Driving Superman’s Car – A BMW M235i xDrive Convertible

Test Drives | February 28th, 2016 by 8
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The digital and traditional automotive media outlets, enthusiasts and hardcore fans alike are raving about the new BMW M2. Everyone’s attention is laser focused on …

The digital and traditional automotive media outlets, enthusiasts and hardcore fans alike are raving about the new BMW M2. Everyone’s attention is laser focused on it, and if you listen closely you can hear the collective checkbooks opening simultaneously with folks ready to sign on the dotted line.

What you may not know is that if you stopped reading right now, like right now, and went to your nearest BMW dealership and proudly declared you wanted to purchase an M2, you’re bubble of joy would likely be burst when you’d hear how long the wait time is. Yes, there are a lot of factors that come into play when you’re looking at securing an allocation for your build, but the M2 is hot and everyone knows it.

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Unfortunately, hot vehicles also don’t come with hot incentives. Supply and demand dictates that, when something is in high demand, the individual/company that is selling this product has no reason what-so-ever to offer enticing rebates to people like you and I in order to sway us and subsequently our checkbooks to come in and purchase. When something is hot, you charge what you want because you know they’ll buy it.

So knowing I’d have to wait 12, 18, even 24 months depending on my luck to get an M2, I thought, what else is there that would tick most, if not all of the awesome boxes? And I don’t mean in a year or two. I mean today. Like right now. Answer: M235i.

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We at BMWBLOG have lauded the merits of the M235i in the past. Car & Driver recently awarded it a spot in its 2015 10 Best Cars category. So generally speaking, everyone believes it’s a fantastic little car that has the special sauce to get you believing in that magic BMW formula of yore. Everyone except me. I didn’t get a chance to drive it, review it or even see it up close, until today.

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Alarm goes off, it’s 7:00am. I have an appointment with the New Car Sales Manager over at BMW Seattle, Adam Newbold at 8:30am. I arrive at the dealership early. I walk in and start wandering around because why not? Let me just pause and say the building looks fantastic. Glass and steel everywhere, multiple floors housing gorgeous models spanning all series.

I make my way downstairs to see what’s what, when I spot three M4’s, one i8 and two M6’s, one of which is a Competition edition. Whatever option or performance part you can think of, this M6 has it, including the M stripe livery which made it look as though this car would not seem out of place on the starting grid of an F1 race as the safety car. I mean it. See the pictures in the gallery below.

After I compose myself, I spot two M5’s in the nearby underground garage where their used models are housed. A Moonstone Metallic and an Alpine White. Side-note, the used models are located in the underground portion of the building. This space is insulated and as a result is very quiet, which makes for a very calming, surreal- like experience because you can walk about in silence, protected from the elements (it was raining outside) and admire cars in peace and quiet.

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Alas, 8:30am arrived and I am now ready to drive a fully equipped M235i xDrive Convertible in place of the less expensive rear-wheel drive solid roof variant. I’m handed the keys and Adam says “the Superman M235 is just outside.” Why Superman? Because of the Estoril Blue exterior color and the Coral Red interior leather of course.

Here is the specs list:

  • Estoril Blue Metallic – $550.00
  • Coral Red Leather – $1,500.00
  • Cold Weather Package – $700.00
  • Driver Assistance Package – $950.00
  • Driver Assistance Plus – $700.00
  • Technology Package – $1,950.00
  • Parking Assistant – $500.00
  • Harman/Kardon Premium System – $875.00
  • Black Kidney Grilles – $220.00
  • Wheel Locks – $160.00
  • Destination Charge – $995.00

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The 2016 M235i xDrive Convertible starts at $50,750 so if you take out the $995 destination charge this vehicle is equipped with around $8,000 in options putting its total cost at $59,900.00 just a hair under $60k. After a quick check on the car Adam and I shake hands and I was off in the Superman M235i.

I have a whole day to spend with this beautiful blue beast, and I start by exploring Seattle and some of its iconic sights so I can see what it’s like to drive around town.

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As I wander around the city, mindful of the one-way streets, construction zones and massive potholes, I notice the cabin is pretty quiet. No shakes or rattles to be heard anywhere. True, the car has less than 100 miles on its odometer, but still, convertibles sometimes make weird noises. What I do immediately pick up on is how quickly the car reacts to my commands. No delay, no hesitation.

I stop by the Seattle Public Library, Space Needle, EMP, Alki Beach and various other spots to snap some photos of the car in the wild. Estoril Blue as it turns out, is quite a head-turner of a color. It’s not very shy, so if you’re the sort that likes to blend in and be a bit more muted, then this is not the color you’re looking for. But, if you like strong punchy colors and enjoy the attention, look no further!

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By now it’s getting close to lunch so I decide to leave Seattle and head for Kirkland, the city that Costco calls home and the place where all the “Kirkland Signature” seals are born. Now you know. If you don’t find that funny, then know that Kirkland used to be home base for 343 Industries, the keepers of the Halo first person shooter franchise. If you don’t find that interesting then know that most people think Transylvania is a country, when in fact it’s a region located inside the country of Romania. Moving along amicably.

I head towards the I-90 expressway that will have me traversing the floating bridge as well as passing in and out of long orange-lit tunnels. I figure this will make me feel awesome, and also give me a chance to listen to the glorious N55 turbocharged 3-liter straight 6 which pumps out 320 ponies.

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Exiting the city and picking up speed, I realize I’m in Comfort Mode. I’m doing the speed limit, so I figure I take it up a notch and switch the car into Sport Mode. I’m immediately more aware of the faster throttle response, the sharper suspension tuning but above all, the exhaust note. This car just went from “it’s nice, isn’t it?” to “ok, I believe it was snoozing but now I may have accidentally poked it with a stick and it’s awake, and pissed.” Yes I know there’s audio being pumped into the cabin via the speakers to artificially complement the actual exhaust note, but I wasn’t actually able to tell the difference. And when I did a quick rear-view mirror check, I noticed the giant smile on my face, like the one you make when you thought you were out of rice crispy treats, but then you reach into the box to double check and you find 3 more.

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So what else does it do better now that it’s in Sport Mode? Well, everything. My current E92 is a manual, and I swear by the manuals, but I legitimately felt like Schumacher using the paddle shifters flying through the gears, which were lightning quick. No, it’s not a DCT, but the 8-speed auto in this car doesn’t mess around. The sound, the shifts, the suspension, the fat M steering wheel, the blue hood, the red interior, the aluminum hexagon trim and the super supportive seats took my previously mentioned smile and turned it into a massive grin that stayed on my face until I reached Kirkland.

I realize I made good time driving into Kirkland, so I decide to park the car by the waterfront and take some additional photos with the Superman M235i using Lake Washington as the backdrop. Lucky for me, the sun decided to make an appearance and so I dropped the top and revealed its red interior to the world. What a contrast. Punchy blue exterior, brick red interior, black and silver bits to complement the rest of the cabin. I shouldn’t like this color combo. I’m a pretty conservative guy. My last 3 BMWs all had black interiors, aluminum trim and were, in order, Steel Blue, Steel Grey and Space Grey Metallic.

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As I’m getting ready to take a few more pictures by the waterfront, a 2005’ish Acura RSX in white with a giant wing (because as we all know, downforce on the rear wheels is good on a front-wheel drive car) and a massive Greddy exhaust strolls on by. Owner in his late 20’s rolls down his window, puts it in neutral, revs to grab my attention then gives me a thumbs down. Proof that classy folks may have issue with the Superman color combo. Haters gonna hate.

Regardless, it’s time for lunch.

I park in front of Hector’s, sit down, order my food and I keep looking at the car. “I’m not supposed to like it, I think, but I really like it.” I’m not debating whether I like the car as far as how it handles and behaves mind you. I’m still stuck on the color combination. By the time my eggs benedict arrive however, I come to the conclusion that this little car (which BMW has worked very hard to associate with and tie to the old school 2002) is so much fun to drive, is so full of life and reacts so quickly that for me, in this exact moment, I feel Superman suits it perfectly. And if worse comes to worse, the color palette is always there to pick and choose more conservative combinations should you share the same feelings as our previously mentioned Acura driver.

Lunch is over. I get into the car and go from Sport Mode into Eco Pro Mode. No, I don’t do this because I’m now full and feel lethargic and slow because I ate too much. I do this because I want to see how the car behaves in this mode.

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Driving by the Kirkland waterfront again with the top down, Eco Pro Mode on, sun shining, I forget that I’m behind the wheel of a Bavarian beast. Throttle response is slow but meaningful. Exhaust notes, both mechanical and artificial are noticeably muted. I bet I could totally drive Miss Daisy, provided she didn’t mind sitting in the rather small rear seats.

A lot of people talk about the M5 and how it has a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. Or that of a world-class athlete in a pinstripe suit. I’d describe my impression of the M235i like I’d describe a cheesecake. Yes, a cheesecake.

Your crust, that which you usually see the least of, is your Eco Pro Mode. Every now and then you’ll turn it on because maybe you’re on a very long and boring road and you’ve already had your fun for the day, so you’re just cruising, conserving some fuel and taking it easy. You will not spend a lot of time in this mode, because let’s face it, you’re not reading this article because you want to own a fast car so you can drive it slow and conserve fuel.

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Your main layer where most of the composition lies will be in Comfort Mode. Like I said, I started my review in Comfort Mode and I thought the car was quick and fun and easy to handle be it around town or on the highway. This is where you’ll be spending the bulk of your time.

The topping, be it strawberries, whipped cream or what have you is your Sport and Sport + Mode. It’s what gives this car the magic kick which transforms it and takes it from Driving Miss Daisy (Eco Pro Mode) through Law & Order (Comfort Mode) which is something that’s playing every day, can dispense justice at a moments notice but keeps cool, calm and collected, to Mad Max Fury Road (Sport Mode) where you pretty much feel like you’re unbeatable.

Ok, I’m done with the food and entertainment analogies.

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I leave Kirkland and head back towards Seattle, this time in Sport + Mode. The sound the exhaust makes under heavy acceleration is intoxicatingly good and addictive, so I had to contain myself from mashing the loud pedal too often while driving through the tunnels. Steering felt good, and it’s been said before but I believe the Electric Power Steering in the M235i is the best I’ve seen to date. Agile and light in the city, tighter and more direct at higher speeds. Cabin feels clean and purposeful and the seats were very supportive and highly adjustable.

A feature that I do wish was offered as an option is the Head-Up Display. This would help when flying through the gears as there were moments where I thought I dropped down to 4th when in reality I was either in 5th or 6th (remember, 8 gears folks). I won’t bring up MPGs, 0-60 times or track data because Chuck did a fantastic job on his review of the coupe.

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Before I head back to BMW Seattle I decide to stop by the historical Pike Place Market. There I know I’ll find lots of people and lots of shops and hopefully a good parking spot for another photo session. Once I arrive I spot a prime parking area right next to the iconic Public Market Center. I step out of the car and cross the crowded street to take some distance shots, but this turns out to be more difficult than it sounds. As it were, everyone wants to take a picture by the sign, holding a Starbucks coffee, sitting next to and posing with a brand new BMW M235i equipped in Superman livery.

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Naturally people notice me not moving, but waiting for them to move away from the car so I can take some shots. “Nice car!” said a man, who looked like he just bought some fish from the Pike Place Fish Market. “Thanks. I’m actually borrowing it so I can take some pictures and write about it.” This, judging by his expression, confused him. I need to make myself some sort of “Press” badge to wear at all times so when I say things like that people don’t think I’m just a guy driving around everywhere, parking my car and taking pictures of it every few miles or so.

After chatting with some other folks about the car, I slowly make my way out of the madness and back onto steep Seattle streets.

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As I drive away I think about the interactions I just had with the people there. I think about the Acura guy, I think about the cheesecake, about Driving Miss Daisy and being Mad Max. I think about how much fun I had driving this car and how good it looks. Then I think about how much my current car is actually worth, and wonder if it knows that I’m cheating on it with a much younger, faster and more powerful vehicle.

And that’s just it. The M235i xDrive Convertible is here, now, ready and available. Yes people will be looking at the M2, but you can’t have it now, and you can’t have the incentives and promotions that the M235i has. All I know is I had a blast and walking up to it in Superman livery made me smile even more because this small little car really is a joy to drive. Naturally, you can tone down the colors and options to suit your preferences.

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The point is this is available, the car is aces, incentives exist and you have a huge palette to play with starting with the base Coupe solid roof rear-wheel drive version at $44k and going all the way up to $60k for the all-options Convertible xDrive. Note that we don’t yet have an official MSRP on the M2 but it’s expected to be around the $53k mark. Also, if you enjoy the air running through your hair on your spirited drives, note that the M2 is not expected to come in a Convertible variant.

The sun is setting behind me as I pull into the BMW Seattle parking lot. I take one last final set of photos and I hand the keys over to Adam. He asks me if I had fun, to which I reply with “how many of these do you have in stock?” He laughs and says “we have a few.”

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