This car is an absolute blast drive!
Much thanks to Sean at BMW/Mini of Annapolis.
The Formal Review
I think it's only fair to lay the baseline for my comparison. I'm by no means the most skilled driver, but I do have a fair amount of track and auto x time under my belt and can pretty accurately surmise a cars performance. I've had three other 335i's, a MINI S, a couple S2k's, and some big turbo imports in the past.
A lot of the reviews that are non-biased are pretty accurate in my opinion. We as car guys/gals can always nitpick aspects of every car, but collectively, BMW has a recipe figured out that's definitely worth trying the kool aid—If not even gulping it!
There will always be haters and especially ones who don't approve of BMW's decisions regarding a lot of the changes in their collective product lineup, but let me be explicitly clear in saying that this car is elegant, refined, purposeful, and fills a void that needed filling. Is it a true M car, of course not, but the reality in this scenario is that BMW has built a car that has gobs of power, all the accouterments you could ask for, and put it into an accessible price point. What's not to love about that?
So here we go:
It's glorious for a stock car. Without question, the best part of the car. It won't be stock forever, but how this car delivers power and puts it to the road is basically heavenly. Two of my prior 335's were modified and the power output was without question significantly higher, but it was violent, non-linear, and something that a production car would never be. Don't get me wrong, it was awesome and as a enthusiast, it's precisely what I wanted. In my opinion, BMW has done something special with this iteration of the N55 and those who have had the privilege of owning or driving the M135 I'm sure would say the same.
The exhaust note is nice. The driving mode has a large impact on the overall feel of the vehicle and certainly the exhaust note. I'm looking forward to it breaking in a bit and seeing what comes of it after a couple months.
If you're an experienced track driver, this car is not something you'd want to replace your existing track car with. Point blank—if you want a track car, go buy a Porsche (if you don't already have one). The suspension is great for everyday driving. Bearing in mind a realistic expectation for the car, it's more than adequate for anything the street can deliver. In sport+ mode the drive is stiff, but not too stiff. You could have a blast on the occasional track day or auto x.
It's electronic power steering, what do you want me to say? Almost all of us have been griping with this since its inception and rightfully so. To much my surprise, the steering in the M235i is remarkable precise and responsive. Having Pilot Sports helps a lot in how direct the car behaves and adds loads of grip. It feels small and nimble even with it's grown up size.
These speak for themselves. The interior is almost without flaw. The seats are a bit tall in relationship to the floor so you feel like you're sitting high in the car, but it's adaptable. The seats themselves are perfect for a street car. Great bolstering with all support and comfort you could ask for. The cup holders are useless as well. This may seem trivial to some, but in the breathe of my argument for everyday practicality, it's a misstep.
The exterior is bang on too. The mirrors don't bother me at all in person. Is it a play on Audi? To some degree yes, but they're not brushed aluminum and frankly who cares? I'm happy to see BMW adding some darker colors to their wheels since I've never seen another car brand generate as much brake dust. It makes the appearance of everyday cleanliness just that much easier.
All this to say—diehard M guys, drive the car when you get a chance. Allocations are very limited right now, but drive it with an open mind and with a reasonable expectation of how you're going to use it for 99% of time. I would not be surprised in the least to see a decent amount of converts from leased M3's to the M235i. For anyone else that is used to non-M BMW's and forced induction, the car is truly awesome. It's a logical progression of performance and styling for the brand. It's a homerun.