Is the M235i the Perfect BMW?

I was sitting at a bar trying to articulate to myself on an iPad why I felt the M235i was the star of NAIAS when I ran into Bobby Rahal. Ok let me back up. I had been traveling since NAIAS and found myself in Columbus Ohio – home of Team RLR and a place often visited by Bobby. After realizing that my flight was delayed another hour I decided it was time to start writing. At that moment I realized that I wasn’t the only one at the bar settling in for another beer waiting to get to Chicago. As two car guys are likely to do conversation quickly turned to cars and the recent NAIAS. The first thing Bobby said to me was how impressed he was with the M235i. The perfect size is what he called it. Exactly my point I said. It’s the perfect formula with two doors, rear wheel drive and an overall length that felt inline with all those BMW coupes that came before it. Yes we the M4 looks amazing and will perform impeccably. But the new 2 Series feels more true to the heritage of the BMW coupe. Frankly more true to what made BMW successful. And for that, Bobby Rahal and I might just consider it the perfect car in BMW’s line-up.


Granted we haven’t driven the M235i yet and due to plenty of poorly timed schedules we likely won’t until spring. But on paper this car is exactly what we’ve been waiting for. Stiffer and marginally lighter than the 135is while offering more power, the M235i has all of the qualities we’d want in a small rear wheel drive coupe. It’s also immediately attractive – something the 1 Series wasn’t for most.

And for a little $45k lightly equipped, it’s a hell of a bargain for someone looking for a back to basics BMW coupe. Especially considering pricing on other BMW coupe.


Hands-on the M235i is interesting. While it’s an entirely new car, it feels more of an evolution over the current 1 Series. Everything from seat design to control placement is very similar. But this is a good thing. The 1 Series was based on the classic BMW formula that has powered the brand for decades. Evolving that into something more modern while keeping the core the same sounds like a perfect equation to us.

Sure there’s no limited slip from the factory and the 18″ M-Sport wheels look a little inconsequential given the high belt-line. But the M235i might just be the sweet-spot in the BMW line-up. At least that’s what Bobby Rahal and I think.

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  • CJ

    I think it looks great and has an impressive list of standard options. Like you said it doesn’t have everything new the M3/M4 has, but I think it will be a great compromise for those that won’t or can’t spend 62k on the M3. I really hope they are making a Gran Coupe version of the M235i. I also like the options and price of the 228i. Adding Xenon headlights, M-sport brakes, and a few other options and you are still under 40k, not bad at all.

    • janon

      Except that in real world pricing the M235 is deep into the 50s unless you buy it STRIPPED. People always play these MSRP games. The M235 you get started at $46k, but what is the standard trim on M4 going to be at $62k base? My guess is a lot nicer.

      So yeah stripped vs stripped the fake M 2 series is a whopping $16k cheaper than a real M M4, but reality will be close than that

      IMO there will be a lot more “can’t” afford than “won’t” afford if people were actually being honest. “Won’t afford” will wait for an M2 because they want a smaller car.

  • BMW fan

    I agree with the reasoning on size/performance but also believe the cheapening of the interior is a mistake that will have repercussions. Hard plastic abounds without even the low-cost remedy of “soft touch” paint. When domestic and import mass brands have a higher perceived interior quality feel, this will not be good for the brand

  • les

    Do you think the 8 speed ZF box is going to be better than the 7 speed DCT from the 135i?

  • RH

    the real questions is… is it better than the legendary, mythical, better-than-sliced bread, (fill in ridiculous over-used superlative adjective here) BMW 1M???????????????????????

  • Greg Garrison

    Needs 19s. Needs wider back end. Needs less plastic in the interior. Other than that its a winner. If they can make a 2M out of this platform for 50K base it will be be best car they make.

  • Paul

    it’s not “lighter” than the 135is. The M235 is actually 150 lbs HEAVIER with the same power. The 135is is the enthusiast’s choice—–hydraulic steering, lighter, and much more functional without the electronic BS.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      If you are looking at for the numbers they are not accurate- The 135i and 135is weight the same there as does the auto and manual M235i… not reality.

      The current F2X 1 Series in Europe and the soon to launch 2 series are lighter than the outgoing E8X when compared apples to apples- they drive significantly better as well.

      Even with all the work on the suspension for the 135is the car still understeers way too much, the M135i is neutral with the nannies off and the M235i is to be the same.

      I agree with the steering being better on the old generation but that is where it ends. There are some other changes (forged crank, etc.) that the M235i will have as well (plus a higher sticker) but BMWNA did a good job with the 135is; it was a market specific swan song and it definitely sent the E8X chassis out with a bang… I’d be happy with either as they tick different boxes.

  • ulrichd

    As a current 1-series owner I really want to love this car, but I continue to struggle with BMW’s current design language. Especially the sides on many of their models seem over designed, overly creased and just too much to my eye. The nicely sculpted and creased front end seems to morph into puffyness just in front of the rear wheels. I assume the car is on 18s but they still seem too small overall. Not for me.