Budget BMW M3 – M235i
Every fan of the BMW brand dreams of being an owner of a car, proudly wearing the M-badge on the engine. Many of the fans can show us their M-collection in the garage but the reality in Bulgaria can not offer achieving the M-dream of most of us. Having the option for just one car, everyone of us have to think well before buying it. It should be either economical and functional estate or a powerful coupe. This is a choice that everyone of us have taken several times. Part of the fans, me included, is choosing the functional shapes and the better fuel efficiency before the power and the fun behind the steering wheel. Other ones make the definite chose – the M!
Right now on the second hand market the most popular M-model is the E46. Here in Sofia you can see more M3s than regular 323s. The reason is simple – the real fan cannot take compromises and is ready to pay the exact price for the exact car. Sometimes it is hard to tell what you really want, sometimes is so easy. It is now easier than ever thanks to BMWs new project and model, being placed where the fans with mixed feelings are. For those who want more than just a BMW but are still not ready for a real M3 or M4. We present to you the M235i.
A month ago while traveling to Germany for the 24 hours of Nurburgring we saw so many 235s that we assumed two options: either it is pretty good or it is pretty cheap. What do you think? Thanks to our friends from BMW Bulgaria I had the chance to find out the correct answer. Or if I should be honest, I had the chance to reassure my answer that M235i is better than anything.
On Tuesday, day before the Driftmob video in the official BMW channel in Youtube, white 2-series model was waiting for me on the parking lot. Nothing surprising: 18-inch wheels, 4-piston brake calipers with M-logo, sport leather seats with electric controls and memory, leather multi-M steering wheel, heated, last version of the iDrive system. As I said – nothing that can surprise me… still. The shape and proportions were very much the same as the 1-series's coupe. It was like a restyle… a facelift. A good one! The looks are pretty much subjective factor, but I liked them.
I placed my bottom on the seat and adjusted it so easy. It was like I've driven this car all my life. The essence of the interior is captured. Everything is there where I am used to see it. No new stuff to learn, no new control switches. Excellent! Start-button. Angry noise made by a typical in-line-six engine and a cold dual-pipe exhaust generation. So familiar. The sound that makes me smile! The classic sound that makes everybody goosebump in the morning before work.
I move the gear-lever on D and leave. Some of you may not like the automatic gearbox, but lets not forget that BMW always use the best technology. In this case the 8-gears ZF transmission with the M-performance setup is not a bad option. The other one is a 6-speed manual without paying extra money. While in motion in the city traffic I get several things – pretty short steering rack and in Eco Pro mode – very gentle throttle reactions. In Eco Pro mode the car and me are working together for as low fuel consumption as possible. I reset the fuel consumption data on the board computer and later will find out the cost of driving M235i in each of my moods. While exiting the city I was lazy. The traffic jams and the sleepy drivers gave me a chance to think of a nice roads for the journey. I asked myself where could we find nice twisty roads near Sofia. I ask you the same. Now you will say different mountain roads north but we took south. There we had the chance to pass Stara Planina trough the Petrohan road. It was completely rebuild last summer and is in perfect condition. The curves there… they are able to make every petrol head speechless. The reason wont be that he will has nothing to say, but there wont be enough time. Every driver will be too busy enjoying the entrance, the apex and the exit of every corner, putting hard on the gas-pedal on the short straights and preparing the car for the next combination.
We were lucky and we escaped from hot Sofia where the sun was melting everything. Petrohan pass offered so much shades from the trees and the temperature was around 22 degrees. This made me open the panoramic roof and enjoy the noise of an in-line-six turbo-gasoline engine driven on the max, the noisy exhaust, even noisier when in Sport mode. When releasing the throttle, the blow-off-valve was making nice-to-hear sounds.
What we had to do other than enjoying the combination of a road, a car and conditions. Unfortunately this is an emotion that can not be fully explained. But I believe that you have felt it many times. I can just make you remake it in your own mind. Assume that everything is perfect! And you don't want it to end. Ever! We were running out of time and we continued our journey. We were heading to the Iskar Gorge, passing Montana and Vratsa – a cities where I should drive safely. It was now the time to try Comfort and Eco Pro modes. I forgot to mention that M235i has four driving modes which I will now explain. Lets start with Eco Pro. Choosing this mode you adjust the engine and the gears in a way that they work for maximum fuel-efficiency. The changes between gears are in as low rpm's as possible. The braking energy is charging the battery. While in Eco Pro you can read the "saved" range on the dashboard. So while traveling in this mode we saved fuel for 30 more kilometers. In Comfort mode you don't get the icons for saved fuel and more efficient driving. It just sets the suspension and the throttle response for maximum comfort. If you are in the car with your eyes closed and ears shut, you will never find out when the gearbox is switching gears.
Pressing the mode button once or two more times up you get to the evil modes. Yes, they are Sport and Sport +. They are very much the same thing – stiff suspension, better throttle response, changing the shifting time between gears and adding more noise from the exhaust. It is good to know that the engine noise is real, it is not made by Active Sound Design and played through the speakers. The difference in Sport + is that the Dynamic Stability Control system is half way switched of. If you want to turn it off completely… well you know how – press the DSC button and hold it for five seconds. Then everything depends on you. Everything but the gearchanges when with the 8-speed auto. But there is a solution too. All you have to do is place the lever on S-mode (slide it to the left) and this means that absolutely everything is in your hands. When you do this you can drive as long as you want on the selected gear and no electronics will mess with you. It is good to have it like an option especially when preparing the car, entering and exiting a corner with the opposite lock.
In the connection between the cities I preferred calm driving style – just cruising with the M235i. Yes, this can happen. Lets not forget that it is a normal car with M-ideas, not a proper M-car. The comfort is as you get it from a normal passenger BMW. Not very soft but not hard as a typical race car. The M235i is the perfect compromise variant. These two different suspension modes combined with the 18-inch 235s at the front and 245s at the back give what I am looking for. I had a chance to try the standard audio system (good enough), the interior (good materials in the visible spots), good visibility on the dashboard (typical arrangement), excellent navigation system (with 3D maps for the bigger cities).
And while discovering things in the M235i we got to the Iskar Gorge, where we would have the last burst of adrenalin. Perfect tarmac but kind of old one, so slippery. This means that every corner should be an adventure. The entry speed and the total weight made the Michelin Pilot Sport Cum tires to struggle. The important thing is that just the back end was loosing grip. I had the bad feeling that on these conditions the fronts will not be able to handle well but nothing like that happened. Every hard brake and every enter in the corner with the steering wheel were so easy… just like they should be. On a typical BMW-style the M-leather steering wheel was connected to the front tires and they were sending a proper feedback. Right corner and early before the apex I press the right pedal, the steering wheel almost by itself makes the proper counter lock to a straight position and I have to just control the power and the amount of opposite lock. So easy and so controllable. This little toy wants to make every owner as happy as possible offering him the right proportion of feedback and letting him to control everything while hearing his own pulse in his ears.
And just like that turn after turn I should be feeling bad for traveling to the BMW-office to return the car, but M235i was making me feel the opposite way.
In the end of the day at the parking lot I pressed the BC button to see what was the fuel consumption. Well I assumed something about 15-liters per 100 kms but not… 12,9/100! I was not interested in the mixture of technologies (8-shift gearbox, Twin-Power turbo, etc.) but I was pleasantly surprised… well it is a 320 bhp car with not bad efficiency.
Everybody who has driven E36 M3 and E46 M3 knows well that they are not cars like the others. You know what they can get and how they handle the new Chinese, Korean and French options. Have you ever thought about the fact how were they felt 12 and 22 years ago? It is the same now. BMW AG is perfectly doing the job of assuring that the customers will always get the best of the best and will never regret choosing BMW. And this was not even a M-model!
by Georgi Stefanov