February 05, 2014 00:00
By Kingsley Wijayasinha
BMW's spanking new M235i is a brute: it's powerful, agile, stable and pure joy to drive
With the automobile industry downsizing vehicles and cutting fuel consumption, luxury carmakers are also being forced to hit the road with smaller, more eco-friendly models to follow the market trend.
BMW has done just that by launching the 2 Series Coupe, which replaces the two-door 1 Series model. However, in this case the new car is larger in every dimension, growing by 72mm in length and 2mm in width. The wheelbase has been extended by 30mm to 2,690mm, and interior space has been increased dramatically.
While many feel the 1 Series Coupe looks too “toyish”, especially with its rounded roof, the 2 Series Coupe – which is rather a shortened 3 Series than a stretched 1 Series – makes a difference. It still looks a bit small, I’d say, although not as midget-sized as the 1 Series. The size kind of tells you this car is for youngsters and elders should instead opt for the 3 and 4 Series.
Nevertheless, the silhouette is mistakeably BMW coupe with the three-box design featuring frameless windows. Meanwhile, the rear end, with a sleep spoiler lip on the boot, has been widened to deliver a powerful appearance. Inside the car there is adequate room for front passengers, although tall rear passengers may have a problem with headroom.
The capacity of the luggage compartment has been increased by 20 litres due to the upsizing, but in total it still offers a mediocre 390 litres. Fortunately, the rear seat backrests can be split-folded (40-20-40), allowing for long items to be stored.
A number of petrol and diesel engines are offered in the 2 Series Coupe, but the highlight is the turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six powering the M235i, which is the most powerful model from the M Performance range. M Performance can be defined as the “intermediate” level between standard and M cars, whether in terms of performance or equipment level. It’s like a mini M car. But, then, looking at the figures you may wonder whether the word “mini” describes this car.
The turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six pumps out 326 horsepower and 450Nm, which is enough to slingshot the M235i from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds before it can shoot off to a top speed of 250km/h.
The M235i is available with either a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic gearbox. I tried out the latter, driving it both on highways and on a handling circuit. A large chunk of 2 Series sales is expected to be in the United States, so a test drive of the M235i was held there, taking place in Las Vegas last week.
Although not considered the best place to test-drive a German power coupe, the American highways offered a glimpse on how the M235i behaves in the real world. When not in Sport or Sport+ mode, the steering and suspension eases up, allowing for a comfortable drive in the city or on the highway. Of course, the car still feels solid like a BMW should, but ride quality is definitely more welcoming than the 1 Series.
The M235i, which is said to continue the tradition of “Sheer Driving Pleasure” created by the BMW 2002 in the late ’60s, zips through traffic quickly and with agility, and does it in style thanks to a sweet-sounding exhaust note.
This coupe’s stability is impressive at high speeds too – even when I tore down the Speedway oval at 200km/h. Precise and well-weighted, the steering is another important component that makes the M235i fun to drive, although more steering feel would be greatly appreciated.
Running in Sport+ mode and DSC deactivated in a small handling circuit in the posh Las Vegas Motor Speedway, three laps were well spent with the M235i clipping apexes at high speed with plenty of confidence. Directional control is perfect, and even in tough chicanes the M235i didn’t disappoint, holding on to its composure very well.
On the circuit, the engine revved happily, hanging out at redlines with no complaints while the paddle shifters strictly obeyed orders for downshifting. The M-tuned suspension with adaptive electronic dampers was grippy, and in order to get the tyres making noises I think many people would have to exceed their driving limitations. Even so there’s an optional limited slip differential you can order to further sharpen the already good cornering. There are large disc brakes front and rear that provide plenty of stopping power, although quicker initial response is welcome here.
It was pure enjoyment lapping the M235i, and it is no wonder why a race version is also offered by BMW. The M25i Racing gets a turbo in-line-six, but it produces slightly more output (333hp) and is priced at less than €60,000 (Bt2.66 million). Many are of the opinion that there could also be an M2 Coupe that would show up in the future with upgraded components including engine, suspension and brakes. But after driving the M235i, I believe there is a good reason not to wait.
BMW M235i specs
Engine: 24-valve in-line 6 cylinder with turbocharger and variable valve control