Devoted fans of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” have not all been thrilled with all the direction BMW has taken lately, dialing back the driving-machine quotient in favor of comfort and luxury. Can now take heart, even though those who have felt slighted. We’ve just purchased a new 2 Series coupe in the uplevel M235i trim, and we’re happy to say that the thrill is back. This car, successor for the laudable 135i, is just the right size for any little sportster, and it feelsquick and taut, and eager, the way in which a BMW should.
The bad news? This is simply not a cheap thrill. While the base 2 Series, the 228i, starts at $32,100, the M235i starts at $43,100. A few option packages pushed our car to $50,400.
What you get when you step-up to the M235i is a killer powertrain composed of a 320-hp turbocharged straight-six-cylinder engine mated to either an eight-speed automatic, or, as in our car, a six-speed manual. Even though this is not an all-out M-car (from BMW’s in-house performance boutique), the M235i brings a sports activity-oriented suspension, brakes, and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Our car also has screaming-red leather upholstery well designed for this sport coupe’s extroverted personality. What BMW is doing here is trading on the cachet of its high-performance M line and providing a kinda-sorta-high-performance car without going to extremes.
This approach is working in spades, as the M235i is a joy to drive.
Once under way, you’ll immediately notice that the engine pours out a never-ending flow of smooth torque and high-end punch. It pulls strongly, responding instantly to each prod in the throttle and emits a satisfying exhaust note. So that as in the 435i, there’s something addictive concerning the quietly muscular engine, which tempts anyone to forever tip deeper to the throttle. The manual shifter is easy to manipulate and, combined with its smooth progressive clutch, very simple to manage. Only if setting up for a quick corner and trying to grab second gear did we notice a slight rubbery feel.
At any speed, this car telegraphs immediacy, with instant turn-in reaction and barely any body lean. If it still feels a tad artificial, BMW is clearly getting better at making this little bit of virtual reality more lifelike, the electric power steering is quick and well weighted, and. The suspension is restricted yet still absorbent enough. Rough surfaces provoke short, quick body motions, leaving the ride a bit jittery, but that, in some manner, conveys the sense of control and precision.
The beautifully finished cabin features the “M” badge occasionally, while the red leather seats proclaim “young and irreverent driving enthusiast! ” inside a tone notably louder than the whispered elegance of, say, the gentlemanly 435i coupe. The sculpted seats provide immense support, and while the place up front is okay, the rear seats are very tight-not surprising since this car is a size smaller than the 3 Series. The M235i brings each of the latest BMW infotainment system features, and quirks, managed by the iDrive controller and viewed over a clear but small 6.5-inch color screen.
Many BMW fans have been expecting a spiritual successor for the classic 2002 of the early Seventies. The M235i comes close. In case the 4 Series coupe has expanded into “An Officer as well as a Gentleman,” the M235i evokes “The Fast and the Furious.”