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2014 BMW M235i Review: Track Test At Baskerville Photo:
 
 
Tony O'Kane | Mar, 01 2014 | 18 Comments

BMW 2 SERIES REVIEW

What’s Hot: RWD done right, outstanding chassis and engine.
What’s Not: As far as performance is concerned, nothing.
X-FACTOR: For grip, power and pricetag, the BMW M235i is in a league of its own - yes, you do want one.

Vehicle Style: High performance luxury coupe
Price: $79,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 240kW/450Nm 3.0 turbo petrol 6cyl | 8sp auto / 6sp man
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.6 l/100km (on this track test, not recorded)

 

OVERVIEW

The dearly departed 135i Coupe was a fun car to drive, and it's brawnier brother the 1 Series M Coupe even more so.

But both could be a handful.

Rear wheel drive, a short wheelbase and a torquey turbo-six is a recipe for oversteer, and the aforementioned Bimmers easily got sideways unless you treated them with respect (or resisted the urge to turn off the stability control).

But the M235i - which replaces the 135i Coupe in BMW’s lineup, and is the 2-door counterpart to the current M135i hatch - changes all this.

The wheelbase is 30mm longer, the front track is 41mm wider and the rear track has grown by 43mm.

It might sound like only a few centimetres here and there, but the net effect is that the M235i is a far more stable platform than the 135i that preceded it.

So what does that translate into in a race track environment? As part of the launch of the 2 Series range BMW took us to Tasmania’s Baskerville Raceway, where we were able to put the M235i to the test...

 

On The Track

Put it on a track - like Baskerville, or anywhere - and you'll discover that the M235i is not just capable of going fast, but is tremendous fun when driven hard.

It all comes down to balance. With a 50:50 weight distribution, the F22 2 Series is the ideal platform for a RWD sports car.

It’s aided by a variable-ratio steering rack that increases in responsiveness the further away from centre.

It's also alert and direct, you never have to move your arms far to get around a corner, and surprisingly communicative for an electric system.

BMW has struggled to get its head around electric power steering tunes in some of its recent cars (the new X5 being perhaps the worst culprit), but the M235i has a tight and fairly talkative wheel - much like the M135i.

But unlike the M135i, the 2 Series performance flagship is equipped with electronically adjustable dampers as standard.

Damper valving is altered depending on whether the drive mode selector is in Comfort, Sport or Sport+ (ECO Pro uses the comfort setting), and in Sport+ mode it’s properly buttoned down to the tarmac.

On a track as bumpy and broken as Baskerville, Sport+ mode can sometimes upset grip as the stiff suspension skips over gaps in the surface, but on smoother apexes front-end grip is almost unimpeachable.

The M235i is highly resistant to understeer, and if anything it’s a little taily by default.

Whether it’s through an aggressive application of throttle or trail-braking into a corner, it’s not difficult to get the M235i to wag its tail.

The breakaway though is predictable, easily caught with the quick-ratio steering and great fun to balance with the throttle.

And that’s with stability control off. Pop it back on and select Sport+, and the M235i is still a little tail-happy, but is a lot more civil.

The standard-fit gearbox is BMW’s eight-speed torque converter automatic. In the M235i it’s got the perfect spread of ratios.

You’ll rarely ever need to venture above sixth on a racetrack, but the closely-stacked gears mean the engine is always on the boil.

Shifts are fast and crisp in Sport+ mode, so much so that we don’t think the M235i would benefit from a marginally lighter (but far more complex) twin-clutch auto.

The gearbox will also hold the engine against redline when in manual mode, which is our preference for a performance car.

If you wish to have three pedals and a 'proper' gearbox, BMW will give you a six-speed manual at no extra cost, but with an automatic this good it’s arguable than a manual would only slow you down.

That said, no manuals were available to test at Baskerville, so we’ll reserve our ultimate judgement on that transmission.

The OE tyre is Michelin’s superb Pilot Super Sport, the same tyre used by the M135i (and also some obscure Italian car called a Ferrari 458).

If you’ve bought an M235i and are considering changing its wheels, don’t - much credit for your car’s handling characteristics is attributable to these black hoops.

For a street tyre they have outstanding dry-weather grip (clear skies in Tasmania meant we couldn’t try them in the wet), and with big tread blocks on its shoulders you can lean on them incredibly hard in a corner.

Of course, as good as they are those Michelins can still be burned up by the M235i’s 240kW/450Nm turbo six.

It’s got 5kW more power and a slightly narrower torque band than the M135i’s mechanically identical engine, but it’ll shove the M235i to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds - 0.3 seconds quicker than the M135i.

Oh, remember the 1 Series M Coupe we mentioned up top? That car did the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.9 seconds.

And considering the M235i isn’t a product of BMW’s M Division, that’s something to be celebrated. It also bodes well for the rumoured M2, which is expected to arrive some time in 2016.

Stopping performance is just as impressive as the M235i’s straight-line speed.

Thanks to rotors measuring 340mm at front and 330mm at rear, with four-piston and two-piston fixed calipers respectively, the M235i washes off speed with ease.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

After numerous laps of Baskerville in the M235i it was clear that this is a lot closer to an M car than BMW would have you believe.

All of the core ingredients are there. Great grip, a talkative chassis, a muscle-bound engine and strong brakes. This is a proper sports car.

And at $79,900, it’s remarkable value for a luxury high-performance coupe.

Audi’s TTS starts at $98,900 while Mercedes-Benz’s C 350 Coupe retails for $99,545, and neither are in the same league as the M235i when it comes to performance.

The Infiniti G37 S Premium undercuts the M235i, but it doesn’t feel as lithe or agile, is over a second slower to 100km/h and is a design that’s at the end of its life cycle.

BMW has got a killer formula with the M235i. Performance and price are right where they should be, and there’s very little to be disappointed about.

If you’re looking for a prestigious ride that you could comfortably take to the occasional track day, you should probably head to a BMW dealer ASAP.

 

Pricing (excludes on-road costs)

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

 
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