The question of what is an M car is one that vexes BMW fetishists. For a long time, the answer was simple: The M3 and M5 were M cars. They were soup-to-nuts high-performance specials, created by BMW’s go-faster M division. Then things got murky, with M versions of SUVs, look-faster M Sport trim packages, and go-somewhat-faster M Performance models.

The 2014 BMW M235i is technically an example of the latter, but take a turn behind the wheel and the hairsplitting between what is and isn’t an M car quickly disappears. The 2014 BMW M235i drives like an M car, through and through.

The 2014 BMW M235i is much more than merely the six-cylinder version of the new 2 Series coupe. Besides BMW’s familiar 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six -- here making an extra-spicy 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque -- the M235i includes M adaptive suspension, M sport brakes, variable sport steering, and ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Just as important, the M235i exhibits the kind of focus that is too often missing from modern BMWs that try to please an ever-wider audience.

Yes, BMW’s drive mode selector is present, but the difference between the default Comfort mode and Sport is thankfully quite narrow -- good thing since the car returns to Comfort mode with each engine start. No matter the mode, the 2014 BMW M235i turns like an M car, with meaty, direct, responsive steering. It handles like an M car, its body motions tightly coiled (although suffering a bit too much rebound), its turn-in energetic, and its cornering secure but with rear-wheel-drive attitude available to the brave. It also goes like an M car. BMW’s advertised 4.8-second 0-60 time -- with the eight-speed automatic -- seems awfully conservative the first time you boot the throttle of the sweet-sounding, free-revving six and experience the instantaneous sling-shot acceleration. (A six-speed stick adds a couple tenths to that 0-60 time as the cost of its extra purity.)

The only downside, really, is that the M235i is also priced like an M car. The base sticker of the 2014 BMW M235i is $44,025, and my test example topped the $50,000 mark. At that price, one might wonder: Why not just get a 435i (for $47,050)? But the 435i isn’t just larger, it’s a very different car -- more relaxed, more comfortable, more luxurious. The M235i may be expensive for a small BMW, but it’s something more -- a highly focused, high-performance driving machine. And besides, when were M cars ever cheap?

2014 BMW M235i Specifications

Base price$44,025 (with destination)

Price as tested$50,675

Engine3.0L I-6 turbo

Power320 hp

Torque330 lb-ft

Transmission8-speed automatic


Fuel economy22/32 mpg (city/highway)

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