BMWBLOG goes to Las Vegas Speedway to test drive the new BMW M235i.
On The Track
Nailing the throttle exiting Turn 2, on to the back straight of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, I knew I was gonna get a good run on my top speed for the day aboard the new BMW M235i. The N55 Twin-Scroll single turbo which has been tweaked by BMW M engineers with a new program and larger cooling capacity, pulls like a son of a bitch even over 100 mph. By the end of the back straight on the 1.5 mile Nascar Tri-Oval, I hit an impressive 135 mph. Our day at the track, where we drove both the infield course and the 1.5 mile Tri-Oval with the BMW M235i, absolutely shredded any doubts I had about the first M Performance Automobile to come to the United States – the M235i.
The BMW M235i represents two firsts for BMW. It marks the birth of the 2 Series family of cars and introduces the U.S. customers to the first M performance Model. BMW is so sure of the M235i, they repeatedly reference it to the BMW 2002 iconic car, harkening back to the much beloved old small tossable two door. Therefore BMW has placed a very high level of expectations on the M235i. Speed comes fast with the M235i which has a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds and top speed limited at 155mph . The fuel consumption is 22 MPG city/32 MPG hwy for the automatic transmission and 19 MPG/29 MPG for the 6-speed manual. It comes with a very aggressive look and is packed with a huge bang for the buck performance.
But BMWs not only have to look good, they also have to handle like nothing else on the market, staying true to their Ultimate Driving Machine slogan. The adaptive M Sport Suspension lowers the M235i by 10mm, and has different springs and dampeners tuned specifically for the M235i. This suspension set up delivers a very firm but not harsh ride. Aiding the handling of the 3,500 lbs M235i is a weight balance of 51 % front and 49% rear. On the infield road course, it had some noticeable bodyroll but not bad. But more when compared to my 1 Series M Coupe. Seating position int the M235i definitely feels lower than the outgoing 1 Series.
The M235i comes with the Electric Power Steering (EPS) and I was a bit concerned about this new setup having driven some pretty poor EPS units before. At city speeds it clearly feels boosted to make turning into a tight parking spot easier with the leather wrapped 3-spoke M Sport Steering wheel. However, a funny thing happened on the track at over 100 mph. I found that the steering actually tightened up and became more direct. Pointing the M235i down to the apex on the Tri-Oval, the car would head there very accurately and rewards the driver with a well weighted feeling in the steering wheel. Even if you don’t drive the M235i on the track at those speeds, there is a definite speed sensitive component to the steering and BMW has done a nice job with this Variable Sport Steering.
In my opinion is their best Electric Power Steering (EPS) unit to date.
On The Road
In addition to our time on the track, we took the M235i on the freeway where we caught an enthusiastic BMW owner driving a sweet white F30 335i who gave us huge thumbs up. Overtaking traffic with the M235i is a piece of cake as the M235i generates maximum torque way down low at just 1,400 rpm. Eventually we turned back towards the track and went right up Las Vegas Boulevard with its sea of cars, people and traffic lights. Even at this relaxed pace, the M235i a very comfortable car.
The M235i we drove on the freeway and through Downtown Las Vegas had the iDrive Nav system with touchpad. Though there is no Head-Up display available in the 2 Series, the instrument cluster displays upcoming turns and distances. The rest of the cabin tech was standard BMW fare with BMW apps, Bluetooth and Real Time Traffic Information. Our tester did have an iPhone cradle in it, but it was an iPhone 4 hook up, not a lightning adapter. I did ask Eric Sargent, BMW NA Technology manager about this and he said that it was going to be available soon if it wasn’t already.
BMW M235i comes with Double Spoke (Style 436M) 18” wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Super Sports – 18/225/40 front and 18/245/35 rears. This is, to my knowledge, the first time BMW has offered non-run flats on anything other than an M car in a long time. I love these tires, and exploring the grip of these on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was a complete blast. They have a nice turn in on the corner and when you are rolling on the throttle exiting a turn the rears hook up nicely. The tires will howl a bit, helping communicate when you are approaching the Super Sports tire’s adhesion limit.
The one performance aspect of the M235i that is missing is a Limited Slip Differential. Yes, yes, you can get one through the Performance Catalogue to install after you buy your M235i. I’ve changed differentials in BMW cars with and without a lift, and it’s not that hard of a DIY but it’s messy. BMW ought to at least make this an option for customer ordered cars.
Why is a LSD such a big deal? Every M car has one. It helps you put the power down coming out of a corner. You can either shift power to the outside wheel with an LSD or electronically brake the inside wheel. This aside, however, BMW has done an amazing job on the handling and the electronically braking differential getting the power down. For those that don’t ever autocross or go on a track, you wont miss it, but for those of us that do, at least we have the Performance Catalogue option.
Geared Towards BMW Enthusiasts
Can the new M235i be the next enthusiast BMW cult car? Time will tell, but the M235i has all the attributes. It’s a great looking car with athletic stance and the performance to back it up. I am sure that BMW CCA members are going to flog this thing at track and autocross. The M235i represents the first M Performance model brought to the U.S. market. If they are all this good, I hope we can see more on this side of the pond. BMW didn’t have any six-speed manuals for us to test at the track, so hopefully we’ll get a review of one soon after they become available.
The MSRP is $44,025 and it goes on sale beginning March 2014.