No, the new BMW M235i Series 2 is a model far more polished in form. Maybe even a little too polished, especially if we take a look at the forms of its spiritual predecessor.
Once upon a time, the former head of BMW’s M Division, Kay Segler, had a dream to create the most compact model M, the engineering perfection of which would be tuned fine and long, like the musical instrument of a genius… his dream materialized very late, just before he left the M division for another position within the BMW group. The materialized dream was named the BMW Series 1 M Coupe and, after our test drive of that car, we are firmly convinced that this is the most puritanically and the most perfectionistically calibrated and the most natural BMW model created in the last several decades! That model came only with a manual gearbox and surged with power at each revolution of the engine! Unfortunately however, production of this model was very limited and just around 1,000 cars rolled out of the factory gate… And many true fans of BMW never got the chance to buy one…
However, the idea of the BMW Series 1 M Coupe was reborn, meanwhile getting a makeover from a marketing campaign targeting the wider public, and placed in the new Series 2 family, but you already know that the convertible and coupe of the former Series 1 found its continuation in the new Series 2. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are referring to the BMW M235i, that wants to be the spiritual successor of the Series 1 M Coupe! Does it deserve that status? Will it manage to make us tremble with emotion as its predecessor did? Let’s find out in a new special test drive, conducted by the editors of BMWspirit.com all the way in Germany!
The BMW Series 1 M Coupe was a car with great character. Anyone too conceited to accept the thought of a manual gearbox and the 3 pedals was instantly disqualified from the chance to become its owner. You could not choose many fancy interior elements, because that car was meant to be felt with hands on the steering wheel, driving it ruthlessly, not touching the chair upholstery! You could not play too much with the range of colors or personalization elements, but the feeling of a rebellious car, that can kill you anytime, followed you everywhere and would have freaked out any fan that could not prove his advanced driving skills.
The new Series 2 M235i however, comes with all the attributes of the M Performance family, and that means that the possibilities for aesthetic personalization are unexpectedly wide. It’s not a bad thing after all, because that way you can give it a tuning according to your taste, one signed not by some shady workshop, but by the Bavarian manufacturer itself, with the same assured level of quality. Furthermore, we find that the new model can also receive either a 6-speed manual transmission, or an 8-speed automatic one! Hm… sounds alarming, and we asked BMW to provide us with a model which has the manual gearbox! So far, one can feel a clear migration of philosophy towards a wider audience, with more options for customization and combination, and we believe this is a somewhat natural evolution, which should not form our opinion about this car for now. Ultimately, this is a natural path to follow – the Bavarians tested the market with a limited edition model, and success prompted them to move to larger scale, and the larger scale obviously involved increasing the number of combinations and options. We do not jump to conclusions on this, the real test lies with the driving sensations.
Until then, we take a look at this car once from the outside. The blue color makes it look really good, especially since the brake calipers bear the same hue. The gray rims fit the picture really well, and the proportions are seemingly pleasing to the eye. But there is no hint of the devilish wildness of the former Series 1 M Coupe. Gone are those powerfully flared wings and huge track, gone is that huge dose of aggression in the front and rear bumpers. No, the new BMW M235i Series 2 is a model far more polished in form. Maybe even a little too polished, especially if we take a look at the forms of its spiritual predecessor. Even the black exhaust pipes do not seem to look particularly sporty to us. If we had a pair of dual exhaust pipes on each side, the picture could have been far more vicious.
Inside, things have evolved in more beautiful and enjoyable manner. The circular center steering wheel looks more sporty and stylish, and the dashboard managed to keep a clear sobriety, so as to enable you to focus on what happens beyond the windshield. The inserts are contoured in the same colour as the body – I guess these are the M Performance accessories, and the same blue hue can be found at the seams of door panels and seats! The excellent lever of the manual gearbox is positioned on the center tunnel – mounted in the right place, at the right height and with a superb wheelhouse! And, alongside it, very closely, is the handbrake! Mechanical, and not electrical! Well, gentlemen, such an ambience brings a smile to our faces and we cannot wait to hit the road!
Under the hood, we have the same legendary 6-cylinder, 3.0-liter, turboaspirated, petrol engine of the BMW group, which was also mounted under the hood of the Series 1 M Coupe. Normally, the power of this engine in most models was 306 hp, however, under the hood of the 1M Coupe, it was brought to 340 hp and 500 Nm, with an overboost function. Here, under the hood of our test machine, the engine sounds nice, thickened by the acoustics of the exhaust system, however we have a power of 326 hp and a maximum torque of 450 Nm. Again, a little more civilized, a little more moderate. But neither are 326 horsepower in a coupe little! Each horse-power in this car pulls just 6.1 kilograms, so this should be considerably fun!
The most pleasant feelings that you get from the first moments behind the wheel of the car are those related to the handling of the manual gearbox and the clutch. The wheelhouse is excellent, with wonderful sensations when handling the lever, and when you press the accelerator pedal, releasing the clutch, you feel the power flowing beautifully into the movement of the rear axle. If you are lucky and the road is slick, then you can play around with losing grip and experience a predictable, natural and enjoyable sensation of driving in the style of the true sports cars of yesteryear.
Before, these feelings gave you chills, especially through the steering wheel. With the new BMW M235i Series 2 however, the driving sensations are a bit artificialized, not connected to the maximum with everything happening on the asphalt. You feel 90 percent of what you expect and enjoy those 90 percent, because even that is much nowadays, but I remember the 100 percent of the Series 1 M Coupe and I know that Bavarian engineers are capable of true masterpieces in this regard. Today’s car can be driven very engagingly, and one can even successfully use its direction in order to put it into small controlled drifts, or, on the contrary, follow precise trajectories when turning at high speed, but gone is that naturalness that fascinates you and stretches your smile from ear to ear.
The car’s roadholding is truly exemplary, while handling is utterly perfect. The Series 2 M235i follows curves with pleasure, without the least effort, and has no trouble with body roll, because the low center of gravity, excellent suspension and lack of excess weight make it extraordinarily agile. It is here, on really curved roads, that driving pleasure rises to the heights I expected. Yes, at one point I felt an impressive degree of connection to this car, and I found myself enjoying driving on the twisted roads of southern Germany, finding nothing to criticize in those moments. The gearbox, steering wheel, brake pedal and accelerator – all started to communicate my feelings without a translator, although at first I felt the presence of artificial filters. I love the low driving position in this car and I love revving up the engine to the level I want, until it hits the number of RPMs that I wish!
Suddenly, the procession of towns on my route ends and I start on a perfectly paved road, within a forested area where light barely passes, absolutely devoid of any other traffic. I press the accelerator pedal and rev the engine up to 6,000 RPM! Ah, the delicious sound of a Bavarian engine with 6 cylinders in a line is unrepeatable! I take the curves one after another, and, even with high revolutions during turns, causing a controlled drift is not at all difficult! With an automatic gearbox, half the charm of the car would disappear, however this way you feel this car as more sporty and sincere!
I drive down this deserted forested road kilometer after kilometer and enjoy the driving at its fullest. But it’s not the kind of driving that would make your soul leap from the thrill of race risks. Unlike the 1M Coupe, whose rear danced in outbursts of power at the limits of traction loss whenever you pressed the accelerator more than halfway, regardless of the stage where you were and the speed you had, here you do not fell the rebellion and restlessness of the car! It’s a very pleasant car to drive, but your heart rate will remain within the limits of natural variations for sport driving and you will get home safely without being forced to take a new driving exam every day. The BMW Series 2 M235i is more forgiving with your possible driving errors and will not provoke you to extreme driving. If you wish, you can get some extreme driving out of this car. But it will not lure you to do so. If the Series 1 M Coupe was the initiator and challenger of engineering ecstasy, than the M235i Coupe Series 2 simply follows its intentions, but isn’t capable to propose you something more… It’s a fiery car, but it is not the least bit extreme or devilish..
Verdict: BMW Series 2 M235i
And yet, this car brings pleasure. The Bavarians are to blame for these comparative views, because they gave us a perfectionist element of comparison when they created the former M Coupe. Now, on the background of that absolute creation, any car would pale a little, but the truth is that the Series 2 M235i is a Bavarian that is damn fun to drive, which can fulfill any driving desires you convey to it with the steering wheel, the three pedals and the gear lever. If you are really skilled at driving, the M235i can prove perfect for long and precise drifting. However, this car really possesses sport sense only in combination with a manual gearbox, so we recommend it to you precisely in such a combination.
Eventually, this test has shown us that we have to face a hot and enjoyable car, that has become significantly more civilized compared to its spiritual predecessor. Too much for diehard fans, seekers of the supreme nirvana of sensations. Justifiably much for the wider audience, so it can drive this model happily, without going to the edge of the road at the first error in extreme driving. Owners of the legendary 1M Coupe can sleep peacefully – their car has not been dethroned from its pedestal and has not lost its true value. The M235i is a less extreme response, compatible with both advanced connoisseurs and with the less initiated. The BMW M235i Coupe is now a perfect first step into the world of M performance with the silhouette of a coupe, that comes with compact shapes, well dosed performance and an admirable engineering underlayer! And, all the more so because, frankly, in the premium segment, this car has few alternatives when referring to its most delicious aspect – rear wheel drive combined with a manual gearbox! Today, the BMW M235i is still the more the puritanical, rebellious and delicious premium compact coupe!
(This is an archive article, our dears, with a test made in 2014, prior to the launch of the new BMW M2, which is now the new “real” successor of the 1M Coupe. And prior to the launch of the BMWspirit.com, but we thought it is worth being published here.)