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By Mitchell Oke
Quick Specs
Make
BMW
Model/Variant
M235i
Engine
3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo
Price
$79,930 before on-road costs
Warranty
three-year/unlimited kilometre
See the full specs Read the full review
By Mitchell Oke

So, where did you go on your date?

A weekend in the country, north of the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

Ideal first date?

Absolutely perfect. Quiet country roads with plenty of twists, turns and beautiful scenery make for the ideal place to drive a six-cylinder BMW coupe.

Hot or not?

Hot.

The M235i feels the way a BMW should feel. It offers a level of thrill and engagement that's been missing in many of the German carmakers larger models. Dropping the wonderfully smooth 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo into a properly compact rear-drive coupe is a perfect match.

Adding a bit of extra power over the 435i, bringing the numbers to 240kW and 450Nm, makes it a bit of a no brainer too if you don’t need the added practicality of the larger and more expensive 4-series model.

I also think it’s a very good looking car, with the stumpy boot and long bonnet absent from BMW coupes since the 2000-2005 BMW E46 model. In this “M” specification you get the aggressive front styling cues from the new M3 and M4, which makes it stand out from the normal 2-series.

The thin front and rear pillars make is easy to see out, whether you’re threading it through a back road or parking it at a shopping centre.

It's what's inside that counts, what do you think of the interior?

Clean and simple BMW, just the way I like it.

It’s not the most exciting cabin in the class, but everything is clearly laid out. iDrive is easy to use, and combines the controller wheel with just enough buttons to keep operation simple without being overwhelming. The touchpad on drop of the controller for entering numbers and letters into the satellite-navigation is a nice pickup from Audi that works a treat, despite being right-handed.

The lack of a digital speedo is a disappointment, especially considering how fast the numbers rise when you get happy with your right foot.

The seats are very comfortable for long journeys, with adjustable bolstering to keep any body shape snug. Heated seats are especially pleasant on a chilly day, too. Would be nice if they added a bit of perforation or Alcantara to add a bit of style to the equation, as it stands they look pretty bland.

The M235i comes with the M Sport steering wheel which is a bit thick for my taste, but it’s a comfortable size with quality paddles that stay with your fingertips when you turn the wheel.

Standout features?

The eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters combines the best aspects of traditional autos and newer double-clutch gearboxes. It’s quick shifting, blips the throttle on down-shifts and doesn’t have any hesitation or jerkiness at low speeds. Added points for not auto-upshifting near the 7,000rpm red line.

The adaptive M suspension offers a brilliant combination of ride quality and handling ability. Comfort was my choice on a broken back road out in the country, keeping the best contact with the road without compromising the cornering ability.

Annoying habits?

None come to mind, though some will find the way the gearshift selector and indicator stalks return to their original positions after being pressed a bit strange. I came to terms with this long ago.

The ability to independently adjust the steering, throttle and engine note would be good too. Comfort steering and sport throttle would be the perfect combo, but its one or the other for both.

This is down to personal taste, but the plastic silver mirror caps are a poor imitation of the metal ones on Audi’s S models and look a bit tacky.

Ready for a family?

Not really. The back seats are cramped and the boot on the smaller side. If you want a potent rear-drive BMW coupe you either need to take a power hit and get a 428i with the 180kW/350Nm four-cylinder turbo for the same money, or step up to the 435i with 225kw/400Nm.

High maintenance?

Everything’s solid and well built, but parts and servicing aren’t cheap. BMWs monitor your driving style so you could go up to 25,000km between services. I've previously owned a BMW and the services were around every 20,000km. My experience with BMW service centres was smooth and easy too.

Any deal-breakers?

I rarely have more than one passenger, and the boot was large enough for a couple weekend away, so the practicality issues aren’t a problem. The rest of the car is a hoot.

Not a deal breaker, but a bit more six-cylinder growl would be nice. The engine note is a bit too muted, even in sport mode.

So, is it serious or just a one night stand?

I could get very serious with the BMW M235i. It’s a sharp handler, comfortable cruiser and looks great.

That said, I don't think the sexy coupe styling is worth the extra $15,000 over the M135i. The five-door hatch is slightly more practical and just as much fun to drive.

Keeping your options open?

The Audi S3 is a worthy alternative if you’re looking for the extra doors, and adds AWD as well as a lower list price, but isn’t quite as engaging as the BMW.

If it's not for you, who would you recommend it to?

The BMW M235i is really for people who can't get over the look of the BMW M135i. The extra $15k buys you (subjectively) better styling, a 5kW power bump and little else.






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