M who? BMW's M235i xDrive Gran Coupe tested
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BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe
Didn't get "those" kidney grilles
Extremely front bias all-wheel drive system
Overactive voice control
The rear end looks like an SUV
Performance badging in modern times is a funny thing, while some brands have managed to cling on to the integrity of hallowed badges, others have thrown them around in a questionable manner, resulting in more “line” cars than not.
Over in Europe, you’ve got the three German heavyweights, each with a performance line of its own. Mercedes has AMG, AUDI has the S/RS badges, and BMW has its famous M line. If I’m being completely honest, I’d argue that Audi is the only brand that has managed to balance these badges perfectly, and that’s not to say that BMW and Mercedes have gotten it wrong, but it’s just a little confusing.
When it comes to BMW’s vehicle roster, you’ve got three distinct line-ups. There are the regular cars, the M Performance cars, and the famous M cars.
Put like this, the difference is quite obvious, but when two out of three line-ups are wearing M badges, you can be forgiven for mistaking one for the other.
So based on this science, it’s clear that BMW’s new M235i xDrive Gran Coupe isn’t an M car, instead, it’s better to think of it as a hot hatch with a boot. Or a quick little sedan that’s based on a hatchback. Either works.
First and foremost, the M235i Gran Coupe is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four banger that makes a respectable 225kW and 450Nm of torque. This is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed Steptronic transmission allowing it to hit 100km/h in 4.8 seconds before topping out at an electronically-limited 250km/h. To its credit, it feels very quick, but unfortunately, you don’t feel much more behind the wheel.
Given that this M235i is based on BMW’s new front-wheel drive 1 Series platform, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that this feisty little number feels very front-driven, but it’s somewhat disappointing. I’d go as far to say that the most exciting aspect of flicking the car into sports mode is the red digital gauge cluster that appears behind the steering wheel.
Sure, a bit more of the cars exhaust note is pumped into the cabin through the speakers, the gear changes get sharper, the suspension stiffens up, but those front wheels are still doing the majority of the work. And that’s not to say that an all-wheel drive car has to be rear-bias to be fun, but it certainly adds to the theatrics.
Performance aside, the cabin of the M235i is exactly what you’d expect from an almost-$100K luxury coupe. The car’s performance origins are evident across the interior with a set of bolstered bucket seats, and a sports steering wheel taking pride of place in the cabin.
Because it uses the new iDrive 7 system, it gets gesture control, which is a fun way to entertain passengers for a couple of minutes, but does become more of a nuisance when trying to hastily adjust volume, so using the steering wheel controls is a lot easier.
Surprisingly, space isn’t an issue in the 2 Series. The curved roof at the rear still allows plenty of second-row headroom, and the boot is a bottomless void reminding us of how good sedans were back in the day.
While it’s difficult not to recommend the M240i at $94,200 over the M235i Gran Coupe at $91,400, you have to remember that they’re two different things entirely. While the 2 Series may have earned its stripes as a rear-wheel drive delight, this Gran Coupe feels more aimed at the hot hatch market, and for people who want a boot in their lives again.
A valid comparison would be with something like the Mercedes-AMG A35 Sedan, which is a bit cheaper at $89,700, and offers similar performance from its turbo 2.0-litre, but doesn’t look as aggressive.
As a whole, I somewhat struggled with the M235i, thinking that it was something that it wasn’t. It’s worth looking at this car as more of a 1 Series than what we’ve seen of the 2 Series cars in the past.
It’s hard to say whether or not, this strange niche of small sedans will gain a foothold and take off in this small SUV-friendly world, but I don’t hate the idea of having a good boot again.