2014 BMW M235i
A not-so-quiet riot.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: July 18th, 2014
Do you remember the 1-Series, the plucky little BMW with semi-awkward styling? Well, it's still kicking around, except BMW saw fit to create a new generation of 1-Series under the 2-Series name. Now, BMW's coupe offerings (2, 4, and 6) are all even numbers. The model we received for testing is the BMW M235i. It's the spiritual successor to the outgoing 135is, albeit with a much catchier name. M-badge fanatics, fear not; there will be an M2, albeit likely not until next year. For now, this is the most powerful 2-Series for sale, and by itself, it's a damned good sports car. Not a perfect one, but it remains proof that small, rear-drive coupes can still be built, and well, at that.
Spartan would be the best word to describe BMW's interior. You get a small screen in the middle of the dash, which is adorned with soft-ish plastic that seems just a little bit under the car's price point. There's no assortment of switches that would confuse an astronaut. Everything is where it should be, and it's easy to memorize the layout. With the screen off at night, the interior glows the same shade of orange that it has for years - a small detail that we're big fans of. The seats (ours being upgraded Dakota leather) are comfortable, yet they're supportive when the lateral g-forces increase. The thick M-branded steering wheel is a total delight to hold onto.
That said, if you're a fan of traditional shifters, get ready to work with the Bimmer's unit a little longer than usual. The button to engage park is where most people would normally find the button to unlock the shifter from its current position. Furthermore, BMW has seen fit to re-invent turn signals in the last few years; now, even when you active the full turn signal in either direction, the stalk will return to the middle position. To cancel it, just tap it in either direction. BMW drivers already don't use their turn signals. This system will make them want to use it even less.
It's sharp, that's for sure. From the heavily-sculpted eyebrows, to the sheer cliff that is the rear decklid, BMW managed to hearken back to the outgoing 1-Series while simultaneously upgrading the body to better fall in line with its current design language. The M badging, thankfully, isn't covering the body like the car's contracted herpes; there are two small M badges on the front fenders, and then there's the one on the M235i trunk badge, and ... that's it (on the outside, at least). We're a fan of the base wheels on the M235i, if only because the massive brakes look even larger without 20" wheels wrapped around them.
On the Road
This is where the M235i shows its true colors. Many short-wheelbase cars can be twitchy, but the M235i manages to feel spry without feeling like it could snap out from underneath you at a moment's notice. Much of that can be attributed to the stability- and traction-control systems, which do a great job of managing grip and slip angle without resorting to cutting power entirely.
And when it comes to power, there's plenty of it. The TwinPower single-turbo straight-six (code name: N55) is a great motor, with plenty of down-low torque and an engine note that gets pretty loud near redline. Of course, some of that sound is synthetic, being created on the fly and pumped through the M235i's speakers. If you want to better experience the real deal, drop your windows and head for the nearest tunnel. Even with an engine that's quick to supply both power and torque, throttle modulation is surprisingly easy. That allows you to drive sensibly (it does get 32 mpg highway, after all), giving it plenty of daily-driving credibility.
The suspension, too, proves that this car can be used both sensibly (as a commuting machine) and insensibly (as a slide-producing, tire-smoke machine). It's soft enough to keep your spine in place when the roads get rough, yet when you dig into a sharper turn, the car responds immediately and precisely.
Many of the issues we had with the M235i were the same that we had with the 428i xDrive. The braking is difficult to modulate; sometimes, it feels as if the stop-start system kills the motor just before the car comes to a stop, giving it an extra lurch forward that must look awkward to passers-by. There's also the matter of standard tech equipment, in that there isn't much of it. If you want to stream Bluetooth audio, or use a USB port that was designed in this century, you'll need to pay for it (although that changes with the 2015 model year). Our tester came with only the Cold Weather Package, which means we lacked a backup camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and satellite radio - all things that are standard equipment on cars costing half as much.
But problems aside, the M235i is a fantastic, sporty coupe. It's lively without being a gas hog; it's fun without sacrificing daily-driving sensibility. If you want both a toy and a tool, but can't be bothered to buy both, this is a good middle ground on which to settle.
Specs, Features, & Prices
Engine: 3.0-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged inline-six
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Power Output: 320 hp / 330 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 22 city / 32 highway
Base Price: $43,100
As Tested: $46,575 (incl. $925 destination)
Cold Weather Package: Retractable headlight washers, heated front seats, heated steering wheel
Premium Package: Dakota leather interior, auto-dimming rearview mirror and sideview mirrors, keyless entry, satellite radio, universal garage-door opener
Driver Assistance Package: Front and rear parking sensors, backup camera
Driver Assistance Plus Package: Speed limit warning, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control
Technology Package: Navigation system with iDrive, enhanced instrument cluster
Individual Options: Bluetooth audio streaming, Harman/Kardon premium sound system, moonroof delete, parallel parking assist, heated front seats, automatic high beams, anti-theft alarm system
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 BMW 2 Series, click here: 2014 BMW 2 Series.