Matt Greenop tests BMW's 2 Series on Tasmania's twisty and entertaining country roads
BMW has added another number to its ever-growing list of nameplates - this time it's the 2 Series.
This blossoming range is a bit of smoke and mirrors really, but while BMW splits other models to make up the numbers, there are brand-spanking new vehicles being added left and right as well.
This is essentially the new take on the 1 Series coupe, with that badge now focused on hatches. For those who have been a bit puzzled by this headlong plunge into the maths books, it even proved a bit confusing for a couple of BMW bods on this week's launch of the pair of 2 Series models that will be going on sale here.
While some overseas territories will be seeing this in all-wheel drive from, New Zealand is only taking the two - turning down the 220 diesel - and taking the 220i petrol and a new M-Performance model, the M235i.
Now, at the risk of further muddling an already puzzling situation, this is a bunch of tweaks with some M-bits, rather than a full-house "M" car like the M3, M5 etc, and the 1M Coupe.
There is, of course, the M135i, based on the five-door 1 Series hatch, but that, too, is a tarted-up machine rather than the road-and-track madness of a full M. Phew.
BMW focused on comparisons with 1 Series for obvious reasons, with Coupe replacing the older model, although growing up a bit and getting more spec in the process.
The 220i is going to be the volume seller here in the long run, according to BMW - with a jump-in price of $71,700 and a sweet spec that includes BMW's Sportline trim package, 18-inch rims, bi-xenon headlines and a high-end navigation system.
Under the bonnet lives a two-litre turbo four cylinder that uses direct injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger to produce 135kW/270Nm and accelerate from 0-100km/h in 7.0 seconds. The baby Coupe consumes just 6.0L/100km combined and meets the EU6 emissions spec with just 139g of CO2 per kilometre.
Both use BMW's slick eight-speed transmission, although the M235i can be ordered with a six-speed manual gearbox, which knocks $3100 off its $104,800 price tag.
Matt Greenop attends the launch of the BMW 2-Series Coupe in Tasmania
The gap between the pricing of the two cars is significant, but so is the difference in performance, with the angry M235i capable of hitting the 100km/h from standstill in just 4.8 seconds, using its launch control system. The straight six also relies on a twin-scroll turbo for its wallop, making an impressive 240kW - more than the same engine in both the 3 Series and 4 Series models, and justifying the M designation.
The 220i will be available in the coming few weeks, while those wanting the stauncher looks, more serious performance potential and higher specification of the M235i will have to wait until the third quarter of this year.
On top of the sporty M trim touches, the 235i also gets leather interior, blue four-pot brake calipers, adaptive suspension that can drop the car 10mm closer to the ground and BMW's clever variable sports steering which reduces the rack ratio to allow more direct steering when it's set on performance modes. There's also a higher-specification audio system and rear view camera standard.
The car is bigger than the outgoing 135i - 72mm longer, 26mm wider and with an extra 30mm wheelbase, giving a bigger serve of rear seat legroom, 6mm more headroom and a bump up in bootspace. It weighs in at about 1400kg, depending on model, thanks to the use of lighter structural materials.
The car's media launch event was held on the wild and woolly roads of Aussie's much-maligned southernmost state. This suited the Kiwis as like New Zealand, Tasmania has twisty and entertaining country roads - and a lot of them. And although we do a great line in poor road maintenance, Tasmania has elevated it into an art form with some potholed back blocks roads requiring careful line selection to avoid being redirected into trees - add to that the island's abundance of very brave (or very stupid) wildlife and it becomes fairly risky business.
The interior of the all-new BMW 2 Series, that has just been launched in Australia.
We drove both versions of the car on a long road route that took in more country lanes than big motorways, which showed just how well set-up the car is to handle quick driving on tight roads - it's less twitchy than its 1 Series ancestor because of the wider track and longer wheelbase, but the whopping serve of power and torque from the M235i means getting traction down can be a bit of an exercise.
The diesel-powered 220d that's being sold in Aussie was given a quick pedal for the sake of curiosity more than anything, and while it's a very able little oil burner the decision not to bring it to New Zealand was almost certainly the right one. The heavier donk had a tendency to bounce the rear end around when driving quickly, and although it's a very good car, the jump up to the 3 Series diesels would make more sense for most buyers, and those who favour smaller machines can get into the sharply-priced 1 Series hatch.
After experiencing the cars on public roads, we headed to the quaint and weird little Baskerville Raceway to put the licence-risking potential of the M235i through its paces. The circuit has significant elevation changes, long double apex corners and a surface that makes Pukekohe Park look like a Formula One track.
Again the power of the car set the traction control light strobing fairly regularly, but either dialling in its Sport+ setting with less invasive stability systems or being ever so slightly more subtle on the accelerator did the trick. It's a brilliantly balanced two-door, with 50/50 weight distribution that does make it ultimately drivable on the throttle, which is fine on the track, but, not surprisingly, frowned upon on public roads.
It's a stoppy performer with heaps of personality and is definitely rewarding and engaging no matter how hard it's pushed. Calmer settings do dial its aggression back a lot, but like most things that have an M badge, or better still are belting M cars, it does tend to bring out the frustrated race driver in you.
Driven Editor Matt Greenop attended the launch of the BMW 2-Series Coupe in Tasmania
It will be facing off the Mercedes-Benz A45s as well as Audi's S and RS models - and in a blatant swing at the competition, BMW Australia boss Phil Horton was quick to point out that its rear-drive configuration was the only way to truly deliver a genuine drivers' car.