BMW’s 225 kW 450 Nm 2-litre 4-pot 4-Door Coupe Defies the Odds. And History

I’m going to start this story by going back to the 375kW BMW M6 V10 launch at Ascari, what must now be fifteen years ago.

Following a wild, tyre smoking day on that splendid private Spanish racetrack, we retired to a villa where we dined with the then BMW M boss. I so clearly remember our conversation; “We will never turbocharge our cars,” he declared. “And BMW M cars will always have rear wheel drive.” Happy on heady Spanish wine, we all nodded and smiled in benign agreement…

A Wholly Redundant Conversation

None of us realised how rapidly, or how dramatically our conversation would become quite redundant. That greedy normally aspirated engines would very soon become public enemy number one. And that rear wheel drive would be rendered useless on the extreme torque that downsized turbo engines would soon muster.

I went on and quoted my esteemed pal’s normally aspirtated rear-wheel drive mantra. Often. So it makes me accessory to the lie. On several counts. I even lived by it. For a bit.

Roll on fifteen years and it’s all change. Everything we discussed that night has now become absolute taboo. Normally aspirated engines are all but dead and rear-wheel drive super saloons are history. And this little number is living proof why.

M235i Delivers Far More

It isn’t really a super saloon, in fact this BMW M235i isn’t even a real M car. But it delivers on almost everything that old M6 did. And far more too.

Not quite all-wheel drive either, this front wheel-drive biased automatic takes over from the previous 2 series once-traditional BMW rear-drive. Drive actually defaults to the front and it will only send fifty percent aft if you break traction. Not that it matters to most people who drive it, but is good enough to quash all that old rear drive propaganda.

BMW’s answer to Mercedes-AMG’s CLA 35, the 235i is basically a slammed M135i. It’a a coupé with a twist because it has four-door rather than just two. Delivering 225 kW and 450 Nm in this current flaghsihp 2-litre turbo 4-pot M235i replaces the outgoing M240i’s 250kW and 500Nm six and does an admirable job, coming close to match the old M240i’s 4.7 second 0-100 in our tests.

An Audi Inspired Advantage

But then the old car had to make up for half a second’s worth of wheelspin and it is soon long gone once it cathes up. See, an efficient 2 litre turbo just can’t live with a just as efficient three-litre turbo. It is rather what BMW borrowed from Audi that makes the difference — and that is all wheel drive.

This four cylinder also loses out to the old straight six in noise — a poor synthesised effort to try match the sonorous old track falls a bit flat. But there’s very little else we can criticise this car on. It’s a tad harsh on less than perfect tar roads and you’ll never power slide it like its the old rear drive Two — never mind that M6. But handling is nimble and crisp — at least as good as what we recently called great in Golf R.

The new BMW M235i also has everything you’d expect inside a premium BMW — and for the price, of course. Infotainment is top drawer and compatible with whatever your mobile device may be. This One had quite splendid eight-way power M-Sport seats and all the latest BMW cabin trickery and style bits. Including mood lighting that reminded me a bit of old Darth Vader.

M235i is as Quick as that Old M6

Getting back to that mad M6 I mention up top, is perhaps the best way to wrap this one up. Back then, when we tested that newcomer for the first time, it was the first car to ever break the 5-second 0-100 km/h barrier to in our road test progrsam. It was a landmark car and that was huge news.

Now scroll down this M235i’s data 15 years anon. You’ll notice that it pretty well matches that M6. Yes, a current M8 will break three seconds to 100 but it costs more than double what this car does. Which shows just how impressive downsizing has become Never mind it delivers that same performance using a third of the fuel.

Now that’s progress. And something even young Greta may be proud of… — Michele Lupini

Images — Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe
Engine: 225kW 450Nm 2-litre turbo petrol I4
Drive: 8-speed automatic AWD
0-60km/h:         2.38 sec
0-100km/h:        5.17 sec
0-160km/h:        12.26 sec
400m:             13.4 sec @ 167km/h
80-120km/h:       3.41 sec
120-160km/h:      5.18 sec
VMax:             250km/h
Fuel:             7.6 l/100km
CO2:              1731 g/km
Warranty/Service: 2y unlimited/5y 100Kkm
LIST PRICE:       R831K
RATED:            9
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