Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Calvin Chan and Sammy Chan
The year of 2014 has been littered with automotive companies restructuring their vehicle dictionaries. Infiniti has their new Q and QX line-ups, Mercedes introduced the CLA and GLA classes, and now BMW has come up with the new 2-series that replaces the 1-series. In BMW lingo, coupes are given even numbers and sedans are given odd numbers, except for Gran Coupes, those don’t count. Confused yet?
Enter the 2014 BMW M235i. No, its not a true M car. It wasn’t developed by the guys in the ///M division, but rather by M-performance. Does it matter? Nah, it's merely branded as an M-sport model with that extra kick added to a "regular" 228i. The M235i is the closest thing we are going to get to an M2 for quite some time, and yes, it's also quite a mouthful to spurt out. I've been asked many times - what'cha driving this week? "Oh, a 2014 B-M-W M-2-3-5-i." In my mind it sounds fairly straight forward but to theirs, they lost me at the 2. Imagine if they added xDrive.
The M235i has got promise. Mountains of horsepower, a firm suspension, a small stature and an even smaller price-tag - all the right ingredients for a hair-raising concoction. The M235i abides by the same mantra as the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ - bang for your buck. This is the performance bargain we have all been waiting for.
The damper settings can be changed by selecting between ECO PRO, COMFORT, SPORT, and SPORT+, the latter being the most dynamic. We kept the M235i in SPORT mode throughout our daily commutes. It felt the most balanced out of all the available settings and delivers just the right amount of oomph to overtake, and enough cushion to keep our spines straight. Fuel efficiency is priority number one in ECO PRO mode. We gave it a try - the gas pedal numbs up and gears are up-shifted much quicker. Slow and steady wins the race to the fuel stations but where's the fun in that? This M235i was meant to be driven in its sportiest settings.
The powertrain is simply fantastic. The straight six howls, revs to 7000, and lets out an exhilarating exhaust blip in low gears. The M235i is a tad louder than the 435i’s six-pot engine, but is still fairly subtle. Just don’t expect the noise to turn heads at intersections like an F-Type. Noise aside, the M235i's steering is impeccable. Combined with rear-wheel drive dynamics and variable sport steering, the M235i flies and corners with a certain agility that makes it a trip down the 1M memory lane.
Our rule is, if you’re going to buy a BMW, buy it with a manual. We don’t care if you have trouble driving it in the winter or if you find it a chore in traffic – a BMW isn’t a true BMW without one, and the M235i is no exception in these regards. The shifting gate has short lengths and lets you punch in gears like clockwork. Rev-matching, double-clutching and quick-shifts – you can’t do that with an automatic which also costs an extra $1600.
Yet, we can’t forget about the angel on the other shoulder. There are many perks to a no-brainer automatic – eight gears, better fuel efficiency, launch control, paddle shifters, quicker gear shifts, and a faster 0-100km/h time. Let alone, you’ll have an easier time working through a traffic jam without that third pedal. But why would you buy an M235i if you're driving it like a Toyota Prius? The BMW is a driver's car. They used to say, Mercedes' are meant to be driven in. BMWs are meant to be driven.
With the manual transmission, I used to complain a lot about the AUTO Start-Stop function, where it kept making me think I had stalled the car when fully stopped. Now, whether you leave the function on or off, the computers will remember it each time you start up the ignition. Phew.
We weren’t able to able to test out the M235i’s launch control function because that’s only found in the automatic transmission versions. Instead, we launched the M235i the traditional way, and may or may not have burned some Bavarian rubber in the process.
The front fascia is styled with bubbly curves that merge into a more linear rear-end, giving off a tame and mature demeanor, one that is much less awkward to look at than the 135i. The mirror caps are specially painted in Ferric Grey, and the two rear exhaust tips are doused in black chrome. And if that wasn’t enough, they even chromed up the “M235i” badge in a dark colour to give the rear a definitive bad-boy image.
The M235i comes standard with the M Aerodynamics package – a lower front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper, diffuser, a subtle spoiler lip, and large 18” Double spoke alloy wheels. Don't forget about the specially tuned M-sport suspension and the exclusive Estoril Blue paint.
I am not a big fan of the 18-inch rims on our test vehicle. They look like five Acura-logo pliers melded together into a circle. At least the blue M sport brakes look stunning. That is, if they aren't being hidden by those pilers. Damn you pliers. And no luck either because those are the only rims available for the M235i - aftermarket anybody?
Similar to other BMW M-sport models, you will find no shortage of ///M badging on the M235i's epidermis. The door sills, side fenders, four wheels, steering wheel, gear shifter, rear badge, engine cover, and even the digital gauge displays. That’s a total of 9 ///M badges! BMW wants you to know that this ain't no ordinary 2-series, but keep in mind that it’s no M2 either.
I’ve mentioned it before in previous reviews, but one of the interior features I am most critical about is the steering wheel. Out of all the items in the car, the steering wheel is the going to be stared at and used the most, well, other than the instrument panel. If the steering wheel is bland, uncomfortable and slippery, so is the drive. Luckily, BMW’s M-wheel is one of the most pleasurable steering wheels to handle. I’ve used it before in the 435i, 328d, and it never ceases to disappoint. There is a meaty grip to the wheel and feels snug in your palms. All the integrated radio controls are perfectly placed within a thumbs reach, and the three-spoke design is visually pleasing. You’ve also got your typical BMW analogue gauges that light up in orange. No complaints here. They are simplistic, functional, and nostalgic.
Another familiar touch is the iDrive touch controller, where you can either scroll or use the touchpad to enter in letters and numbers. Comes in handy when entering address in the GPS and let's you concentrate on the road ahead.
The Black Dakota Leather interior works well with the exterior Estoril Blue, but don’t bother with the red seats unless you want your M235i to look like Superman. There’s a handsome amount of room for the front passengers. Passengers sitting in the back will feel snug, but it definitely feels roomier than the 135i.
This begs the question, do we even need an M2? The M235i has an affordable price that seems like a bargain with performance that you are getting. We don’t like to get greedy, but when BMW pushed the envelope with the 1-series, it landed us with the spectacular 1M, and yes we want more of that. Bring it on M2. We are humbly waiting your arrival.
型号 Model: 2014 BMW M235i
顏色 Paint Type: Estoril Blue Metallic ($895)
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $45,000
試車售價 Price as Tested: $53,745
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2690
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4432 / 1774 / 1418
車重 Weight (lb): 1590
引擎 Engine: 3.0L TwinPower Turbo straight-six cylinder engine
最大馬力 Horsepower-HP: 322 / 5800-6000rpm
最高扭力 Torque-LB-FT: 332 / 1400-4500rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
循跡操控系统 ABS/Traction Control: Standard
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 11.2 / 7.1 / 9.3
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Front - 225/40 R18 , Rear - 245/35 R18