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      01-18-2014, 12:59 PM   #1
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BIMMERPOST M235i Review: A New 2002? Behind the Wheel of the M235i Coupe
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A new 2002? Behind the wheel of the M235i

By Jens Meiners, BIMMERPOST Contributor

If there is a single car that has put BMW on the map with enthusiasts in the USA, it is the 2002. Derived from the "New Class" mid-size sedan, it became the quintessential compact sports sedan. In 1975, it was replaced by the 3-series - a worthy successor initially, but a car that has become remarkably large over the years. In fact, the current 3-series is almost as long and tall as the E3 luxury sedan, and it is actually wider. There is plenty of room to reinvent the 2002 - which the company has done a few years ago with the 1-series coupe and now with its successor, the 2-series [Official Thread].

If there is a single car that has put BMW on the map with enthusiasts in the USA, it is the 2002. Derived from the "New Class" mid-size sedan, it became the quintessential compact sports sedan. In 1975, it was replaced by the 3-series - a worthy successor initially, but a car that has become remarkably large over the years. In fact, the current 3-series is almost as long and tall as the E3 luxury sedan, and it is actually wider. There is plenty of room to reinvent the 2002 - which the company has done a few years ago with the 1-series coupe and now with its successor, the 2-series.

The 2-series is available on the US market with two powerful engines: The N20 240-horsepower 2.0-liter four in the 228i, and the N55 320-horsepower 3.0-liter straight-six in the M235i. Both engines can be mated with either a slick six-speed manual, or a ZF-sourced eight-speed torque-converter automatic. In the old world, the turbodiesels are the sensible choice; we also expect BMW to eventually launch an ultra-high performance M2.

Yes, the 2-series has become larger than the 1-series Coupe, a trend we intensely dislike - but at least the growth is controlled: It is 2.8 inches longer and 1.3 linches wider, and 0.2 inches lower. The 228i is available with an optional M Sport trim package that adds an aero kit with angry-looking front air intakes; it is standard on the M235i. Stylistically, the 2-series is cleaner and more grown-up than its predecessor, and its headlights display a more intense and purposeful look than the wide open eyes of the 1-series.

At this week's test drive in Las Vegas, the only vehicle available for testing was the automatic-transmission M235i. Its model designation gives it away: It is a member of the M Performance family of cars, engineered with significant input from the M GmbH skunkworks in Garching, just north of the company headquarters in München-Milbertshofen.

There is a lot of promise in the numbers and the model designation - and the M235i delivers. The N55 single-turbo engine sounds silky and sufficiently authoritative; the engineers have enhanced the typical six-cylinder frequencies of the third order, and when you take your foot off the gas, the exhaust will pop and crackle a bit. The sprint from 0 to 60 mph takes a mere 4.8 seconds, and the M235i tops out at a governed 155 mph. At least that's what we were told; the customer website inexplicably quotes a top speed of just 130 mph. (Ungoverned, the M235i would reach between 162 and 165 mph.) Low-end torque is impressive, with the maximum of 332 lb-ft available from 1300 rpm, and the N55 charges hard up to its 6000 rpm power maximum. The quick-shifting automatic can be manipulated with paddle shifters, but we definitely prefer the control of the six-speed manual - which we have sampled extensively in a German-market M135i just recently.

Despite its considerable heft of slightly over 3500 lbs, the M235i feels powerful and agile well into triple-digit velocities. Steering turn-in is precise, and we are slowly if reluctantly getting used to BMW's constantly refined electric power steering. "Variable sport steering" is standard on this top-of-the-line model. The 2-series will probably feel even more agile with the four-cylinder turbo, but we'll gladly trade the final edge in handling for the M235i's extra dollop of power and sound. It is easy to induce and control oversteer even with the standard-configuration M235i; BMW will soon offer an optional limited-slip differential, which we predict will become a very popular option. At very high speeds on uneven surfaces, we found the chassis to be too soft with a bit too much travel; modifications are in order for track use. The brakes are more than sufficient for everyday driving, but they would likewise benefit from an upgrade for very hard street or track use.

Compared to the 1 series (E82), the interior has improved vastly. The instrumentation is laid out neatly, the materials look rather expensive, and most drivers will find it easy to reach a perfect seating and steering wheel position. Rear seat room is fine for kids, but compromised for adults. Legroom has improved compared to the 1-series, but tall guys will invariably hit the headliner.

The M235i is yours for $43,100, and it is perfectly equipped, unless you are fond of the electronic nanny systems which come as part of the optional "Driver Assistance Plus" and "Technology" packages. The 228i comes in even lower, beginning at $32,100. Both cars are very attractive propositions: We think that in today's market, you can't get closer to a 2002.

Also see: BMW M235i Press Launch: M Performance Parts and M235i Racing Car Gallery

We also have a more in-depth review coming, so stay tuned!

BMW M235i Press Launch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway




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