A lot of excitement under the bonnet - The BMW M235i

Price: $91,400
Engine: Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 1998cc, 225kW, 450Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel and economy: 7.6l/100km
Dimensions: Length, 4526mm; width, 1900mm; height, 1420mm


The lengthy name lends itself to all manner of vehicle types.

The car I’m referring to is BMW’s M235i xDrive Gran Coupe, also described by BMW as a fastback sedan.

That’s quite a mixture, so I’ll refer to it simply as the M235i, and in reality, it does cover all those bases, its compact four-door sedan concept does have coupe-type styling.

What’s more, because it carries an M badge it is a performance car which squarely sits in the sport sedan category, and you’d expect nothing less from BMW, the M235i is a car which tugs at the senses, oozing style with its low, sleek shape, and it has performance to envy through a 225kW engine.

The M235i’s design is curvy yet aggressive, it has a shape which lures comment and desire, yet it also has practicality which doesn’t always present itself with coupe designs. The latter is particularly noteworthy, there is easy entry and egress up front, the doors aren’t overly wide so they aren’t a nuisance in close confines, while there’s also the benefit of reasonable leg room for those who are confined to the rear seats. Also, it must be said that the boot space is cavernous, it runs deep to the rear seats and is easy to load.

At the other end sits a heavily boosted turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Herein, lies a bit of a surprise, in contrast to BMW’s decades of longitudinal engineering preference, it sits transversely in the engine bay. Drive is effectively channelled through to the front-wheels, until xDrive automatically engages drive rearwards when slipping up front is detected.

Not only is the engine powerful up the top end, there is also a hefty 450Nm of torque to experience, the combination results in a solid punch when the accelerator is given some weight, there is an exhaust bark and throb that sounds delightful, especially in sport mode where the decibels are increased markedly.

The M235i is fast for a 2-litre car. It will scorch to 100km/h from a standstill in 4.8sec, and will lunge through an 80km/h to 120km/h overtaking manoeuvre in 4sec thanks to a strong turbo surge and high mid-range torque output.

The gearbox is a traditional eight-speed automatic and it can be manipulated through steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Between the engine and transmission the M235i stands out for solid performance through the rev band and, of course, there’s always a gear on hand, there’s never a feeling that the transmission is not in a suitable ratio. That is the benefit eight-speeders offer, the gaps between ratios are close allowing the engine to work in its optimum range.

Of course, the M235i doesn’t need to be driven aggressively, but when it is it feels strong, akin to the performance aspect of BMW. However, at city speeds it is docile and feeds power gently so that stop-start traffic is relaxing.

It is also relatively fuel efficient given there is a lot of excitement under the bonnet.  According to BMW the M235i can achieve a combined cycle rating of 7.6-litres per 100km. My time with the test car resulted in a 9.4l/100km average which wasn’t that far distant, along with a 5.2l/100km highway cruise figure with the engine turning over very relaxed at just 1750rpm at 100km/h.

Even though the M235i is effectively front-wheel-drive it has natural handling along with steering that is weighted perfectly to pick up the feel of what the tyres are doing in relation to the road surface. Every nuance is delivered back to the driver so that he or she understands the handling characteristics and how the car is behaving.

BMW is strong on safety, the electronic devices which control traction are there so that the entire car stays stable under power. However, the chassis is so advanced that the car doesn’t rely on the safety devices, it can be driven hard yet grip is rarely challenged. The low profile Bridgestone Potenza tyres (235/35 x 19in) have a solid tenure with the road and, what’s more, they are quiet and have a remarkable amount of absorption through the narrow sidewalls so that ride comfort isn’t overly compromised.

The spring and damper rates within the fully independent front-strut/rear multiple link set-up default to a comfort setting but are adjustable to the driver’s command through a series on in-cabin push-buttons.

The M235i is a true driver’s car and rewards with its lithe and nimble nature and don’t forget it has the glitz to go with the glamour, it has all the major specification ingredients in the first instance, along with an extensive option list.

At $91,400 it does carry a premium price, but what that doesn’t take into account is that along with its title it is more than one car, every drive is a rewarding experience, and no matter whether you drive it soft or hard, it always feels so good to be in.

Explore our full range of BMW vehicles here.

-Ross Kiddie