2014 BMW M235i

05/10/2014 12:00 AM

05/09/2014 11:44 AM

BMW’s M235i is the spiritual cousin to the 1600/2002 from the late 1960s and early 1970s. I bought a white 1600 in 1969 because I couldn’t afford the more powerful 2002 and I loved it. It was small on the outside yet roomy inside, had incredible visibility thanks to the tall windows and it handled like a sports car.

The 2 Series is the successor to the 1 Series coupe, and the strategy behind it is similar to that used for the 1600/2002: Make a compact coupe with sporty handling and, in the case of the M235i, blistering performance and incredible fuel economy for such a powerful car.

The M235i has twin-turbo 320 horsepower from a 3.0-liter six-cylinder and either an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. The car from BMW’s press fleet had the eight-speed automatic with manual shift paddles, and it was delightful. Hard-core enthusiasts may choose the manual but frankly, the automatic is so good, and can be shifted manually when desired, that it would be my choice.

Base price for the M235i is $44,025. The 240-horsepower, 228i has a four-cylinder engine and its base price is $33,025.

My 1600 had several recurring issues that eventually caused me to sell it after a couple of years but I still remember how much fun it was to drive. Those memories came flooding back when I took an M235i on a weekend trip because it was a blast.

I missed a few things on my trip, namely a navigation system, satellite radio and heated seats. Those items would bump the price by $4,450, pushing the sticker price to more than $48,000.

The M235i is fun every time you slip into the deeply contoured sport seat that fits as if it were made for you. The chassis is tuned to deliver a taut, well-controlled ride and it loves to be tossed into a turn. Still, the ride is compliant enough to be pleasant for everyday driving. The adaptable suspension, M Sport brakes and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are perfectly matched.

Being able to select Sport Plus, Sport, Comfort or Eco Pro drive settings with a button on the console lets the driver tailor the car to suit his or her mood. Sport mode is the most fun, of course, because each gear is held a little longer, each shift of the eight-speed automatic is a little firmer and the exhaust sounds throatier. Comfort is a good everyday setting, and Eco Pro is perfect for long stretches of highway travel.

Eco Pro softens the throttle response, lets the car coast with the engine at idle when the throttle is released and cycles the air conditioning on and off to reduce the drag on the engine. The driver can select which of those functions is active.

I selected the coasting feature and disabled the others. Rolling to St. Louis with Interstate 70 traffic that was moving well past the speed limit, I averaged 29.1 miles per gallon. The return trip was interrupted with several rainstorms, but my average was 28.6 for nearly 500 miles of fast driving.

The M235i’s cabin is businesslike. The instrument panel has easy-to-read analog gauges. The sport seats have a wide range of adjustability that makes them a great place to be for hours at a time.

Whereas the 1600/2002 had a surprisingly spacious back seat, due mainly to a tall, upright roof, the one in the M235i coupe would be cramped for most adults. The trunk has decent space, and fold-down rear seats give some flexibility for carrying large objects.

Price

The test car’s base price was $44,025. Options included keyless entry and leather seats.

Warranty

Four years or 50,000 miles. All recommended service is free for four years or 50,000 miles.

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