Selecting Sport+ mode has transformed the daily drive
I’VE RECENTLY BEEN PONDERING the pros and cons of the high level of configurability offered by many modern performance cars – adaptive dampers, different engine maps, etc – and it got me thinking about how I use the BMW and its multitude of settings. I can’t argue with the benefits of being able to tease out better mpg or select a more relaxing ride for longer distances, but can such flexibility detract from a car’s abilities rather than enhance them?
In older performance cars you can’t simply change their dynamics to suit your situation. You have no choice but to experience them pure and unfiltered every time you drive them, and I feel that this keeps you more alert and involved in every journey – even a simple daily commute. Yet when you have options, I find it’s all too easy to become a lazy driver. This was the case on my drive home one evening not long ago, where I switched the M240 to Comfort mode and the gearbox to auto to make the journey as effortless as possible.
Not so bad as an occasional thing, I suppose, but I actually kept these settings selected for the following couple of days. Then, perhaps inevitably, I eventually found myself a little underwhelmed by this 335bhp coupe. So using my old-car theory, I decided to put the BMW into its sportiest settings – selecting Sport+ for the driving mode, which also relaxes the traction control, and putting the gearbox into full manual mode – to see if this could make any change to my mood.
Upon completing my usual 75-minute commute to the office the next morning, I had a smile on my face. It was 6deg C and had been raining, so you can imagine how lively the BMW was on the more interesting sections of my route in – all the better for keeping me engaged in proceedings. Also, when you only shift manually, the engine flirts with you, using its noise to keep you on the throttle all the way to 7000rpm.
The shifts themselves are ridiculously harsh: the thump of torque as the new gear hits home causes the rear wheels to spin briefly on damp roads, bringing a slight slip angle even when you’re driving in a straight line. But because you know it’s going to happen, you can start to have fun with it.
Second gear, 6300rpm, blipping up to third while exiting a tight corner, feeling the back step out and then powering all the way through the gear is pretty exciting. I like the way you can do this at relatively low speeds, too. Wet roads help, but torque is the main cause, allowing the driver to enjoy rear-wheel drive even if they’re new to this layout.
It certainly stops you from zoning out. My plan now is to keep the BMW in Sport+ for as long as possible. Let’s see what happens.
‘It allows the driver to enjoy rear-wheel drive even if they’re new to this layout’
Above: taking full manual control of gearshifts with the paddles brings plenty of reward