The spiritual successor to the E46 M3 |
This is a car that has caused a huge stir in the automotive community, and for good reason.
It seems as though over the last couple years, BMW has been continuously expanding their lineup to include something for literally every type of buyer. The nomenclature that formerly depicted the model line and the engine displacement no longer refers to the same. They also went on to say that even numbered lines are for coupes, whereas odd numbers are for four-doors. However, there are even exceptions to this rule, and here is an example. The upcoming 435i GranCoupé has four doors and a 3.0L turbocharged engine. It’s not just BMW though; the Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec doesn’t have a 2.5L engine either.
I spent a glorious week with the all-new 2014 BMW M235i, a car that has caused a huge stir in the automotive community. The 2-series is slotted as an even-numbered two-door replacement for the 1-series, a car that I always loved despite not actually spending much seat time behind the wheel. I had the chance to play with a new 228i back in March, and came away from that pretty happy. This thing though, is literally an animal. It’s important to know that despite the “M” badging, this isn’t a proper M car – I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a full-on M2 in the coming years.
Under the bonnet of the M235i is BMW’s familiar 3.0L twin-scroll single-turbocharged inline 6-cylinder. In this application it puts out 322 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, thanks to special tuning from the M division. This M235i is rear-wheel-drive only, no xDrive is available for the time being (and I hope it stays that way). Power delivery from this straight-six is so incredibly linear that it’s hard not to instantly fall in love with this car. Though an 8-speed ZF automatic is optional, true M purists like myself will opt for the 6-speed manual as equipped on my test car. The clutch is light enough to not be a chore in traffic, but provides great feedback. BMW has always nailed the manual transmission shifter, and this one is no exception. The throws are light and confident, and it isn’t notchy in the slightest.
Putting the drive mode selector into “Sport+” remaps throttle response and suggested shift points for maximum performance, and the car opens up even more. The Bavarians may have added all of the tech tidbits that come with “getting with the times”, but they haven’t lost that soulful drive that makes driving a BMW so special. For instance, disabling all stability/traction control gizmos is as simple as pressing and holding one button for five seconds. The driving position on this car is just so perfect, it’s actually saddening to get out of it after any sort of spirited drive. I found the feeling of shutting off the M235i’s engine reminiscent of a goodbye to a friend after a long vacation together.
Many auto enthusiasts (as well as media outlets) have made the comparison relating the new M235i to the legendary E46 M3. That car had a naturally-aspirated inline-six that put out 333 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, and to this day remains one of the most balanced cars I have ever driven. Just like the M235i, the E46 M3 got to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds as well, making it properly quick for its time. The M235i handles like a dream – the steering is dead-on and is typical BMW levels of goodness.
This perfect little coupe starts at $45,000, but my tester came with a bunch of goodies that bring the as-tested price up to $53,745. The Premium Package adds Comfort Access, a rear-view camera, a glass sunroof, navigation, and park distance control. The Executive Package adds adaptive headlights, lane departure warning, the Harman/Kardon sound system, and satellite radio. My M235i also came equipped with the $895 Estoril Blue paintjob, which in my eyes is absolutely mandatory for this car. It’s sort of like how a Subaru WRX or STi shouldn’t come in any colour except World Rally Blue.
One thing I love and hate equally about most BMWs is that the interior is exactly the same. On the positive side, the interior is beautifully sculpted with everything being clearly marked, easy to use, and without any surprises. All of the materials used are high-quality, too. The iDrive system is very easy to use and has slowly become one of my favourite infotainment systems in the industry – the split-screen view is genius. To add to this, the Harman/Kardon sound system is brilliant as well. However, this is the exact same interior in literally every other model BMW makes. The huge (and brilliant) 2014 X5 xDrive50i we tested a couple months ago had the exact same setup, as does the upcoming M4. I’d like to see a little bit more variation throughout the lineup.
I drove the M235i for just over a week and despite not actually going anywhere out of the Greater Toronto Area, I somehow managed to put just under 900km on it. To those unfamiliar with my daily routine (I’d hope that’s most of my readership), that’s a lot more than I usually ever do. However, it gave me a chance to properly see what kind of fuel economy this car is capable of. In typical day-to-day commuting in a combined cycle, I couldn’t really do much better than 10.5L/100km running on premium fuel. On a straight highway run, I managed 8.4L/100km. Not too shabby for a car that’s as versatile and capable as this one is.
Overall, the 2014 BMW M235i met all of my expectations. I had seen it quite a few times in the flesh when my peers had it, so I already knew what I was in for. I think for a young car enthusiast who has the dough to spend but doesn’t really have the need for practicality, this car is pretty perfect. The ride quality, however, is a bit thrashy. It’s not necessarily poor, but if you live in the downtown core like I do and encounter potholes every day, it could become tedious to live with. It’s all about lifestyle – tiny flaws aside, this car matches me perfectly. If you can swallow the price tag, it’s seriously worth a test drive.