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In 2011, BMW introduced a tasty little nugget called the 1-Series M Coupe. It was a limited edition sports subcompact so universally adored that used examples are already selling for more than what they cost new -- $60-$70,000 up from $47,560. Quick appreciation like that is virtually unheard of in the automotive world.
But the party may soon be over.
The all-new M235i isn’t exactly a direct replacement for the 1-Series M Coupe, which was a truly unique specialty piece, but it delivers pretty much the same performance and is a much better car overall.
The new 2-Series lineup, which also includes the 228i, is a little lower, wider and longer the bulldog-like 1-Series that it replaces, and has a much sleeker look. It’s downright sexy and only available only as 2-door in the U.S., while a nerdy-cool 3-door hatchback that’s confusingly still called the 1-Series is sold overseas.
The interior grows slightly, but it’s still not much more of a 2+2 with tight rear seats. The quality stuffed in there, however, is several generations better than the old 1-Series, which was all hard plastic and ho-hum trim. This one is all soft materials and brushed aluminum.
The $44,050 M235i is powered by a 320 horsepower version of BMW’s silky single-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6. An 8-speed automatic is standard, and a 6-speed manual can be had as a no cost option, because BMW still cares. It also comes with adjustable dampers and a drive mode selector offering settings ranging from Eco to Sport+ that that endows it with multiple personalities.
The greenest of those shuts off the engine every time you stop moving, softens throttle response and dials down the climate control system in the name of fuel economy. If that sort of thing is most important to you when buying a German sports coupe, you might as well go for the more than adequate 228i for $33,050 and bank the $11G difference. Otherwise, buy the M235i, put it in Sport + and leave it there.
The M235i has pleasingly hefty feel to it, partially because it’s no lightweight, but mainly because it’s built like a brick. The steering responses are quick, and the handling only as neutral as you want it to be, because with all that power, a heavy right foot turns it into a tail-happy drift machine at will.
Drive it like that, and the engine growls fantastically. Or does it? BMW pumps a synthesized backing track through the speakers to enhance the sound, so it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s lip-synced.
Can’t say I love the idea, but today’s turbocharged engines are so quiet, as is the M235i’s cabin, that some feedback is necessary when you’re in a sporting mood.
In the M235i, that’s pretty much always. As is the case with the 1-Series M Coupe, it’s one of those rare sports cars where everything comes together just right. Yea, you can step up to the much more powerful BMW M4 alpha dog, but unless you spend most weekends at the track, the extra twenty grand is just buying you trouble. Not that the M235i can’t get you into any, but you don’t have to if you’re just looking for a little a thrill.
The best about it is: BMW will build as many of them as it can sell, so you don’t have to pay a premium to get your hands on one. Of course, if you currently own a 1-Series M Coupe, that may be the worst part about it.
At least until the rumored M2 comes out next year.
2015 BMW M235i Coupe
Base price: $44,050
As tested: $46,575
Type: 2-door, 2+2 passenger coupe
Engine: 3.0-liter inline-6
Power: 320 hp, 330 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
MPG: 22 city/32 hwy