The BMW 135is is a pretty special car – a culmination of the sub-compact (think Honda Civic sized) coupe BMW brought to the US market in 2008. And it has the truly good bits and pieces enthusiasts are looking for; high output turbocharged six cylinder engine, great brakes, available 7 speed double clutch gearbox, and enough electronic toys to keep an ADD geek occupied.
But the 135is is behind us now – we’re moving into a new model, the M235i. And it has a high output turbocharged six cylinder engine, an available Adaptive M suspension, and, as an accessory, a torque sensitive limited slip differential. What’s missing is the 7 speed double clutch gearbox option. In its place is the ubiquitous 8 speed ZF automatic with a set of special software that provides ‘Launch Control’ for the car. And of course, it comes with an M badge (straight from the factory – not a user add-on).
What the enthusiasts will gripe about, beyond the loss of the 7 speed gearbox option, is the adaptation of electrically-assisted power steering (EPS) that all of the non-M F code cars are receiving. Yes this is an M car – not a ‘complete’ M package, but the M engineers are involved in the drivetrain/chassis setups for this car. And, lest you think that only the M performance models of the mainstream lineup come with the EPS, understand that the new M3/M4 will also be equipped with EPS. And hopefully the tweaks made to the M3/M4 EPS will be applied to the M235i.
The griping will take the form of, “It isn’t a pure, manual, driving experience”. But to be truthful the last pure manual driving experience I had was from a 1930s Ford Model A. No hydraulic brakes, no synchros on a 3 speed manual, no hydraulic clutch, no power steering – and beyond the novelty, it does not have much to recommend it compared to the newer, less connected, driving experiences.
The M235i is longer, wider, and just a smidgen lower than the outgoing 135is. It has a bit of a wider track, utilizes an M sport braking system, has revised suspension kinematics, and goes 0-60 in under 5 seconds (for the 8 speed auto, the optional manual gearbox is slower to 60).
But, if you read the press release, you’ll notice that there is an increased reliance on electronics. The adaptive suspension has comfort, sport, sport +, and ECO PRO settings. And then there is the launch control with the 8 speed gearbox and a driving experience control to further adjust suspension setup.
The optional limited slip differential is a torque sensitive unit which means it will be similar to a Quaife, Torsen, or Truetrac unit. Not quite the full up M limited slip, but better than the ‘DSC off’ eDiff on the 1er.
The interior is much less stark than the E82 1er coupes. There is more ‘jewelry’ and content in the 2 series coupes interiors. And then there is the optional 8.8 screen in the IP when the navigation system box is checked. This will be a step up for 1 series owners.
The M235i should be a welcomed addition to the US market. While it’s not quite a full-on M, it serves as a bridge between the 228i and eventual M2. Of course, the world will see an optional diesel option (that we probably won’t see) which is a shame – many of us have been longing for a 123d option in the US. That the new M235i is not that much more expensive than the outgoing 135is is worth noting – as is the notion that once options/accessories are checked (and the M235i should have more optional content) the price could get out of hand. As always, your mileage may vary.