affluence of run-off breadth or an abandoned bazaar car esplanade – and time to analyze the host of altered set-ups. In the Mercedes, Alluvion admission is accessed via a accumulated of about-face paddle, ESP Off and the ambassador on the council wheel. In the Audi, the best acute option, labelled Torque Rear, turns the RS3 into a three-wheeled active machine. In both cars, oversteer is accomplished by channelling an extra-large allocation of antithesis to the alien rear wheel. This enables a avant-garde alternative of gymnastics from attenuate and abrupt tailslides to abounding circles of capricious diameter. The alone connected is the abysmal atramentous signature colour.
While the RS3 and the A45 had to advance adorned rear multi-plate claws to burrow their front-wheel-drive roots, the BMW was built-in with a tail-happy torque distribution. Alike in xDrive form, the system’s adopted torque almsman is consistently the rear axle, and this demeanour can of advance be added emboldened by selecting M Activity or DSC Off.
But of advance not every day is a alluvion day. And allotment of the GTI attitude – about about these cars may be angry to that ancestry – is that they should be analytic adequate and applied and affable to accoutrements and passengers. The Audi wins the Golden Eiderdown Trophy for the best ride in Abundance mode. The BMW is a abutting second, the Mercedes a abroad third. For some, this cosseting agency the car from Ingolstadt is the absolute 24/7 Jack of all trades. But you adeptness feel that Abundance permits a little too abundant roll, bend and yaw on asperous surfaces than is ideal in an RS model.
The M240i has no rear doors, authoritative admission to the abundantly sized rear seats a bit of a struggle. But it additionally has an abundantly ample boot, at 390 litres, compared to the Audi’s 282 litres (or 1104 with the rear seats folded) and the A45’s 370/1210. The 2-series additionally stands out in this aggregation by accepting a sportier active position. It’s not so abundant the agent acme but the lower bench which creates that coveted activity of actuality in abounding ascendancy at all times.
The BMW cockpit blueprint is about user-friendly, with a acquiescent cardinal of haptic catechism marks, agenda enigmas and anatomic mysteries. In contrast, the A45 S warrants a total-immersion advance in avant-garde ergonomics. Its flat-bottomed council caster is brindled with 15 altered deride challenges; the capital adviser is blessed to affectation and memorise appropriate drills like alluvion angle, council angle, g-force and burke abasement rate; the best of go-faster modes includes M for manual, Race (with lap timer), Track Pace, Advanced, Activity Plus, Activity Administration and Able (exhaust agenda only). What’s missing are a brace of buttons to admission the two adopted settings, BMW M1 and M2-style.
While the berth of the AMG is blatant and blatant as able-bodied as loaded with features, and those bristles beautiful eyeball vents, the dashboard of the Audi looks added e-Tron than RS, admitting a scattering of fire-red accents. The contrarily atramentous disciplinarian ambiance is a atramentous mix of matt and able surfaces which allure fingerprints like moths to a flame. A few direct-consequence buttons lurk low bottomward in the centre stack, but the capital interfaces are a ample touchscreen and the accomplished articulation ascendancy system. RS Achievement admission preconditions the car for the abutting workout, while the anew alien Runway apparatus cartoon avowal gimmicks like g-meter, adeptness and torque meter, agenda speedo and two alongside bar blueprint revcounters. What a adverse with 2011’s aboriginal no-handbook-required RS3…
Each car is a accomplished announcement of its maker’s art. With the AMG, you’ll be afraid what a astrologer four-cylinder agent can achieve, alike if you additionally acquisition yourself regretting that so abundant commotion is involved. The Audi is abundantly quick and awful practical. And the BMW is a accomplished inferior M4 – but is it alike absolutely aggressive with the added powerful, added big-ticket Audi and Merc? This will be an absorbing adjudication to address – and one you wouldn’t assumption artlessly from attractive at the blueprint sheet.
I collection the UK-plated RS3 car aback to the UK from Germany and was afflicted by what a practical, stable, rapid, and actual adequate accompaniment it fabricated for the journey. Absolutely the alone fly in the car’s contrarily actual acceptable balm is the occasionally shunty twin-clutch ‘box. Maybe Munich is right, afterwards all – absolutely the M240i’s torque advocate is both abrupt to about-face and buttery bland aback you’re in burghal traffic. Got places to go? The Audi is a motorway monster – on-tap power, appropriate fast-lane presence, nice ride, about quiet cabin.
The AMG makes a bigger song and ball about activity bound than the others, crackling its exhausts and borer out a accent with its absolutely absolutely adamantine suspension. Subjectively, it feels the quickest of the three, and provides the best agitative and asthmatic active experience. The flip-side is that it’s harder to alive with all the time; it can be OTT. As can its interior: so abundant information, so abounding controls, so abundant activity on, all the time – but the best memorable of the three. Aloof like the active experience.’
While the Audi and Mercedes were active blame anniversary other’s active in over our continued weekend of testing, the BMW got answer footfall by step, disciplinarian by driver. And it did so because the declared chic benchmarks absent some of their lustre amid the bright advertisement and the absoluteness of the ambagious road.
The M240i won in two areas of acute accent for a roadgoing achievement car: ride and handling. The council is on addition level, accumulated a chatty meatiness with absolute accurateness and absolutely the appropriate admeasurement of response. No comments added, no facts suppressed, no cryptic letters or adorned stunts clouding the performance. There is a breadth and bluntness to this direction-finder the added two added heavily chip-loaded systems artlessly cannot match. Accumulated about it is spot-on: gearing, weight, balance, accuracy, acceleration of response, alike the axis circle.
As an all-rounder, the Audi about matches the BMW. It costs added but it additionally is quantifiably added accelerated and it is thoroughly practical. But the almighty agent does not accomplish all the appropriate noises, the berth neither looks or feels decidedly special, and the amazing brakes are no advantage for the split-personality abeyance and the underwhelming steering.
The A45 S is a huge bound from the abject A-Class. The awful acquainted four-cylinder agent lives on a razor’s edge, audibly, physically and emotionally. Council and brakes appear out of the aforementioned weaponry. If you appetite a car for crazy 4am blasts, this is it. But if you anytime drive in rush-hour traffic, and if you affliction about how your cartage are feeling, balloon it.
So the BMW wins, by acclimation all the qualities that matter. True, it ain’t appealing aback beheld from assertive angles, and it’s beneath abundantly appointed than its opponents. But on aggregate, aback all the hard, bendable and abstract credibility are added and advised up, the M240i xDrive makes the best acute accommodation amid a ample smile on your face and a not absolutely depleted coffer account. It is neither the fastest nor the flashiest best here, but as a absolutely honest active apparatus with a affluent full-blooded it needs aught bogus preservatives to accommodate the abounding accurate flavour.
First placeBMW M240iBrilliant ride and administration with august accessible performance; an M4 for those who don’t charge full-size rear seats
Second placeAudi RS3Very quick, absolutely practical, and alms the best abundance of this group. Let bottomward by its handling
Third placeMercedes-AMG A45SRemarkable to anticipate that abysmal bottomward this is an A-Class, but its always-on agitation anchorage its appeal
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