BMW M235I PERFORMANCE: PH BLOG
Two sets of tyres in and Chris is very much still enjoying the M235i
But I really can forgive the stickers, because this is one hell of a machine. It will do battle with the new Golf R on video soon (yes, we're coming back!) but in isolation it's everything I could want in a small rear-wheel drive coupe. BMW is still considered the master of naturally aspirated high-performance six-cylinder motors, but it has seamlessly transferred its skills to turbocharging. Yes, it's not a full M-car, but for response, outright shove and music, this blown-six makes a compelling case for being one of the best engines on sale.
It hits hard from 2,500rpm, sings all the way to 6,500rpm and is connected to a very slick six-speed manual and now a locking rear differential. For me, that's the perfect recipe for fun. Other rivals in this fast emerging sub-M3 performance category are faster point-to-point, but none gives you that delicious feeling of adjusting cornering line with your right foot, or fills the cabin with straight-six sonics. Again, I like the fake-ish noise, but then I'm a Human League fan.
Isn't it strange how a gearlever can make a gearshift feel quite different? The optional, stumpy M Performance item somehow gives the sensation of a more direct shift - and I've grown to like the look of it too. Would I pay £172 for it? Of course not.
I do however love the silly steering wheel and its illegible readout and controls that caused me to invent new swear words during a shoot earlier this week. It's the definition of a cool gadget, and I'd probably waste £1,250 just for the way it looks and feels in the hand.
If I happen to think the stickers look like a dog's dinner, the population under the age of 30 appears to disagree. Neil bought the car along to the Nurburgring 24-hour and ended up being folk hero for the weekend, a role I suspect he quietly enjoyed. The Germans just loved the bodykit and the M Performance logos and the fruity exhaust burble. For me, colour plays a big part - BMW Cardiff has an M235i demo in black, with all the same body mods as this car, but without the stripe and with bigger 19-inch rims. It looks the conkers.
I remain an iDrive sceptic. The interface just doesn't work for me, and the new track-pad simply adds to the confusion, but the counterpoint is Neil who simply adores it. What I do enjoy is stepping inside the car and immediately having it Bluetooth to my phone and music. But then all modern cars seem to do that these days.
Where BMW manages to just raise itself above the competition is making the cabin feel more driver focused than the others: the dash is canted toward the driver, just like in Bimmers of old. And the seat, wheel, pedals relationship is spot on. Those few remaining three-pedal performance cars (god I hate writing that) seem to have no understanding of the importance of the height of the brake pedal in relation to the throttle - in the M235i, rolling onto the accelerator for downshifts couldn't be more natural. It's a small point, but one that I enjoy countless times even on the shortest drives.
I suppose the last point of discussion is size. Small coupes are now what we used to call big coupes, but this remains a car you can thread with confidence on UK roads. It's the key ingredient in making it a great car over here. Take that engine, the fun chassis, the sheer performance and then allow the driver not to worry about width and you have something very special.
With or without stickers.
Full breakdown of the M235i M Performance options here.