Based on the soft-roading X2 compact crossover, the ’20 BMW-LITE: NEW M235I xDRIVE GRAN COUPE should be Prozac on wheels. It’s far from it, says Road Test Editor Howard Walker.
Now this is a first. Let’s take a play-in-the-mud sport utility and turn it into a sports sedan. Give me that again?
In its seemingly never-ending quest to fill every niche in the automotive marketplace – well, perhaps not the pickup and minivan markets – BMW has given us the cute, but somewhat confusing, 2-Series xDrive Gran Coupe. This $37,700-and-up bundle of Teutonic joy starts life as BMW’s X2 sport-ute. Strap a mountain bike to the roof, head down a muddy track and the X2 will get you to the trailhead.
In a clever piece of design jiggery-pokery, BMW designers have morphed the high-ridin’ X2 hatchback into a low-ridin’ coupe-like four-door sedan. Even in its advertising, BMW asks potential buyers of this new two to “Choose Unconventional”. Of course BMW purists hate it. They hate that it’s called a 2-Series when the original 2-Series was, and still is, a rear-wheel-drive, nimble-handling, two-door rocketship!
The twin-turbo, 405-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive, stick-shift M2 Competition Coupe is still a defining ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ and one of the most fun-driving cars money can buy. This 2-Series Gran Coupe? Not so much.
For starters, it’s based on a humble front-wheel drive platform, with all-wheel drive as standard to mask some of the compromises of having the front wheels trying to lay down the power. But through the sheer brilliance of those white-coated BMW techies, somehow, some way, they’ve managed to turn this little 2-Series in a finger-tingling, adrenaline-pumping blast to drive. While the new 2-Series Gran Coupe lineup kicks off with the 228-horsepower $37,700 228i xDrive, it’s the feistier M235i with 301-horsepower you’ll want. Priced from $45,500, or like our test car, around $51,000 very nicely loaded, it’s a great performance value.
And it looks the part. Up front, it has that BMW “angry bird” face with swept-back LED-ringed headlights, over-sized kidney grilles and air-gulping lower intakes big enough to swallow small family pets. In profile, you see that swoopy-coupe roofline, those sexy body creases and gorgeous 19-inch M-forged alloys – a $600 must-have option – filling out the wheel arches.
Sadly, the designers kinda lost the plot at the rear, which looks about as visually exciting as a Volkswagen Jetta’s hindquarters! A pity too that they went for a traditional trunk instead of the added practicality of a lifting tailgate. Plus, the trunk opening is about the size of a mail slot. Good luck squeezing-in your sweetie’s Samsonite at the airport pick-up.
But you’ll forgive the M235i everything when you punch the throttle and feel the surge from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.With an abundant 301-horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque on tap, the 235i can blast from standstill to 60 mph in a zippy 4.6 seconds, to the lovely accompaniment of exhaust snaps, crackles and pops!
The impressive thing here is that as much as 50 percent of the engine’s thrust can be channeled to the rear axle to prevent any nasty torque steer or front wheel spin. The car’s eight-speed ZF automatic also fires off the shifts with machine-gun rapidity. And he-man-sized paddle shifters are there for D-I-Y control. Through the twisties, its steering feels precise and nicely weighted, there’s little-to-no body roll, and the brakes are nothing less than stellar. Yup, it’s a BMW driving machine.
And part of the fun-to-drive character of this little Bimmer is its cool interior. Every time I climbed in to our test car, with its eye-popping molten-red leather upholstery and body-gripping M Sport front seats, I grinned. OK, rear seat legroom is tight, and getting in and out of the back with that tiny rear door opening, is a pain. But how many times do you have tall people in the back seat?
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