The 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe was an unbridled success. Even with a price tag of nearly $50,000, every one of the 740 cars available in the U.S. were snapped up quickly.
|1. The 228i and the M235i are the only two models sold in the U.S.
2. The M235i gets a 3.0L turbocharged inline-six with 320 hp and 330 lb-ft.
3. A six-speed manual is standard with the M235i. An eight-speed auto is optional.
4. The 228i starts at $33,025 and the M235i starts at $44,025 (including delivery).
Part of the reason behind its success was the fact that many felt it was more of a true BMW M3 than the actual 2011 M3. Smaller, lighter and powered by an inline-six, the 1 Series M Coupe offered raw performance that had been recently lacking.
For 2014, BMW hopes to once again catch lightning in a bottle with the M235i. As a refresher, BMW has been playing a game of odds and evens lately that names all Bimmer sedans with odd numbers. Meanwhile coupes and convertibles now receive even number nomenclature. So just like the 3 Series coupe morphed into the 4 Series, the 1 Series coupe’s replacement is now labeled the 2 Series.
The new 2 Series is instantly recognizable as a BMW thanks to a familiar design cues like the twin kidney grill and four halo headlights. This new coupe is nearly three inches longer than the 1 Series and is slightly wider overall with a wider front and rear track. To emphasize this is indeed a proper rear-wheel drive performance coupe, the car’s widest point is at the rear fenders.
Two versions of the 2 Series will be available in the U.S. The base model is the 228i and it receives a 240-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant. But the model that is getting all the attention right now is the new M235i Coupe. Not a pure M model and therefore not called the M2, the M235i is a genuine M performance model just like the M135i and a few diesel based performance models in Europe.
But the main reason we are excited is its striking similarity to the E46 BMW M3 from between 2001-2006. The M235i is only slightly smaller than that old M3 and it makes similar power. The new BMW M235i does carry around 100 extra pounds, but thanks to the turbocharger, it makes a ton more torque.
That turbocharged unit is BMW’s 3.0-liter inline-six that, in this application, makes a hearty 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Thankfully, a six-speed manual is standard in the car with a no-cost eight-speed is automatic optional. Unfortunately only automatic equipped cars were on hand for the first drive event in Las Vegas but hey, there were outfitted with fancy M-specific dead pedals.
Besides, being stuck with a torque converter isn’t all that bad when it’s BMW’s fantastic eight-speed unit. Ever since we first sampled this transmission years ago, it has always impressed us with quick shifts, smooth operation and the ability to always be in the right gear. Plus, scrolling through the various performance settings in the M235i can customize the transmission from fuel miser to racetrack ready.
BMW claims regardless of which transmission is chosen, the car will rocket from 0-60 mph in under five seconds thanks in part to launch control. With the classic inline configuration, the six-cylinder turbo is smooth and fluid in operation. Most of the turbo lag has been dialed out of this engine as it is quick to reach the optimal torque range from 1,300 to 4,500 rpm. But as useful as this power is from a performance standpoint, the sound is what really caught our attention. BMW has turned up the volume on the M235i letting the company’s decades of inline-six tuning shine with a soundtrack worthy of a Grammy win for “Best Engineered Album.”
To ensure all the power is put to the road, the M235i receives wider 245 mm width rear tires than the 225 mm front tires. The chassis has been set up with track performance in mind, so to test it out we were taken to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A few laps were taken around the large, high-banked oval to demonstrate the car’s high-speed stability and autobahn abilities. Even at 135 mph the car remained composed, the chassis settled and the driver in complete control. BMW claims a top speed of 155 mph, but we didn’t take things that far. During hot laps on the infield road course, we discovered how willing the rear is to rotate. Flick it into a tight corner, give it a little gas and the car will hang its backside out effortlessly.
As great as the M235i performs on the track, it doesn’t quite have the raw ferocity of the 1 M Coupe. The new 2 Series is a little softer, which makes it more controllable near the limit, but less precise. Don’t get us wrong, the M235i is great for lap days at the track, but those hoping for a reincarnation of the 1 M Coupe may be a little disappointed. If you want a little more M Performance there’s an optional a dealer installed mechanical limited slip differential.
Where the M235i does trump the 1 M Coupe is livability. The new larger exterior breeds a larger interior. Compared to the 1 Series, there is a larger trunk. It also gains a little more headroom in the front and a little more legroom in the back seats. In both cases, capacity increases by 0.75 inches. That might not sound like much, but the backseat is now actually livable for adult passengers, albeit only on shorter trips.
The 2 Series features what BMW calls a driver focused-layout that includes a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, standard automatic climate control, the latest iDrive system and a choice of display screens protruding from the dashboard, which is a trend taking over interior vehicular design these days.
On sale starting in March, the base price of the 228i is $33,025 after destination charges, which is roughly $600 more than the 1 Series coupe it replaces and $600 less than a BMW 320i sedan. The M235i requires a big step-up in price to $44,025 after destination charges, but that is still significantly cheaper than the 1 M Coupe was three years ago.
The new M235i may lack a smidge of the no-compromises performance found in the 1 M Coupe, but it is a better all-around package. It truly can be considered a spiritual successor to the E46 M3, just begging for a head-to-head comparison with that decade old sports car. Having yet to try the new M3 or M4, we can safely say the M235i is the most engaging car in the BMW lineup today.