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Behind The Wheel: BMW 235i M Sport Coupé

Snub nose, small bottom, a little loose… You would be excused if you thought I was talking about my high school sweetheart Amber-Lee Vanhouten, but no, I’m referring to the new BMW 235i M Sport – a whole lot of car in a small and somewhat explosive package that’s going to have M3 and M4 lovers a little closer to their dream.

We were fortunate to get a taste for the new M235i coupe at the Phillip Island racetrack earlier this year. Whilst performing a spot of ducks and drakes, we sampled this little rocket-ship potential on the track. What we got was an easy 220 km/h without breaking a sweat, and the poise and stability to back it up. To put this car in perspective, eight years ago you would have needed to buy the M3 to get the same power to weight ratio…and not only is this car smaller and more nimble, but footage of a prototype M2 promises that the 2 Series still hasn’t showed us all of its cards.

BMW 235i Coupe M Sport - 06

BMW is so invested in the performance side of this car that they developed yet another version, the M235i Racing – a factory built, ready to run racecar adorned with full roll cage and a host of M Performance parts. You can order the FIA-legal racecar directly from BMW Motorsport, for all your privateer racing needs.

However, back to reality…where the roads are bumpy, the speed limits are pretty much 40 everywhere in Victoria, and the office doesn’t lie at the end of the Nordschleife, we had to find a way to put the new 2 Series through its suburban paces.

Driving the 235i couldn’t be easier. The car is small, agile and responsive, and delivers confidence when you press the go and stop pedals. It’s the perfect city car for a young single bloke with a well-paying job and ladies to impress.

Exterior Lines

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It’s hard not to admire this evolution in exterior design from BMW. I say ‘evolution,’ as it’s far from revolution. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? The 2 Series has improved on the popular 1 Series base. More lines give the car a tougher look and adapts this generation’s snub nose.  Furthermore, dropping the “squashed E46” headlights and kidney grilles of its predecessor, and adopting a much sleeker roofline, makes the new car much more elegant.

If anything negative could be said about the 235i it’s the usual ‘hairdresser’s’ car label that anything cool and small often gets. The car is diminutive but packs a serious punch. Match that punch with the Estoril Blue paint and it’s unlikely to go unnoticed on the city streets.

Under The Bonnet

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The M235i is hard to beat when it comes to punch for price. With a 6 cylinder donk that produces 240kw, it’s going to take you from 0-100 in less than 5 seconds. 4.8 seconds to be precise. Many enthusiasts are comparing this new car to the beloved E36 M3, a car that has attained cult status as a base for a fantastic track star. But where the naturally aspirated straight-six of the old car was really only good above 4k, the turbochargers on the new car ensure that you have all the torque you need to keep the traction control busy right off the line. Pack that performance into a low ride, and you feel as if you’re going into hyperspace at times.

On the shift expect nothing but smoothness from the 8-speed sport automatic gearbox. If anything, we found the car to rev a little harder than needed for city driving. It would often be up to 6,000 rpm with the slightest push on the loud pedal and would take a second before gearing up.

If you need further proof that BMW built this car to be the stuff of enthusiasts’ wet dreams, have a peek under the skirt. Poised neatly between the rear wheels sits a rare gem in the modern performance coupé market: a true, mechanical locking limited slip differential.  Ok, so it’s a dealer option, but the fact that it’s even available, on a non-M car to boot, shows that BMW hasn’t lost touch with its fans one bit.

On The Inside

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Getting touchy-feely with the knobs and buttons in this car is a delight. The car pretty much starts itself and everything opens and shuts with ease.

Surprisingly, the BMW 2-Series is not that small on the inside. I was expecting Danger Mouse, but felt comfortable with a passenger. Where you’ll come unstuck of course is with a third and fourth passenger in the pack. Children, no problem – but anyone taller will struggle.

That said, the wrapped cockpit feel of the new BMW reminds you who’s boss and caring for others and their comfort just floats away. Yet again harkening back to the marque’s most adored performance coupés, the center console and controls are canted toward the driver, making sure everything you need while burning down your local twistie is within immediate reach. An ergonomic masterpiece.

Overall

We really enjoyed having this car for the week. It’s not a family truckster, but perfect for the 20-something executive who has aspirations of the bigger M3 and M4 counterparts without the hefty price tag. Or, perhaps better yet, for the weekend performance enthusiast who sees the smaller packaging not as a detractor, but as less weight and sharper turns. Our only regret with our time in the BMW M235i was not taking it up to Mount Dandenong for some winding roads. Next time.

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