The BMW M235i is the best of both

BMW's expansion continues with the 2 Series, a coupe (and eventually a convertible) that picks up where the 1 Series left off. It's a looker, but is the M-honed M235i going to win over performance car fans?

I'll level with you - I didn't like the 1M Coupé when it came out. The hype was too much, and after hearing so many people lose their heads over its brilliance I was a touch underwhelmed. I preferred the Audi RS 3 - it was an easier car to drive quickly, less twitchy as well... The 1M Coupé, brilliant or not, is no more -- hell, the 1 Series Coupé is no more, either. It's been replaced by the 2 Series, a car for people who want practicality, good looks, and something that's not too hard to park.

Being a "pure" BMW its power is diverted to the rear wheels, it's wonderfully built and it handles wonderfully. It's also got a few engines on offer -- small petrols, torque-tastic diesels, and so forth. You know the drill. However, there's one car in the lineup that anyone with a vague interest in cars will be interested in: the M235i.

This is the case for several reasons -- the "35i" bit means it's got an awesome 3.0-litre straight six with a turbo bolted on, meaning it'll be bloody quick and very smooth. The "M" bit means it's been breathed on by the people who make BMW's road cars faster than supercars. This is a good thing.

However, it's not a "true" M car. If that were the case, its suspension would be tuned for silliness, and its engine would be all custom and whatnot. No, the M235i is an "M Performance" car, which means that its engine is stock but tweaked, its exterior has some extra M-bits and its suspension is set for 'spirited' driving, but not so much that your spine will hate you. As a result, BMW has created a truly special car.

Its 321bhp engine will scream its way up the rev range, getting you from 0 to 62mph in 4.8 seconds. That's faster than an E46 M3 by some margin. The noise it produces is proper old school, too. It makes me feel nostalgic for a time that I'm not really old enough to remember, which is strange.

While the people at M have beefed up the suspension, it's not overly punishing. It's comfortable when you're on the smooth stuff, though you'll feel it the moment you end up on rutted, nasty roads. Not too badly, mind.

Noise and grunt aside, my favourite part of the car is its steering -- it's properly engaging, and offers an amazing connection to the car. You can feel almost everything you hoon over, which is rare these days. It's also neither too heavy or too light; it's bang on (for me at least).

The M235i isn't just a beefier 2 Series. It's more than that. It's a car you step in an immediately realise that it's special. It makes you feel good just to be inside, it makes you feel good to drive and, I'll wager, it'll make you feel good to own. BMW's found a perfect balance between track and tarmac here, so much so that I wonder whether a hardcore M2 even needs to exist.

Specs
Engine 3.0-litre turbocharged straight 6
Power 321bhp
Torque 322 lb. ft.
0 to 62 mph 4.8 seconds
Top speed    155 mph
 

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