BMW M235i makes 'Gran' entrance

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BMW M235i makes 'Gran' entrance

Friday, December 11, 2020

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BMW has moved into a space long dominated by German rivals —the two-litre turbocharged four-wheel drive compact luxury sports sedan — with the M235i xDrive Gran Coupé. On its first appearance, this M Performance model creates immediate impact in the segment with a strong focus on luxury and speed.

BMW has the Gran Coupé styling down to perfection. The moniker means a drastically sloped rear roofline for a four-door car. Dressed in its M Performance package, front and rear aprons, side skirts, dark metallic rear diffuser, and M light alloy wheels behind which sit massive blue brakes callipers, the M235i treads a very sleek but aggressive appearance from any angle. That aside, the iconic BMW kidney grille in satin aluminium has adaptive LED headlights that follow steering input and adjust their beam for oncoming traffic. The slim pair of LEDs on the rear follows the designs of sport utility coupés like the X4.

Approach the BMW and the proximity keys automatically open the vehicle, indicated by the unfolding of the side mirrors. Like a welcoming butler, all four door handles light up and drivers are greeted by a BMW branded puddle light. Opening the frameless doors is another classic sports car treat. They reveal a very special interior, also decked out in M Performance wares. The most immediately noticed will be the M Sport steering wheel, sport seats and M door sill finishers that bare the model designation. Everything from the key fob to the floor mats gets the M treatment. The dashboard angles gently towards the driver. The interior fabrics can be optioned based on buyer preference, but be assured that every stitch will ooze that premium feel. All surfaces available are swathed in soft-touch quality materials. The panoramic sunroof goes a long way to enhance the cabin's presence. At night, the customisable ambient lighting does the same.

The M235i harks back to the days of the smaller BMW sedans, but there's more than enough passenger space. Storage is plenty and the powered trunk pops open with a press of a button to reveal more cargo space. Then the tech kicks in. All the main functions are powered or automated making it possible to personalise settings which will then become part of the stored driver profile. Seats, wipers, headlights, cruise control, emergency brake can operate autonomously when set so. However, that's just the tip of the iceberg. BMW's Reverse Assistant can replay the last 50 metres of steering input and the Parking Assistant requires minimal effort from the driver to put the car perfectly into any recognised space.

At the heart of the technology are two 10.25-inch digital screens, one for the iDrive infotainment system and the other for BMW's Live Cockpit Professional instrumentation. Both are clear and configurable to maximise or minimise the data flow to the driver. Connectivity is fast and simple. Any audio device generates amazing sound out of the 16 speaker harman/kardon surround system. The main touchscreen is responsive, not that there's much reason to touch it as the iDrive physical interfaces on the centre console and steering wheel are more than easy to operate. For even more control is BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant that is instigated by the spoken words “Hey BMW”.

In ECO PRO or COMFORT mode the M235i does its job of cosseting occupants with its barrage of technology, convenience features, and cabin refinement. The adaptive suspension dampens harsh impacts which are heard but never jolt passengers or upset the vehicle. In these two modes the M235i operates like any BMW luxury sedan. Still, there is the underlying sense of muscle from the firmness in the chassis. Step deep into the throttle or switch over to SPORT mode and the turbocharged 2-litre shows its strength immediately, delivering 301bhp through a more than willing eight-speed transmission and turning that power into warp level forward momentum via its all-wheel drive xDrive system. 100km/h comes up in 4.9 seconds and top speed is capped at 250km/h.

It's not just the figures as the M Division's driving dynamics can be felt everywhere. The blistering acceleration, aided by a linear distribution 331lb/ft of torque, makes traffic disappear in an instant. The xDrive grip takes corner carving to the next level, clipping apexes at eye searing velocities. This is no sterile digital driving experience. The chassis, once wound up, constantly sends visceral feedback to the driver about the amount of grip. Matching the sharp handling are the brakes, able to confidently scrub off any speed. And for those that crave more, there are the manual paddle shifters allowing drivers to scream the four-cylinder to its redline.

The M235i never forgets its core values of luxury and performance. It may not be a full-fledged M car, but it fits the bill of those looking for a little more driving excitement from their compact luxury sedan without going as hardcore as the M Division can go.


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