ROAD TEST: 2015 BMW M235i

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By Shari Prymak

The M235i reminds me of my favorite BMW’s of old. Just a small, enthusiast-oriented coupe with a characterful engine, a proper rear-wheel drive chassis, and not a whole lot else. Record-setting profits don’t seem to have been the motivation behind the M235i. Instead, this gem was designed to light up the souls of enthusiasts who remember the days when BMW’s prioritized driving pleasure above all else.

The excitement starts with BMW’s brilliant 3.0L, turbocharged, straight-six engine, which, in this tune, produces 322hp and 332lb-ft of torque. Given how powerful, smooth, and sensually pleasing this engine is, it’s not hard to understand why it has managed to nab so many awards. With the optional 8-speed automatic and its available launch control function, 0-100km/hr is possible in under 5 seconds. As great as that 8-speed is, the M235i, with its fun-to-drive nature, seems better suited to the standard, crisp-shifting 6-speed manual gearbox and the increase in driver involvement that comes with it.

Fortunately, the intoxicating powertrain is nothing that the M235i’s finely balanced, rear-wheel drive chassis can’t handle. With Adaptive M Suspension, Variable Sport Steering, M Sport Brakes and Aerodynamics all as standard equipment, the M235i has all the weapons it needs to attack corners with confidence and poise. Some of the credit should also be given to the non-runflat, Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, which offer relentless grip in the corners, yet still allow for a certain amount of adjustability with the throttle. Likely due to its shorter wheelbase and lower weight, the M235i even has a fun “flickability” and level of agility to it that I found lacking in the larger 335i and 435i.

For those that plan on regular track days, BMW offers an extensive line of M Performance parts, some of which include lower, firmer, passively damped suspension, stronger brakes, a throatier exhaust system, and even a limited-slip differential. As is, however, the M235i feels like the ideal duel-purpose street/track performance coupe. Whether in Comfort, Sport, or Sport+ mode (Eco Pro can be disregarded for anything other than hypermiling), the ride quality and overall refinement are just about ideal for a street-driven, daily driver. Fuel economy of up to around 7.5L/100km is possible too.

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From a practicality standpoint, the M235i offers a spacious trunk and cabin area with just enough room to fit four adults. It may not be as roomy as the larger 435i, but the relatively compact dimensions make it a breeze to navigate through traffic and parking lots, as well as grant the M235i with a tidy, well-proportioned, coupe profile. Of course, styling is subjective, but to my eyes, the 2-Series coupe is one of the most nicely designed cars in the BMW range. It has the same clean, inoffensive styling that has helped many classic BMW models, such as the E46 Coupe, stay fresh-looking to this day.

The interior of the 2, though different, is hardly a downgrade from the larger 435i. It offers up the same M-Sport trimmings, comfortable and supportive sport seats, and overall well-executed design. Of course, one can kicks things up a notch with packages that bundle conveniences like parking cameras/sensors, sunroof, high beam assist, lane departure and collision warning, navigation with an upgraded touchpad iDrive controller, and a wide range of display features like 3G internet, BMW Online, Apps, and real-time traffic information. With its impressive list of standard equipment and excellent starting price of $45,000, however, I’d take mine as is.

Straight out of the box, the M235i Coupe represents what is arguably the purest, most excellent representation of the brand’s ideals. Never mind the competition from other premium brands, no other car in BMW’s own lineup, aside from perhaps the 228i, offers quite the ideal mix of overall affordability, daily-driver sensibility, and thrilling, accessible performance. BMW has long argued that they build nothing but “Ultimate Driving Machines.” Nowadays, that’s mostly BS, but not for the M235i. It’s the real deal.

 

For more details, please visit the BMW Canada website.