When the topic of enthusiast’s cars comes up, most people think of the same few cars. One of these cars is always the E30 BMW M3. It’s iconic for its impeccable driving dynamics and purity. With its naturally aspirated, high-revving engine and nimble handling, it’s the very definition of enthusiast’s car. But not many people think about BMWs of today, when such a topic arises. I think that’s a bit unfair, and I think there are enthusiast’s cars in the current Bavarian lineup. But one in particular comes to mind more than most.
There are actually quite a few, not just one, enthusiast’s cars that BMW currently makes. Any 2 Series, pretty much any 3 Series, the 4 Series, 6 Series and all M variants of them. They are all cars that car enthusiasts would enjoy. However, the one that stands out more than most, at least to me, is the M235i. It just seems to be the most focused on putting a smile on your face. The only real drawback to the M235i is the price, but let’s put that aside for right now and discuss what makes it the most true Enthusiast’s Car in BMW’s current lineup.
You can lie to your girlfriend about size all you want, but in the automotive world, size matter. But maybe opposite of what you may be thinking. Big cars are inherently less fun that small ones. Obviously not all big cars are dull, but generally speaking, a smaller car is more fun. The 2 Series is the perfectly sized coupe for today’s world. While much bigger than the previously mentioned E30, it’s small by today’s standards. It’s small enough to be nimble and light yet big enough to be comfortable and have all of the safety and luxury amenities we’ve come to expect from BMW. Enthusiast’s cars need to be able to be tossed around and stick the nose into corners. The M235i has that smallness necessary.
This may not seem that important, but it most definitely is in the eyes of enthusiasts. The Scion FR-S is a great driving car, but it doesn’t look like it. It looks boring. Cars need to excite you, to be an Enthusiast’s Car. They need to make you look back at it a couple of times as you walk away from it. You need to lust for it and desire driving it. The M235i is a great example of this. I has the sportiness and edginess to it, without looking overdone. It looks like a sports car, not like a pretender.
While enthusiasts may love Ferraris and Lamborghinis and all of those exotics, they aren’t usable everyday cars. To be a true Enthusiast’s Car, it needs to be able to be driven all the time. Whether that be carving up your favorite canyon roads or taking a trip to the grocery store, it needs to be able to do both. The M235i can do so, as it’s reasonably comfortable, has back seats (albeit small ones) and has a nice sized trunk. It’s a legitimate everyday car. But when it comes time to throw it through some twisty roads, it’ll do that too.
Any car, that wants to be considered an Enthusiast’s Car, needs to be fast. Not necessarily melt-your-face fast, but fast enough to entertain the driver. It needs to be exciting and able to burn at least some sports cars off the line. Power is something the M235i has a lot of, 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque to be exact. That’s a lot of horsepower for such a small car. While the M235i isn’t exactly a featherweight, weighing in at around 3,500 lbs, its 320 hp is more than enough to spring it to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, or as fast as a Ferrari 360. So yea, the M235i has power in spades and is plenty fast enough to excite. Imagine what the M2 will be like?
Any car fit for enthusiasts needs to be able to handle well. It’s the single most important factor of all, when determining an enthusiasts car. But when I say handling, I mean so much more than skidpad numbers and lateral g-force. Handling is as much about the intangibles as it is about facts and figures. It’s about the way the car feels in your hands. The M235i is definitely a competent handling car, but it’s not how fast it can lap Laguna Seca or how many Gs it pulls through bends. The M235i is a great handling car because it’s fun. It’s got fast turn-in with great response, it’s athletic and tossable and it just feels good to grab it by the scruff of the neck and throw it through corners. It’s an excellent dance partner, and it puts smiles on faces while doing it.
There are many BMWs that also have these qualities, but the M235i has them more so than the rest. It’s just such a fun car, a happy car, one that makes you want to take the long way home from work just to keep driving it. It’s the kind of car that can brighten a bad day. BMW makes many Enthusiast’s Cars, but to me, the M235i is the best of them.