On this episode of Ignition, Carlos Lago tests the new BMW M235i, the smallest and least expensive performance car in the automaker's lineup. It has the right formula: rear-wheel drive and a 320-horse turbo straight six. The problem is that the M division, despite what the badges say, didn't develop it. So is the M235i a poser or the real deal? Through instrumented testing, a drive on the winding road, and a hot lap with Randy Pobst at Streets of Willow, we find out.
BMW Adds New Track Handling Package Option for 228i Coupe
Click here to view more photos
The 228i may have an inline four, but it's a turbocharged 2.0-liter unit that produces 240hp from 5,000 to 6,500 rpm and 255 lb-ft of peak torque from 1,450 rpm to 4,800 for a 0-60mph (96km/h) in just 5.4 seconds. So, it's no slouch on a straight line. Now, if you want a more M-flavored behavior from the chassis, BMW has announced a new Track Handling Package for U.S. customers.
Said to be inspired by BMW's original “S-package” formula, the new optional kit includes an M Adaptive Suspension, Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires on unique 18-inch light-alloy wheels, Variable Sport Steering, and M Sport Brakes. It will be available for delivery from July 2014, for both -speed manual and 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission-equipped BMW 228i Coupe models at a price that will be announced later.
In more detail, the M Adaptive Suspension begins with a 10mm suspension drop over the regular 228i Coupe. It adds front axle and central accelerometers that gather data that is then combined with information coming from the existing steering angle sensor, throttle position, and brake pressure sensors to adjust the dampers in real time.
The BMW Variable Sport Steering makes use of a different mechanical steering rack with a directness ratio that differs in a predetermined way throughout its range of travel. According to the Bavarian firm, the system works thusly:
"At steering angles near center (for example, when driving straight ahead), the ratio is slower, providing maximum vehicle stability for highway speeds and straight-aways. As the driver bends the car into a corner, the mechanical ratio of the steering rack becomes faster and provides the driver with precise, lightning-quick response for mid-corner adjustments to “the line.” At extreme steering angles such as those required to negotiate a hairpin turn or during “opposite lock” maneuvers, the ratio is quickest."
The last two components of the handling kit for the 228i Coupe are the M Sport Brakes with fixed, four-piston calipers at the front axle and two-piston calipers at rear painted in dark blue, with larger brake discs at 13.4 inches front, and 13.6 inches rear, and 18-inch wheels mounted on non-run-flat Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.
In the States, the bog-standard 228i Coupe with the plastic-y Sensatec leather starts at $32,100, excluding a $925 delivery and handling fee, or $11,000 less than the M235i with the 320hp straight-six turbo.
We test the BMW M235i against one of the best M Cars ever made, the BMW M3 CSL.
With its 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged straight six engine, the BMW M235i is the most powerful 2 Series you can buy and is priced at just over £34,000. However, for the same money you can have the modern classic M3 CSL that was launched in 2004.
The BMW M235i's twin-turbo engine produces 322 brake horsepower and 450 Newton Metres of torque. That's 78Nm more than the old M3. It weighs 1,470kg, so it's also 85kg heavier than the CSL.
Launched in 2004, the BMW M3 CSL was the most extreme version of the E46 BMW M3 generation. With a carbon fibre roof, it weighed 100kg less than the standard M3 and it also had upgraded springs, dampers and brakes plus extra power. It also came exclusively with BMW's automated manual SMG gearbox.
The reason the BMW M3 CSL is quite a good comparison to the M235i is because a normal M3 around this age will cost you between £6,000 and £10,000. If you want a decent M3 CSL then you're looking at around £30,000 to £35,000 so it's very similar money. More importantly, you'll get this astonishing engine that revs to 8,000rpm.
The BMW M3 CSL's gearbox is very slow by modern standards as it isn't a modern dual-clutch system. However, there's so much balance in the chassis, you can just sense when the car is in transition from understeer to oversteer.
In the M3 CSL, you get an amazing engine that goes ballistic above 6,000rpm but in the BMW M235i, it's just really quick-revving and gets lots of torque through the rev range.
It's heavier than the CSL, but it should come as no surprise as modern cars are getting heavier and heavier. The M235i is still a really lovely road car as it's very delicate and really enjoyable.
However, the BMW M235i does feel a little bit heavy and it doesn't have the body control of the hard-edged CSL. You can feel there in the oversteer when the car comes back, there's a little bit of snapback as the lateral movement in the body starts to make itself known.
Despite the differences between the BMW M3 CSL and the M235i, they both recorded the same lap-time around our circuit.
The BMW 2 series makes a more accessible every-day drive, but the M3 CSL is a thrilling classic that's to be enjoyed on occasion, and makes a better investment than your average pension.
BMW is stirring up quite a bit of interest around its new M235i Coupe to the point that, the larger 4-Series Coupe, the natural successor to the two-door 3-Series, is actually being overlooked by many enthusiasts.
There's always room for improvement, though, and Germany's Manhart Performance is getting ready to deliver some attention-grabbing news for owners of the car at the upcoming Tuning World Bodensee (May 1-4), Germany's prime aftermarket event.
Manhart is holding back on full details, but it did release a single teaser image and a video of its tuned M235i, which it says, will sport an upgraded version of the car's turbocharged straight-six with an output in excess of 400-horses, a notable increase over the factory model's 320hp mill.
The only cosmetic mods seen here is a new front bumper attachment with additional yellow trims on the corner air inlets, which actually looks better than the stock piece and gives the 2-Series a more aggressive stance, together with new multispoke alloy wheels.
Fast, small German cars are back with a vengeance on this episode of Head 2 Head! Join host Jonny Lieberman as he compares and contrasts the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG with the brand new BMW M235i. Mercedes and BMW have had small car rivalries like this in the past, most notably the Benz's 190E 2.3-16 versus Bimmer's E30 M3. Fast forward three decades, and times have changed. Forget natural aspiration, as turbocharging rules the day. The CLA45's engine is even mounted sideways in a complete departure from Mercedes' tradition. Regardless of the details, both cars are fast and fun. So much so that Jonny feels the need to get racecar driver Randy Pobst involved in the decision-making process. In the end, this one proves to be the closest H2H comparison yet. Watch and enjoy!