Judy Rae

BMW’s M235I Gran Coupe blazes new path for German automaker 

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Beach Wheels

By Jeff Mitchell

Recently I had a chance to test-drive the new BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe and came away impressed with the vehicle’s capability and build quality. While impressive, the M235i is a bit of an odd duck — being part sports sedan and part crossover.

What do I mean by this? Well, when you look at the front of the vehicle you see a front fascia design that is exciting and aggressive. BMW’s trademark kidney bean grille has been widened and is affixed to a blacked-out rear grille panel with large racing-like air intakes around it. This exciting design treatment continues up onto the hood and back along the sides of the vehicle. But when you get to the back and that’s where the designers seem to have given up just a bit. I mean the rear end isn’t bad looking, it’s just kind of common in appearance.

The M235i is also slightly taller than you might expect as it sits on BMW’s X1 and X2 platforms. My tester came with AWD xDrive, which yes, does deliver all-wheel drive but defaults normally to front-wheel drive. Basically, the way it works is that the transversely mounted engine sends power primarily to the front wheels and leaves the rear axle disengaged until it’s needed. (And, yes, this is a bit strange for BMW which has a decades-long legacy of producing rear-wheel-drive performance cars.)

Under the hood of my “Alpine White” painted tester was a 2.0 liter, 301-horsepower four-cylinder turbocharged engine that will do 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds. This engine produces 332-pound-feet of torque and is mated to a smooth-shifting eight-speed transmission. My tester has a rated- and electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph. My tester produced a satisfying and growly exhaust note which will put a smile on your face.

On the road, I found the M235i generally fast, nimble and compliant although I found it operated best in sport mode.

Inside the cabin were supportive “Magma Red” Dakota leather sport seats. Upfront, it’s spacious and comfortable. The backseats? Not so much. I found there to be just enough room for average-size adults and that’s about it.

My tester came with an 8.8-inch center touchscreen and an 8.8-inch digital driver’s display. Safety equipment included lane departure warning alarms, blind-spot detection and front collision warning alarms. M235I also came with front and rear parking assistance, ambient lighting and automatic climate control. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard. 

BMW also includes in the steering, suspension and brakes from its M Sport division. The 19-inch M Forged steel alloy wheels are also part of the upscale package.

In terms of gas mileage, the tester got 26 miles per gallon overall, 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the open highway. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for my tester, as trimmed with all the M-package goodies, came to $45,500.

Final thoughts: Admittedly, the M235i is going to struggle with its identity a bit. Is it a sports sedan or is it a crossover? You can tell that BMW engineers and designers struggled mightily with this. In the end, they were able to merge the best aspects of both worlds. Get out to a dealer and test drive this beautiful creature. I think you’ll like it.

Jeff Mitchell is a Los Angeles-based automotive writer and reviewer. You can contact him at j.edward.mitchell@gmail.com


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