BMW has been hard at work.
In the global automotive space race, it is diversifying and parsing ever more model lines, to fill ever-smaller niches. Now you not only have a 3-series sedan, but you have a 3-series wagon, hatchback, and comparable coupe and convertible (the 4-series).
The 3-series used to be the humble man’s Bimmer, but when it grew larger and more expensive, the 1-series took its place as the entry to the brand. Most buyers of that model have been younger, childless driversâ€”or puristsâ€”as it only came with two doors and an optional drop-top.
To replace the strong-selling 1-series coupe and convertible that hit U.S. roads in 2008, BMW has simultaneously redesigned the 1, and renamed it the 2. That is to make space for an eventual 1-series sedan, which might compete with the 2015 Audi A3.
So, in summary: the 2008-2013 BMW 135i = 2014 M235i.
Yesterday, I went with a current 135i driver to test the new 2.
The M235i we drove was $47,000, for which you get many special option items standard, and the most visceral BMW outside of an M-car (M3, M5, etc.). Compared to other modern Bimmers that coddle, buffer, and smooth out the world around you…this one is a tiger.
Now, my one major complaint is with the modern, electrically-assisted, non-hydraulic steering. This is a change across the entire lineup; no escaping it. If you don’t know what I mean by the previous sentence, but you’ve driven an older BMW, it’s that very heavy, communicative steering feel.
One you have to muscle to turn.
One that feels like a roller-coaster to turn at speed.
Otherwise known as wicked fun.
It is the most notable difference between BMWs and other cars. Or it used to be.
The newer steering, which I assume is more reliable, exact, and requires less maintenance, is still good. Just not as good.
Beyond that, the 235 is just a growly, giddy rocketship. Equipped with the 8-speed automatic, which most examples will be, it accelerates in a snap, and keeps going. Our sales gentleman made us grip the thick steering wheel and take corners with gusto, which is best enjoyed from the driver’s seat, not the back seat.
In the land of plain 328 sedans and bloated faux sport models, the M235i is still devilish fun, and feels like a BMW should. Cozy, focused on the driver. If I wanted a cruiser, I’d get a ‘Benz.
Given my druthers, I would choose a manual transmission (still stubborn like that), and a brown leather interior. Black can be so drab. I’ll also suggest you spring for the navigation, which gives you a retina-level screen and a touch-pad controller. It is very slick.
Add every option, and you’re still well under the price of an M3. I’ll call that a steal.