2014 BMW M235i First Drive
Hot 2 Series Version is a Fast, Solid Hunk of Fun
Don't freak out, but BMW has added another numeral to the collection: 2. As in the 2 Series The easy way to grok it is as the replacement for the 1 Series Coupe in America. Remember that over in Europe, the 1 Series has been on sale since 2004, first as a wagon and then a hatch. That has changed. If you need a refresher course on Bavarian numerology, odd-numbered Bimmers have four doors, and evens get two. (Unless the car in question is a Gran Coupe, then it's even-numbered with four doors. And the X6 has four doors. Got it?) Will there be a new 1 Series? You can bet your weisswurst. Rumor is the upcoming 1 Series will not be a four-door version of the 2 Series, but will be front-wheel drive and based on the Active Sports Tourer from the 2012 Paris show. Perish the thought, I know. But we're not here to debate BMW product strategy. We are gathered to discuss the latest sporty little bastard from Bavaria, the 2014 BMW M235i.
Is this little sucker an actual M Division product? No. Not to be outdone by/miss out on the cash generated by Audi's S line, BMW is now offering M Performance cars and dealer-installed parts! If asked to explain it in a single sentence, you can say the M235i is the sportiest possible 2 Series you can lease, until the M2 drops. All of which leads us to the big question: What is it? The M235i is the up-engined version of the 1 Series-replacing 2 Series, and you can have it come March 1. There will be a 228i version, featuring the family 2.0-liter I-4 turbo that spits forth 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque. The M235i features the 3.0-liter I-6 turbo that cranks out 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of twisting force. Big numbers for a little coupe. Both versions of the 2 Series come with a six-speed manual or the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed auto.
Dimensionally, the 2 Series is larger in every direction than the coupe it replaces. Length is up by almost three inches, while width and wheelbase grow by 1.3 inches apiece. The track is wider, with 1.6 inches more up front and 1.7 inches rear. Interior space is increased in every measurement, and even trunk space managed to grow by nearly a cubic foot to 13.8 cubic feet. Underneath the skin, the suspension remains McPherson strut-type up front and five-link in the rear, though BMW's engineers assured me that it's all-new under there. Plus in the U.S., every M235i will get adaptive dampers so you can change the ride characteristic from Comfort to Sport. For those of you into such things, you can truly feel the difference in terms of ride between the two damper settings. The car also features "M specific chassis tuning" as well as "M Sport braking" and variable steering. They're even loading these suckers up with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. However, if you're looking for a locking differential, that's going to cost you extra. How much, BMW didn't say. The cars I drove all had open diffs and automatic transmissions.
Tight, muscular, curvy, and frankly just plain old hot -- BMW got the looks part of the small, sporty car equation right. BMW's already started mining its history by comparing the new 2 to the 2002. Not even in terms of design, except for the lid-like character line that runs around the M235i. That part's almost sorta kinda reminiscent of BMW's iconic 3-box sport sedan from 1968. The front end is the best-looking BMW face since I don't even know when, and I love the truncated little tush. For the first time in a long time, here's a BMW worth buying on looks alone. Design chief Adrian van Hooydonk should give whomever it is in his design bullpen that penned the new 2 Series an extra Starbucks card come holiday time. They earned their Frap.
Looks are one thing, but how does the BMW's smallest, sportiest whip drive? Wonderfully, I'm very happy to report. Big power in a small package is always a winning formula, and the semi-diminutive M235i does not disappoint. I say "semi" because weight-wise, I'd hazard that the M235i doesn't weigh much less than the 435i. A hundred pounds or so, I'd guess. Stomping on the gas from a slow rolling start produces a gratifying whirr from the twin-scroll turbo that quickly equates into tire smoke, forward fury, and a big, dumb grin. BMW is claiming 0-62 mph in 4.8 seconds, but I'm confident our testing crew will crush that number. Top speed is limited to 155 mph. The fastest I saw on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway's oval was 135 mph, and the M235i felt as solid as a hunk of Black Forest Oak.
The hot German buzzword for 2014 is "kinematics." Apparently "dynamism" is so 2012, as in, "We spent 1.5 years on the M235i's perfect kinematics." I believe what the professor doctor engineers are referring to are things like damping, anti-roll bars, and bushings. While not perfect (and BMW really needs to stop using that word), the kinematics in question are quite excellent. I was turned loose for far too few laps on the LVMS infield road course. What a little party! While heavy, the M235i is quite the athlete. Turn-in via the EPS (electric power steering) is quick and direct. Grip is if not copious, quite abundant. Obviously if the cars had been equipped with a locking differential, it would have easier to blast out of corners. Since they weren't, judicious throttle input allows you to confidentially sashay away from a given corner's apex and charge hard towards the next one. I have no complaints about the brakes. I will gripe about the sport-tuned eight-speed auto -- it was not very well-suited to track duty. But of course, what closely spaced eight-speed is? I mean, is the car faster at 5600 rpm in fourth or 6350 rpm in third? You tell me. Not that you need me to tell you, but track rats should opt for the six-speed manual.
There was much gnashing of the teeth and rending of garments by the cult-like BMW loyalists present at the launch. Things like, "The steering wasn't the absolute best steering in the history of the car" and "The M235i isn't exactly like my E46 M3" were heard around the dinner table. Personally, I think these are unfair complaints, as not only is no car exactly like another, but also because BMW has to preserve a little bit of white space in the 2 Series lineup for the upcoming, inevitable M2. Especially as the M3/4 has morphed into a hulking, steroidal version of what it once was. There I go, sounding just like one of the guys from Bimmer Fetishist. Bottom line is, the M235i is a wonderful, roundel-worthy car that can proudly stand on its own four feet.
|2014 BMW 2 Series|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINES||2.0L/240-hp/255-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 3.0L/320-hp/330-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 24-valve I-6|
|TRANSMISSIONS||6-speed manual/8-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||3550 lb (est)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||174.7 x 69.8 x 55.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.5-5.3 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||22-23 / 32-35 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||147-153 / 96-105 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.71-0.76 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||March 2014|