Driven: 2014 BMW M235i

Written by Mark Hacking | Photography by Ferrari North America on .

BMW M235i Mark Hacking PRNMAG 001

Question: When does one equal two?
Answer: When it’s the latest in a long line
of compact sport coupes from BMW.

With the company’s controversial and, at times, confusing switch in nomenclature, the new BMW 2 Series is the successor to the old 1 Series Coupé. (Going forward, every BMW…err, almost every BMW with two doors will be marked with an even number; all those with four doors will have an odd number.)

There will eventually be six different versions of the 2 Series available worldwide, but only two are slated for Canada for the time being – the 228i and the M235i. Both cars should be in dealerships across the country by the time you read this. The former will have a base price of $36,000. The latter will start at $45,000.

The 2 Series is, as mentioned, the replacement for the 1 Series Coupé, but it’s also the spiritual successor to BMW sports coupes from deeper in the archives – the original 3 Series and the one that started it all, the 2002.

Driven: BMW M235iYou may not have noticed this fairly recent trend yet, but each successive version of any given car is, more likely than not, bigger and heavier than the one before. The 2002 was the smallest of them all; then, the 3 Series grew to such a degree, it opened the door again for a smaller, 2002-sized offering from BMW – ergo, the 1 Series and, now, the 2 Series.

Still, this trend is now an integral part of the car maker’s growth strategy and why the 2 Series is larger than the 1 Series Coupé when most dimensions are considered. The new car is 72 mm longer and 32 mm wider. The wheelbase is also 30 mm longer, which has led to an increase in rear seat legroom by 21 mm. Lastly, the 2 boasts more headroom (by 19 mm), a wider track and more trunk capacity (by 20 litres).

To be honest, the 1 Series Coupé was a tight squeeze, particularly in the back seat, so this is welcome news. So too, is the M235i, which is as close to the limited-edition BMW 1M (2011-12) as we’re likely to ever see down the road. The 1M was a brilliant, high-performance car. It offered the balance, power and connectedness that enthusiasts remember from previous versions of the M3.

Driven: BMW M235iLike the 1M, the M235i is powered by a 3.0L turbocharged, inline six-cylinder engine. Torque figures for the two engines is 332 lb-ft. And while the horsepower in the M235i is down by a few markers – from 340 to 315 – the M235i surprisingly weighs less than the 1M by 40 kg.

A quick morning spent sprinting around the outskirts of Las Vegas offered the chance to learn more about the M235i – and served to bring back warm memories of BMW sport coupes past.

While the car isn’t as quick as the 1M, it’s still quick! The sprint from 0 to 100 km/h takes five seconds flat. The car’s acceleration plateaus fairly early, meaning it’s perfect for about-town driving and less of a bad influence when highway speeds are reached.

As with the 1M, the real strength of this car isn’t speed, it’s the handling. Armed with a variable suspension system with electronically-controlled dampers that respond to cornering forces and an electronic locking rear differential that keeps the rear wheels churning, the little coupe clings to the road well. The steering is hefty and connected, as all proper BMWs should be. While the engineers at BMW have struggled to bring that old feeling to the new electric power steering systems in some of their cars – the 4 Series is a good example – here, they have succeeded.

The version tested was fitted with an eight-speed automatic transmission and paddle shifters (a six-speed manual is standard equipment). Like all new BMWs, the M235i also features selectable driving modes – four in this case, ranging from muted to downright raucous. The new coupe also features automatic start/stop and an Eco gauge to help remind drivers to save fuel.

Driven: BMW M235i Driven: BMW M235i

Inside, the car is perfectly comfortable and well-suited to the art of driving. The seats are nicely designed and all the controls will feel familiar to anyone with experience of recent BMW models. The M-branded steering wheel features a slick design, the gas pedal is suitably large and the shift paddles are well-positioned. The centre console is jammed full of controls – including the iDrive – but everything seems to make sense, in spite of the busyness.

The latest BMW is very fun to drive; it’s also very comfortable and quiet. If you switch to Eco Pro mode, then turn the fan and the audio system off; the loudest sound to be heard, by a long stretch, will be the tires running along the surface of the road. Switch the drive mode selector to Sport Plus and the exhaust note will deepen, and the time for silent reflection will be long gone.

In an age when a number of sports car makers seem to be losing their grip on what true enthusiasts want most, the BMW M235i is exactly the opposite – a car that real enthusiasts would want!

2014 BMW M235i
Base Price: 
$45,000
Engine: 3.0L turbocharged inline-6
Horsepower/ Torque: 315 hp/ 332 lb-ft
0-100 km/h: 5.0 sec.
Engine & Drivetrain Layout: FR
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Fuel Economy Ratings (Comb.): 8.7/ 5.4/ 7.2L/ 100km
Basic Warranty (Mos./ KM): 48/ 80,000

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