To not make this yet another redundant review, I will first set the background: I fall under the bigger population of the non-enthusiast population that BMW is trying to please with this car. Oh, well, I could call myself an enthusiast on paper, which is where I live, breathe and dream cars, but have never had the money, or the good fortune of ever driving the true Ms and the Porsches, or even an EVO or an STI for that matter. And to make up for the lack of technical comparisons and all other review-y things, I will try to make this interesting by simply recounting my time with this car. Thanks in advance for reading.
If I had a dream garage, it would have two cars: an M3 and an Aston Martin DB9. Having lusted over the M3 for so many years, I really feel no shame in considering this my first M car. I know, I know… It is not a true M. But after years of school and hard work, I can finally afford something like this. And, I have paid close to 50 grand for it (and I still cannot afford an M3/M2), so for all intents and purposes, it is, for me, an M car. This means though, that BMW has hit the nail at the right place. The 2 series, in the general sense, fulfills this purpose – to give big smiles to people who have enough money and desire for a sporty car, but just not enough for a true M car. Bang! And that is why it has 18 M badges, to help me forget that I couldn’t get a real M car. Fine by me.
The most I have ever driven in a year is about 6000 miles. I thought of a car, as a utility that enabled me to do things – go to work, get groceries, so on and so forth. I never drove, just to drive. Not that I have an illustrious history of vehicle ownership (90 Celica, 01 Passat, 94 318i, 06 A4, 08 E92, 02 Passat), but no car has engendered that man-vehicle bond in me. Until now. I have driven over 1500 miles on this car in less than a month. That should speak volumes in itself. The M235i begs me to drive it…really! I park it in the garage and take a look back at those glorious headlights one more time. As the LEDs fade away, it whimpers, “Please, one more spin round the block?” And just like that, it turns into yet another occasion where I am late for dinner. On the bright side, I wake up before the alarm goes off, go to work hours early to avoid traffic and as a result get more done. Hell, I may even get a promotion because of this car, and finally be able to get the coveted M3. A car that helps me get a car. Now that is proper utility! Pretty cool!
I am no racer. I have never tracked, nor do I indulge in speed grudges on the streets. But there is something different that happens when you are inside this one. I cannot help but compare this car with my 1 year old German Shepherd – loyal and sweet but at the same time, 100 lbs. of pure mischief and that swag that oozes “I can get away with anything.” For some reason, it puts off other dogs – they want to urinate where my dog goes, cover up the tracks, and try to regain their territory. The M235i then, is just that – an intelligent, fun but raw puppy, but one that can still afflict a lot of damage. I am not sure if it is the good looks, or the plethora of M badges, but it ignites that same sense of territorial instinct from drivers of other fast cars on the road – they come close, lower a gear and make eye contact. They feel challenged, and this compelling need to regain their territory. Again, I am no racer, and not nearly as good a driver this car deserves, so I don’t indulge. But I know the numbers, both for the other car, and for this, and just knowing the fact I can smoke that car into the horizon of my rear view mirror with a light stomp on the accelerator, gives me a weirdly addictive high.
It does bother me that quality of the sound system is not that good. I like the bass of the kick drum that hits your chest, but not the bass of the bass guitar that rattles the whole car. Unfortunately, there is no way to fine tune the frequencies. It is a shame that my headphones have that capability and not this car. It also bothers me that I cannot skip random tracks with the wheel on steering, and that every time a track resumes when I start the car, the screen stops showing the currently playing track. There are also some cheap plastic bits here and there, and on the rare occasion that I do push the car to its limit, I have no way to tell if things are getting too hot. But none of it really matters! As, none of these contribute to the size of the smile I wear when I am inside this car.
I was a normal guy just going about my business. I think this car has turned me into a schizophrenic. I hear voices telling me to drive more. I am late at most places because I always take the longer route. I was concerned about the consequences initially, and whether I would be able to handle this sudden change. After a month though, I have figured it out -- the only way to live with this car is to really have a split-personality, exactly like the car itself does. You go to work, take your girlfriend to dinner, take your dog to play, and while doing so save on some gas as well in the forcibly timid Eco Pro mode, which makes the car a pure utility, one that is driven by a sensible adult. When you are done with all that though, you roll the windows down, press the “you know which” button thrice and unleash the other personality – the beast, the schizophrenic, the lunatic – as you drive away, tail-happy into the Pacific Northwest highways, lit up with pure joy, some burnt rubber and sweet exhaust noise.
At the end of the day, you get home, late for dinner yet again, and look back at it one last time. And as those stunning LEDs fade away, it whispers, “once more?”