The X2 has always had the looks but never really the performance to back them up. Enter the M Division which has applied its M Performance formula for the first time in a front wheel drive based BMW. Does it live up to the M label? And can the front wheel drive based X2 finally become a drivers car? We took the X2 M35i to the track and the canyons to find out.
The 302 HP BMW X2 M35i – Powered by the B48A20T1
Powering the X2 M35i is the B48A20T1 which outputs 302 hp and and 332 lb-ft @ 1,750 – 4,500 rpm. To go from 231 to 302 BMW this new version of the B48 features a number of physical changes over the X2 28i version of the power plant. Reinforced crankshaft, larger main bearings and new pistons fitted with a reduced compression ratio (9.5:1 vs 10.2:1) all allows for a larger turbocharger and increased boost. The intake airflow tract is also improved on the B48A20T1 for higher flow while the cooling system has been upgraded to keep it all at a proper operating temperature.
And yes, you can definitely feel the difference. Standard on the X2 M35i is a revised xDrive system that is invisible in normal use. The combination of that and the revised 8 Speed automatic (Aisin sourced) serves to produce neck-snapping acceleration compared to the 28i model and the current MINI JCW products. From a standing start to mid-range performance, this new drivetrain transforms the X2 into the car that it always looked like it should be. Coupled with the larger brakes, sport seats (both derived from MINI’s JCW products) and a more aggressive suspension tune and you have a car that feels transformed.
Beyond the extra power a big part of this is the BMW M Sport front differential. It features a Torsen-based limited slip capabilities with up to a 39% lock-up. The new M Sport differential is integrated into the 8-speed automatic transmission which itself features steering wheel shift paddles, M Performance specific tuning, additional transmission cooling and updated gear ratios. In other words this is truly an M Performance product and not just a tuned X2 28i.
The result is a car that feels far more capable than it was before. Around the track it’s more confident due to the extra power but also the larger brakes and the revised suspension. Where the previous X2 would simply grip and hang on until it understeered in corners, the M35i is more exploitable with greater driver feedback along the way. But all that is a fraction of the change that the new power brings. With that extra power the X2 feels quicker and more confident in almost every way. Motivating that power is perhaps the unsung hero; the 8 speed auto. Improved in shift times and responsiveness, it feels closer to the excellent ZF 8 speeds we all know from the best BMW products. While a manual would be a welcome addition, this revised auto is so good that we think it may just win over a few from the manual or die crowd.
The 302 HP BMW X2 M35i – Inside
Any JCW Clubman or Countryman owner will immediately recognize a few bit and pieces on these cars. The brakes and the seats are perhaps the most obvious. Here those seats (wrapped in a different leather pattern with new trim) fit the car well and provide a bit more lateral support than the already good sport seats found in the X2 28i.
But this isn’t an X1 or even a Countryman. The X2 is doesn’t have the utility of either and lacks the rear seat volume to make it feel like a true family car. While the term coupe is a misnomer, this isn’t a utility driven four door hatch the way the X1 or Countryman is.
The X2 M35i – The Driver’s Crossover
This doesn’t feel like a 3 Series much less the more nimble and engaging 2 Series. But the X2 has become something special with the M35i. While BMW enthusiasts will bemoan the front wheel drive underpinnings, it’s an impressive car on the road and even on light duty at the track.
However that $47k MSRP is a bit eye watering when you consider what else BMW will sell you for the same price. Add just a couple of key options and you’re at 50k quickly. The current JCW Countryman offers less power, better handling, more utility and is approximately 9k less. The choice then comes down to what that power is worth to you. But there’s also an X factor of sorts – the look. If the sleek X2 look appeals to you, that extra cash might not be a hard sell. And that’s exactly what BMW wants. The X2 and especially the M35i is meant to be an emotive product that pulls you in. And in our time with the car it does just that.
The power and the improvements made elsewhere make for a compelling package that may be to justify for some, yet hard to not love. It all begs the question – when is the 302 hp JCW Countryman coming out exactly? Because for (theoretically) less money, less weight and even better performance that might just be the sweet spot. And that’s not to mention the even cheaper, lighter and faster upcoming 302 hp JCW Clubman.