The days spent driving the new BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe proved me that size doesn’t matter. They also proved that you don’t always need a rear-wheel traction to have fun. To properly test the new M235i xDrive Gran Coupe, I headed over to one of the most spectacular and scenic roads in Europe: the Transfagarasan.
The famous alpine road is only open 4 months a year, offering spectacular views and dozens of tight corners. It was once dubbed by TopGear as one of the best driving roads in the world.
The Flashy Snapper Rocks Blue
The BMW M235i xDrive test car was finished in a stunning Snapper Rocks Blue metallic color. Together with the usual Cerium Grey exterior accents for the low-end M models, it really gives the M235i a powerful and sporty appearance. Furthermore, as this specific model was due to serve as Safety Car during an internal racing competition, the M235i was also specced with a series of M stripes and Safety Car decals.
All in all, the exterior paintwork and the special Safety Car livery made the Gran Coupe an instant attraction for other drivers and passers-by. It is really hard to go unnoticed in such a car, especially when it’s dressed the part.
The burnished black 19″ alloys, equipped with race tires, further made a striking contrast with the Snapper Rocks Blue paint finish. But it all came with a compromise: such rubber provides less comfort than conventional ones.
A Simple, Yet Effective Interior
The test car was adorned with all the latest technology, along with the complete and professional digital operating system. There were also the typical race seats with integrated head rests and covered in the Trigon cloth/Sensatec leather combination with blue accents and contrast stitching.
For short runs, the seats are decent in terms of comfort, but for longer trips, the firm lateral support can be a bit tiring. Yet, they are as charming as they can get when you outrageously drive the M235i on the fast and sinuous curves of the Transfagarasan.
In terms of dashboard adornments, the car was specced with the Illuminated Boston trims. The M235i logo stands proudly in the digital instrument cluster and can also be found on the door sills.
Is Front-Wheel Drive Good Enough?
Aside from the psychedelic paintwork, the BMW M235i xDrive comes with a satisfying exhaust sound. BMW fitted under the hood their high performance 2.0-liter, four-pot turbocharged engine. The petrol unit boasts a peak output of 225 kW / 306 PS (302 hp). The maximum torque of 450 Nm (332 lb-ft) is available from as low as 1,750 rpm and sustained vividly up to 4,500 rpm.
The response of the turbo is harmonious, with no sense of lag. Touch the gas pedal and you will unleash a load of furious horses. The maximum output of 225 kW is achieved in the high rev range between 5,000 rpm and the red line at 6,250 rpm, when the engine already screams out pretty loud.
The straight-four B48 gasoline powerplant is the kind of engine that’s always there when you need it. It acts and reacts almost in an outrageous, but controllable manner. It’s certainly surprising how engaging a 2.0-liter unit can be.
Of course, don’t factor in the consumption. The fuel tank of just 50 liters and the impressive output take their toll on the engine, which is quite thirsty: 12.9 – 13.0 l/100 km in urban area, up to 6.9 l/100 km outside on highways and national roads.
On the upwards leg of my trip on Transfagarasan, before reaching the alpine area, the trip computer showed 8.3 l/100 km after the frantic road climb. This is nowhere near the 5.8 l/100 km achieved in the tried-and-tested 220d version. You get it: I needed to refuel in order to arrive home safely.
But, again here we are talking 306 PS and a different road profile with steeper and more sinuous curves. Together with the spectacular scenery, the level of fun was guaranteed.
The M235i xDrive Gran Coupe offers an immense dynamic potential. I drove the car with pure passion, like a mad car enthusiast or like in a kid on the Christmas day.
The electrically-assisted steering is sharp and precise in its response, contrary to some expectations. The traction and stability are also strong points of the whole xDrive chassis, offering both the desired balance between safety and high-end agility.
As part of the M Performance package, the M235i xDrive is also equipped with the high-performance M brakes, which another crucial ingredient that supports the driver when the car is pushed to its upper limits.
The power delivery is sometimes brutal, more-so when slamming the gas pedal. This is of particular use when going through a series of fast, steep corners or during fulminant overtaking.
The sport tires may not be very comfortable overall, but on the Transfagarasan, they provided me additional grip on the not-so-convenient tarmac, that was deteriorated in some places.
Not once have I lost track adherence and the driving assistance systems worked in perfect harmony with my spirited driving style. At all times, during the journey, I felt in complete safety.
Together with the other technical ingredient, the stiffer M adaptive suspension ensured an adequate level of stability. Of course, if the road went bumpy, the absorption of the imperfections was less cohesive, at least in SPORT mode.
The M235i xDrive Gran Coupe may be nowhere near the rear-driven M2, but it still manages a good performance. The brilliant xDrive certainly makes it a better. It also makes us somewhat forget that we are dealing with a FWD car.
Yet, some BMW die hard fans don’t consider the M235i worthy of the M badge. But what if the M235i xDrive Gran Coupe is like a hidden gem? It awaits explorers to discover its most intricate secrets.
Furthermore, you’d have to really drive the car to draw an unbiased conclusion. Even more, if some other variants of the F44 might be a bit expensive to afford, the M235i is actually an accessible high performance model compared to the M models from the upper echelon.
Would I buy one?
It is a tough question to answer since you have to balance in multiple factors. The BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe is a brilliantly engineered Bimmer, with some clear traits from the pure M siblings.
But it comes with certain compromises. The overall package is not as balanced as I would like it to be. The M235i offers a multi-faceted driving experience, but it is hard to see a clear, key attribute like in the case of the M2, for instance.
Yes, the dynamics are great, the engine is almost perfect, but the car is sometimes too “in your face”, too harsh and less refined.
Don’t get me wrong: it is a car with many strong qualities, but I, for one, would only keep it for weekend getaways on spectacular roads like Transfagarasan. For the rest of the days, the BMW 220d Gran Coupe is just plain perfect.