SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: Autoweek's car-notes files -- which we keep for later conversion into drive reviews such as the one you are reading now -- include a line at the top that reads, “Reason why this vehicle is here”:
This generally refers to the type of story or project a given vehicle has arrived in the fleet to serve -- call it inside baseball “for internal use only” -- but in the case of the 2014 BMW M235i, it's a question more apropos on a grander scale.
This car stops me from analyzing BMW's newish, convoluted naming conventions, and prevents me from climbing down the oh-so-tired rabbit hole of debate over niche market segments, etc. Reason why it's here? Because it's a hell of a lot of fun, and the enthusiast world needs cars like this. Yeah, that's why.
Though this is an M-Performance model as opposed to a full-on M-division development, in many ways I prefer it to the old 1M. Yes, the M235i is down on horsepower (15) and, insignificantly, torque (2 lb-ft), and it doesn't run a full-on M3/M4-style suspension. But without yet having driven it on a closed circuit, I offer that it loses almost none of the fun while providing noticeably improved comfort and practicality. The 235i is still a reasonably small coupe, but is not a micro-machine as the old 1-series models were. Length increases 2.8 inches, width grows 1.3 inches, and the wheelbase increases 1.2 inches. Front and rear track each increase by more than 1.5 inches.
The result, especially if you stand more than 6 feet tall as I do, is a far-less-cramped cockpit and an ability to chauffer actual adults in the rear seats -- perhaps not for hours-long road trips, but elves no longer necessarily top the list of eligible passengers.
BMW's turbocharged straight-six is a gem of an engine, with a tiny bit of lagging throttle response at low revs my only nit, but it's easy to solve by simply keeping your foot planted fully. There's no dual-clutch gearbox offered here, but the ZF eight-speed does a fine job in both automatic and manual modes. Just for grins, I found myself leaving the car's overall dynamic settings in sport-plus, which holds onto higher revs and frees up the aggressive-sounding exhaust, but I tended to tire of shifting manually via the paddles and ended up letting the software do the work for me. That's somewhat unusual in my case, as I like to shift myself just for banal entertainment, but this transmission and its calibration works just fine either way. Inevitable whining will follow, I'm sure, that no DCT is available in the M235i, but I find it a nonissue.
In sport-plus, the steering is at its BMW best, turn-in is solid and precise, and while the expected handling balance is there, the improved ride quality stands out as a hallmark. Not only is this an ace corner-carver like its predecessor, the M235i is also a comfortable cruiser with far less impact felt from bumps and breaks in the road. In terms of absolute, top-level balls-out pure driving sensation, the old 1M still holds the trophy, but not by enough to keep me from choosing this new offering as my overall favorite between the two. And after experiencing what the M235i has to offer, I suspect the M2 will snatch that crown immediately when it arrives -- but since that is apparently at least two years away, there is plenty of reason to afford serious regard to the M235i right now.
The 2014 BMW M235i Coupe comes in at a base price of $44,025 with our tester topping off at $46,575.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Yeah, Mac pretty much nailed it. It's better in all the right ways than the 135i and even the 1M, which was a hell of a lot of fun.
Power and throttle response are great from the turbo I6. This car does not need any more power, which is why I'm intrigued about an M2. This M235i is the definition of point and shoot. There is a tiny bit of lag, but I'm not even sure that has to do with the turbos. I think it's partly the automatic trans getting into gear smoothly when you floor it.
The exhaust sounds great at almost any rpm. Sport mode seems to open it up a bit, and the little burps in between gears always get me.
This eight-speed trans is perfect. If regular automatics would have been this good 10 years ago, we would have never needed a double-clutch.
The paddles are fun to play with, but with eight-speeds, it's easier just to let the computer handle it. I still would love to drive this car with a six-speed manual, in anger, on the track, even though the last BMW six-speed I tested was a little disappointing.
It's funny how we get cars equipped out with options to the stratosphere, and complain about how we want purity, but then I get in this and my first thought was, “No navigation!? What the heck!?” It already has the screen. If I were buying this, I'd get the maps.
The seats are easy to get into the right position, but they are just not super comfortable. They're no Mercedes or Lexus seats. That's for sure. They are supportive, though, and maybe a driver would be thankful for that when neck-deep in an apex. And if any adults are in the back, it better be short trip.
I just looked at the specs on the well-equipped 435i we had in the office recently and it's about 10 grand more. You get a lot more car for that 20 percent bump, and the 4-series is just gorgeous now. Ten grand spread over a five year loan, with interest? What's that, like 50 bucks a month? Splurge.
The 2014 BMW M235i Coupe is equipped with a 3.0-liter turbocharged I6.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: What do we like here? Well, the chassis feels great, really sharp. The car feels solid when changing direction, just like a BMW. I really love the engine, and I've felt it's been let down by some of the other BMW's I've driven lately. Not here. The 3.0-liter and its turbos leave little to be desired in the power department, though I'd probably have preferred a louder exhaust because I'm a child.
The transmission was a bit of a puzzler for me. Once it's up to speed, it does a fine job of finding and keeping the right gear, but at low speeds and from stops, the trans can make the car seem a little floppy and sad, which it definitely isn't. I'll never get used to hearing a torque-converter in a car like this, no matter how much mindless fast-going it enables.
The interior has been classed-up some, but there's still something that's weirdly incongruous about it. It's not materials, it's not necessarily the way it's all arranged, but lately, BMW interior stuff has seemed less-special than what you get for the money in cars made by its competitors. Don't get me wrong, it's really comfortable and everything works, it just doesn't feel like an expensive car to me for some reason. And there's no excuse for selling a car like this, with a screen on the dash, without navigation.
Gripes aside, I'd feel no compunction about recommending this car to an enthusiast friend who was dead-set on a German performance car, so long as he agreed to spec it with the six-speed manual.
The 3.0-liter in the 2014 BMW M235i Coupe pushes out 320 hp with 330 lb-ft of torque.
2014 BMW M235i Coupe
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: This 2014 BMW M235i is another car my impression of which was transformed by more spirited driving. At first I felt the controls were overboosted and a cheap way to give a sense of performance by simply exaggerating everything you could possibly feel while driving: the steering darted back and forth, the throttle darn near wheelied the car whenever your foot got near it and the brakes were touchy. This impression remained through more than 300 miles of city driving, mostly on straight, crowded highways in the Bay Area. Even in sporty cars, I prefer that these controls respond progressively to inputs instead of leaping to it so immediately. I want them to be linear, if that's the same term engineers would use for it. I want controls to react more the more input I provide. I don't want them to artificially increase that input, at least not noticeably so. If I barely touch the throttle, I want to barely move forward. Barely touch the brakes, barely decrease speed. Move the wheel an inch, slight change in direction of the car. More input, more response. Thus, after those 300 miles of awful freeway driving I was ready to dismiss this car entirely and long for earlier versions of M3s, 318tis and just plain old 3-series.
Then, toward the end of my loan, I took it over some very twisty Northern California back roads and really hammered on it -- paddle-shifting up and down through the eight-speed gearbox, braking smoothly into corners then easing just as smoothly onto the ample throttle. Lather, rinse, repeat for a couple hours. Here, where I was not confined by traffic or dull, crowded freeway straights, or both, the car felt in its element: powerful, responsive, taut and fun. Its relatively small size and short wheelbase made for perfect slotting through the tight, narrow corners through which I drove it, threading every curve with plenty in reserve to react when an out-of-control tourist wailed around the oncoming corner over the double yellow line. Here its 50/50 balance shone through. The grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sports never flinched. BMW quotes a 0-62-mph time of 4.8 seconds, which felt a bit conservative during my drive.
Sticker price on my test car in California is a whopping $44,025, a sum which would allow you to get all kinds of sporty cars. Consider the Cadillac CTS Coupe, Infiniti Q60 Coupe, Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupe or Volvo S60 T6 R-Design. While this is really only set up to compete directly against the European Audi S3, which we don't get on our shores yet, you could arguably choose an Audi A3 with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and six-speed dual-clutch sequential for $10K less; front-drivers like the Audi A3 Mini Cooper JCWfor 15 grand less; Volkswagen Golf R with a 2.0-liter turbo four and six-speed manual for eight grand or so less. Maybe that latter group doesn't have the prestige some buyers desperately crave, but they're each fun and you can console yourself with the money you saved.
Even though it has an M in the title, this BMW is not a true M, it's an M Performance Automobile, the first such beast sold in America. M Performance means it gets “M-specific chassis tuning which, for the U.S. will include standard M Adaptive suspension, M Sport Braking system, variable sport steering and Michelin Pilot Super Sports tires.” Even the exhaust has been specifically tuned for the M235i. It also gets the 320-hp twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-liter straight six instead of the 228i's 240-hp 2.0-liter turbo four. So it has a lot going for it.
Ultimately, it's more fun the harder you push it. Around town it's considerably less in its element. I suggest building a racetrack on your property and getting one.
Base Price: $44,025
As-Tested Price: $46,575
Drivetrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged I6; RWD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 320 hp @ 5,800-6,000 rpm, 330 lb-ft @ 1,400-4,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,535 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 22/32/25 mpg
Article Source: this factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.