Monday 26th May


BMW M235I M PERFORMANCE

Harris gets an M235i and bulk order of M Performance bits; all he's interested in is the diff



You know what this place needs? Less chat about the bloody M135i. I have no idea who’s been constantly droning on about how much fun it is, and how fast it will go and how it makes many supposed sports cars seem a bit pointless, but they need to desist immediately. Furthermore, I have the perfect antidote – let’s spend extended time in a completely different machine that will divert the conversation away from all this rather nauseating M135i worship.

Carbon tipped exhaust, yours for 946
Carbon tipped exhaust, yours for 946
It’s the new M235i. A machine so profoundly different to the M135i that it has one different digit and some different suspension.

As a genuine M-car snob, I find this new sub-brand from BMW most interesting. I have always winced when I saw the blue and purple dressed on anything that wasn’t built in Garching, and that’s a regular occurrence in the UK because we seem unable not to buy the M Sport version of anything. But these M Performance variants are proper jobs, developed by engineers from both BMW M and the regular car teams.

Two times the fun
My interest in the M235i is twofold. First, I like the concept of a discreet little coupe with loads of performance, driven rear wheels and frankly eye-popping economy. I’ve been driving it for the past three weeks and smiling all the way. It’s a proper BMW, proudly rear driven and somehow everything it does feels engineered around the driver a little more than rival machines. I’m a devout ZF eight-speed fan, but the six-speed manual in this car is an absolute gem – and it underlines how clever the engine calibration is because you can enjoy all those little jabs of throttle that make having a stick so enjoyable. Only the crazy torque at low engine speeds suggests that it’s turbocharged. And the fake induction noise? I like it.

Split the diff - mechanical LSD the real point
Split the diff - mechanical LSD the real point
There’s a third point of interest too: the new range of M Performance upgrades. With the gradual emasculation of modern car dealerships who can do anything more than plug in a lap top, I love the fact that BMW now wants to flog you a locking differential for one of these M Performance models, and that you will have your local dealer fit it.

So that’s the idea with this car. We’re having a bucket of options fitted from the parts list, some of them are mechanical, some cosmetic; some are subtle and cool, some are so over-the-top that you’ll probably recoil in horror, but we need to show you what’s possible.

Below is full a list of what we’re going to fit, and the cost for each component.

Harris didn't want stripes, BMW added 'em anyway
Harris didn't want stripes, BMW added 'em anyway
Totting up
Now the eagle-eyed among you will have just calculated that we’ve fitted 9,522 of extra bits to an M235i and not really improved its performance by that much. This I agree is madness, and I didn’t think BMW was going to fit quite so many cosmetic parts. They’re keen to show the full breadth of what’s available, and I personally think you’d be insane to apply 93 in legal tender of side stripes to obliterate the beauty of that natty blue paintwork, but each to their own.

The most important bits for me are the sports exhaust (946 with carbon tips) and of course the limited-slip diff (2,520).

I suppose we should scribble something about each cosmetic upgrade, but they really don’t interest me too much. One of the M235i’s greatest strengths as standard is (was) stealthy speed. Now I’m bespoilered and in possession of the silliest set of stickers imaginable, the car announces its intentions from a great distance. Some people will enjoy this; I find it problematic.

Shift lights among additions to spangly wheel
Shift lights among additions to spangly wheel
The new rear bumper treatment around the tail-pipes is neat though, and I think the front spoiler elements work well with the black kidney grilles, which I notice are sold separately.

Carlos Fandango
The interior carbon and Alcantara additions are of seriously high-quality and they do add a dash of appeal to an already attractive cabin. Again, it’s all a matter of cost – all of it together is ludicrously pricy, but the smaller gear lever makes the gearshift seem slightly more precise (clearly an illusion) so that’s the bit I’d pay for. Okay, the M Performance dash panel is pretty neat too.

It was very rainy the other day, and I have to admit I spent the whole time with the DSC off wondering if there was a car I’d rather be driving. In those conditions, having three pedals and 332lb ft is my idea of heaven. Before, with the open differential, the car was a little vague and you couldn’t be quite sure how it would break traction. Now it does so predictably and you can enjoy the sensations of rear-wheel drive. And I’m not talking great big drifts, but building the throttle until the rear axle makes that suggestion of a movement and holding it just there. At 2,520 it ain’t cheap, and in essence it’s a standard differential case with a Drexler LSD slotted inside. I’m assuming this is fitted on an exchange basis for the standard unit.

Alcantara trimmings just that but, whisper it, nice
Alcantara trimmings just that but, whisper it, nice
The exhaust is much rowdier on start-up, and altogether louder, but it doesn’t bring with it any performance gain, so I will need persuading over time of its benefit. As will the new brakes, which appear to be a tiny bit larger than before, but use the same calipers and have fake holes drilled in them. They are good, but then the standard items were already impressive.

For now, I’m going to drive it some more, continue asking myself what exactly an M4 would offer over this car for everyday UK use – initial answer, quite a bit – and report back next week.

 

Red calipers and (fake) drilled rotors bring bling
Red calipers and (fake) drilled rotors bring bling
Parts fitted and cost:
Red caliper and drilled brake discs - 1,725
Brake discs - 151
M Performance front attachment - 348
M Performance side sill attachment right - 90
M Performance side sill attachment left - 90
M Performance rear spoiler, carbon - 382
M Performance rear diffuser, black matt - 310
M Performance foil, side sill, left/right - 97
M Performance Side stripes black/red - 93
M Performance exterior mirror caps right - 251
M Performance exterior mirror caps left - 251
M Performance kidney grille left - 47
M Performance kidney grille right - 47
M Performance steering wheel II with sport display - 1,250
M Performance interior carbon/Alcantara - 625
M Performance gearknob carbon/Alcantara - 172
M Performance handbrake carbon/Alcantara - 127
M Performance limited-slip differential - 2,520
M Performance sports exhaust - 735
M Performance carbon tips - 211

Total - 9,522


BMW M235i (F22)
Engine:
 6-cylinder, turbocharged, 2,979cc
Transmission: 6-speed manual/8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 326hp@5800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332lb ft@1,300-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.0/4.8sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Weight: 1,530kg (auto)
MPG: 34.9/37.2mpg (claimed)
CO2: 189g/km/176g/km
Price: 34,250 (manual)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Chris Harris
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