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2014 BMW M235i Automatic Review Photo:
 
 
What's Hot
Stunning performance, outstanding chassis.
What's Not
Standard equipment list could be longer.
X-Factor
The M235i wins hearts thanks to its delectable RWD dynamics and peach of an engine. It?s a car for true drivers.
Tony O'Kane | May, 25 2014 | 12 Comments

2014 BMW 2 SERIES REVIEW

Vehicle Style: Sports car.
Price: $79,900 (plus on-roads), $91,315 (as-tested)

Engine/trans: 240kW/450Nm 3.0 turbo petrol 6cyl | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.6 l/100km | tested:10.8 l/100km


 

OVERVIEW

The last time we were at the helm of a BMW M235i, it was at Tasmania’s challenging Baskerville circuit. (See review here.)

It had us aching for more time behind the wheel.

Obvious at Baskerville was the sublime chassis balance, phenomenal grip and an engine that was perfectly matched to the capabilities of the car. As a performance car (and a gateway model to BMW’s line-up of “true” M cars), it’s one of the best.

But what’s good on the track does not necessarily translate to liveability on the road.

Hence, we pinched one from BMW Australia for a week to see how it fared - and to revisit that stunning performance.

 

THE INTERIOR

Quality: Like the new 1 Series, the 2 Series brings a massive improvement over the 1 Series Coupe that preceded it, with better plastic textures, finer detailing and improved materials.

There are still touches of hard plastic here and there, but they’re away from key touch-points.

The range-topping M235i also gets real leather upholstery, rather than the synthetic leather that is standard fit on the 220i and 220d.

Comfort: The front seats are probably the most disappointing aspect of the M235i, with bolstering that’s not quite deep enough for aggressive driving. They are also manually-adjusted, with power seats a cost option.

There’s a wide range of adjustment range, and plenty of room for pretty much any body-size. Outward vision is great too, and the three-spoke steering wheel is upholsted in fine soft leather.

We wouldn't recommend the back seat for regular use. BMW says rear legroom is 21mm greater than the previous 1 Series coupe, but unless the front seats are slid forward there really isn’t much space back there at all.

Headroom is okay though.

Equipment: Keyless ignition, sat-nav, USB/auxilliary audio inputs, cruise control, trip computer, power windows, front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing bi-xenon headlamps and dual-zone climate control all feature on the M235i’s list of standard equipment.

But for a $79,900 car, it’s curious that a reversing camera and power-adjustable seats remain on the options list.

But really, you’re paying for the mechanical package rather than the toys that accompany it.

After all, electronically-adjustable suspension, massive brakes and a turbocharged inline six all have their part to play in the value-for-money story.

Storage: With the 60/40 split rear seats in place, the M235i has 390 litres of boot space.

Drop them down, and the M235i is capable of carrying even more - though it’s not quite as practical as its hatchbacked brother, the M135i.

 

ON THE ROAD

Driveability: The centerpiece of the M235i’s mechanical package is without doubt its 3.0 litre turbocharged inline six.

It’s essentially the same unit as used in pretty much every other BMW with a -35i suffix; and in the M235i produces 240kW and 450Nm.

A twin-scroll turbocharger keeps turbo lag to a minimum, and there’s almost endless grunt as a result.

Peak torque is on tap from 1300rpm and doesn’t quit until 4500rpm, and peak power chimes in from 5800rpm-6000rpm.

With a power/torque spread like this, there’s almost nowhere in the rev range where the engine isn't delivering substantial thrust.

And it’s aided by the standard eight-speed automatic.

A six-speed manual is available at no extra charge, but the eight-speed slushbox (no fancy twin-clutch tech here) is more than up to the task of rapid point-to-point driving.

More importantly, it’s easy to live with in more mundane urban driving.

In Comfort mode, the power delivery is relaxed and the gearbox shifts up smoothly and seamlessly. The dampers on the active suspension are also dialled back to their most compliant setting.

Sport mode makes the transmission hold gears for longer while simultaneously sharpening throttle response. The manual shift mode produces near-instant gearchanges via the gear selector or the steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Power, naturally, is delivered to the rear wheels with a brake-based pseudo-LSD keeping wheelspin at bay. That said, the turbo six has no trouble spinning up the rear tyres, and the M235i can struggle for traction when the road is wet.

Fuel economy is terrible though. Even though the M235i has an unobtrusive regenerative braking system and auto stop-start, we got nowhere near the claimed 7.6 l/100km figure.

Instead our real-world result of 10.8 l/100km makes the M235i a bit of a gas-guzzler (but such a result is not out of the ordinary for a sports car like this).

Refinement: For a performance car, the M235i’s engine note is quite muted at idle. There’s no lairy throbbing from the twin tail pipes, even when the exhaust baffles are open.

But though it’s quite quiet, there is an appealing melodic strain from the engine when rising through its rev range. The sound is smooth and resonant, typical of a BMW inline six.

Sitting on wide Michelin performance rubber, there is some tyre roar on coarse roads but things quieten considerably on better surfaces.

Ride and Handling: The M235i delighted us on the racetrack, and on public roads it’s just as mesmerising.

Comfort mode has the compliance to deal with speedbumps, potholes and expansion gaps, but (in true 'grand touring' style) isn’t wallowy over longer bumps and hollows.

It’s substantially tauter in Sport mode though, and the sharper edge to chassis improves both grip and confidence at the wheel.

We wouldn’t recommend driving about town with the adjustable dampers set to sport though, they’re just a bit too firm for that kind of work.

The variable-ratio steering is great too. It’s electrically-assisted, but has excellent response around dead-centre and weights up nicely as you wind on lock.

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In press-on driving, the front wheels are hard to unstick. You have to be carrying way too much momentum before the M235i shows any understeer.

It’s definitely no stranger to oversteer though, especially if you’ve disabled traction control or enabled the intermediate Dynamic Traction Control setting by putting the car in Sport+ mode.

But the M235i’s superb chassis balance and razor-sharp steering makes oversteer easy to rein in, and the outstanding grip of the Michelin Pilot Super Sports (in both wet and dry) means you’ll need to put in quite a bit of effort to breach the threshold of grip.

Braking: The M235i’s heavier-duty brake package is different to that in other 2 Series models, and uses four-piston fixed calipers at the front, and two-piston fixed calipers at the rear.

That hardware pulls the M235i up smartly, with a firm, progressive pedal that’s easy to get used to.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: The BMW 2 Series has yet to be assessed by ANCAP.

Safety features: Multi-mode stability control, multi-mode traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist are all standard on every 2 Series model.

Occupant protection is provided by three-point seatbelts as well as dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags that also provide head protection for back seat occupants.

 

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: 3 years/100,000km.

Service costs: Due to BMW’s use of a conditional servicing programme, servicing costs for the M235i can vary. Consult your local dealership.

 

HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY

Infiniti Q50 S Premium AWD ($73,900) - A bit of a surprise from Infiniti, the Q50 V6 Hybrid AWD has a well-sorted chassis and 268kW and 546Nm to call on (50kW and 290Nm tipped in by the electric motor).

Not really a direct competitor (it's a sedan and a hybrid) but the Q50 is a close pairing on price, power and capability. Well-built and comfortable, it pulls like a train when asked (0-100km/h in the mid-5s). (see Infiniti reviews)

Audi S3 Sedan ($62,200) - Substantially cheaper, but this four door lacks a little of the M235i’s visual 'wow factor'.

It’s plenty quick though, and its 206kW turbo four can propel it to impressive speeds. Not quite as engaging to drive as the BMW, though. (see A3 reviews)

Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Sport ($64,900) - Another German four-door, but this one has a swoopy roofline that mimics that of a coupe.

Some may find it an enticing package, but for us the ride is a little firm and the interior not quite as impressive as the BMW or Audi. Rear seat headroom is abysmal too. (see CLA reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

BMW has a long history of creating fun two-door sports cars, and the M235i upholds this fine tradition.

Its superb handling and silky-smooth straight six are reminiscent of cars like the E36 and E46 M3, and the compact dimensions and turbocharged motor even channel the spirit of the legendary 2002 Turbo.

The car is simply gorgeous too. If you never warmed to the gumpy looks of the M135i or the previous-gen 135i Coupe, then your eyeballs are gonna love the M235i.

As for how it drives, well, it’s more than capable of doing double-duty as daily driver and weekend warrior.

The suspension is adaptable to all conditions, the steering is direct and responsive and the cabin - for two - is comfortable and appealing.

The engine, meanwhile, can handle anything you throw at it, whether it’s idling along in a traffic jam or carving up a corner in the middle of nowhere.

All in all, this is one of the most well-rounded sports cars we’ve seen in a while.

MORE: TMR's M235i Track Test

 

Pricing (excludes on-road costs)

  • BMW 220i Coupé - $50,500
  • BMW 220d Coupé - $52,500
  • BMW 228i Coupé - $64,400
  • BMW M235i Coupé - $79,900

 
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