FROM 2002 TO M235i
BMW’s new 2-series muscle
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Aug 17, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz
Those who follow the vaunted Bavarian Motor Works know a simple yet precise and efficient designation of the product lines sold in the United States. The sedans are odd numbered, 3, 5, and 7. The second set of numbers denote the engine capacity in liters. A BMW 325 means the smallest sedan with a 2.5 liter engine. And coupes bear even numbers. There is a 6 series, and for a brief unfortunate time an 8. And for those willing to tear the roads, and get on the subscription list of every police and state trooper around there is an M – a sport and track oriented dominator. Understanding these numbers helps a prospective customer contemplate the car he wants to buy.
And then things went haywire. There is now the all-new 2014 BMW M235i, which is a successor to last year’s 1 Series coupe (shouldn’t 1 be a sedan?) The M235i’s design follows the family recipe: Four seats, rear-wheel drive mated to two engines and chassis setups with focus on sport (in this more powerful model) I tested.
This M is significantly larger than its lower-number predecessor (after all 2 is bigger than 1). The car is 2.8 inches longer, 1.3 inches wider, 1.7 inches taller, and with 1.3 inches longer wheelbase. Trunk capacity grew to 13.8 cubic feet.
Some styling elements of the M235i bring back memories of the legendary 2002. The BMW kidney grille, separated from the headlights by narrow strips on either side, slants forward at a slight angle. The lower air intake is split into three sections. Two ducts channel air to the giant front rotors and calipers. A-pillars are steeply raked, and the doors have frameless windows. A gurney flap on top of the trunk lid helps increase downforce. A nod to the M heritage is reflected in two black coated round exhaust tips cut into the sides. The design beauty is not only skin deep, this sub-compact cuts through the atmosphere with a coefficient of drag of only 0.33.
Any BMW branded with a letter M on its hindquarters should not be short of propulsion. In the 235i, the propulsion part is played by a 3.0 liter in-line six-cylinder with M Performance TwinPower Turbo technology (twin-scroll turbocharger, High Precision Direct Inject Valvetronic, Double VANOS), with modifications to the cooling system, and power management. Its all-aluminum soul sings at the top of its voice with 320hp at 5,800rpm, but the pull of its 330lb.ft. of torque comes between 1,300-4,500rpm.
Its duet partner is a standard 8-speed sport automatic transmission with ultra-fast gear changes directed by large steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. A Launch Control exists because, without it, most neophyte users would smoke the tires and failed to achieve what BMW dubs “traction-optimized, dynamically maximized acceleration off the line.” Plus the dudes will save on rear tires. This feature allows getting to 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.8 seconds. For those who can live without frequent smell of burned cauchouc, a Driving Experience switch on the center console allows setting-up the car’s dynamics to Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Eco Pro settings. (Saving the planet in a Beemer M, now that’s a novel idea!)
The Driving Experience Control will modify the accelerator mapping and steering characteristics as well as the responses of the tranny and shocks. This control is the automotive equivalent of HAL 9000 (sans killing the crew and attempting to take over the mission.) It matches the performance of the car to how the driver feels at the time. “Good morning Dave, how do you feel today?” The scariest part is that the performance envelope of this system exceeds driving capabilities of vast majority of its users. “Thank you HAL, I feel like saving the planet today.”
Eco Pro mode tenders to a relaxed and frugal driving style with the coasting as the latest addition. Between 30 and 100mph, the powertrain will disengage as soon as I take my foot off the throttle. (At 100 mph this function may be further enhanced by the flashing lights and wailing sirens of the CHP cruiser following closely behind. In hot pursuit.) A six-speed manual transmission is a no-cost option. The BMW Efficient Dynamics technology—standard on this model—also includes Brake Energy Regeneration, on-demand operation of ancillary units, Electric Power Steering for that legendary on-center feel, an Optimum Shift Indicator and the Auto Start/Stop function. A mission to Jupiter with fuel savings technology!
All this power would not amount to much without the chassis sporting front double-joint spring struts, anti-roll bar and adaptive electronically controlled monotube shocks. The rear is intertwined with a five-link setup, coil springs, anti-roll bar, an M Performance rear limited-slip differential and aforementioned electronically controlled shocks. Ride height can drop by 10mm. Aluminum-laden architecture brings a low center of gravity, and wider track than the 1-Series. Add to it half & half (not a dairy product but weight distribution), and I ride on rails when cornering, sliding against a wall at high speeds going into—and thankfully coming out of—a steep curve. Top speed is electronically limited to 135mph. The dual exhaust pipes growl and burble when I switch on the engine and mash the throttle.
I am still here to write this article owing to dark blue M logo adorned calipers with four pistons up front and two at the rear. They squeeze 13-inch vented rotors on all four wheels. During severe braking, or in slick or wet pavement, several three- and two-letter friends are ready to keep me on the chosen path: ABS, BA, DTC (dynamic traction control), CBC (Cornering Brake Control), DBC (Dynamic Brake Control), Fading Compensation and Brake Drying function. “Can I do anything else for you, Dave?”
If you are an M235i having same tires on all four wheels is so passé. Up front, Michelin 225/40R18 Pilot Super Sports on 18X8.5 inch, 5-twin-spoke, light alloy wheels are developing a minderwertigheitcomplexgefül (inferiority complex in German) when looking back to bigger 245/35R18s in the rear.
The eight-way power front bucket seats include a lumbar control. While the rear seats have 0.8 inches more legroom, this is not the space in which to spend time on long trips. The instrument cluster is straight ahead and easy to see. In my hands is an ‘M’ three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Of course, it tilts and telescopes and provides cruise control, Bluetooth and audio system. But when I turn on the engine a series of lights illuminate the top portion of the wheel, a function borrowed directly from Formula 1 race cars.
The famous (or infamous depending on personal opinions of a number of users) iDrive is now pretty tame and on M235i exhibits itself on 6.5 inch onboard monitor. A controller on the center console has a touch sensitive surface so I can enter street addresses directly on the screen. Standard equipment list is long, and includes all express up/down windows, a two-user seat and mirror memory, a flip-down storage bin under the rotary light switch, push button start/stop, aluminum door kick plates with M235i graphics, and an electric one-touch sunroof.
But the Bavarians are masters at optional equipment: Dakota leather trim is upgrade to the standard Sensatec (a cloth by any other name. . . . ) seat surface. The interior trim strips come in matt Satin Silver, but if this does not please your eyes, get them in brushed aluminum or Fineline Stream exquisite wood.
If you can get used to the new BMW numbers, the 2014 M235i has all the right attributes: great styling, power, performance, comfort and safety and is a welcome addition to their sub-compact line-up.
© words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz
For more information about BMW products, go to www.bmwusa.com
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Name of vehicle:
2014 BMW M235i Coupe
$44,025.00, as tested, including $925.00 destination and handling.
EPA mileage estimates (miles per gallon:
22 city/32 highway
2979cc in-line DOHC turbocharged six, with four valves per cylinder, direct injection and variable intake + exhaust-valve timing
326 @ 5800 rpm
332 pound-feet @ 1,300 rpm
Drive configuration: Front-engined, rear-wheel drive Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with Sport and Competition settings, sequential manual mode and paddle shifters Suspension: Four-wheel independent active multi-link with stabilizer bars front and rear Wheels and tires: Alloy wheels with P235/45 Y-rated run-flat tires, tire pressure monitoring system Brakes Ventilated disc with four-wheel ABS and driveline traction control Dimensions Overall length: 174.5 inches Overall width: 69.8 inches Overall height: 55.8 inches Curb weight (lbs.): 3535 pounds