BMW X2 M35i — Performance beast

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

For most of our driving life we have preferred small vehicles that can be tossed around, that are easily maneuvered on crowded streets and parking lots, a joy to drive fast and hard on a favorite winding road, and that are relatively easy on the gasoline budget. If they have luxury qualities and awe-inspiring power all the better.

For those and other reasons the small 2020 BMW X2 M35i fit our needs and desires perfectly. The X2 is a luxury compact crossover, a sportier and sleeker fastback version of BMW's subcompact X1 crossover.

The M35i signifies cutting-edge performance in the form of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 302 horsepower and 322 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It gives the little all-wheel drive BMW — endowed with limited slip differential and launch control — neck-sapping capability measured at a breathtaking 4.6 seconds from 0-to-60 mph.

It's got enough go-fast excitement to trigger a sing-out-loud chorus of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

It would be enough if it was just the stirring straight-line performance, but there's more, a lot more. Along with the track-tuned powertrain is a chassis to match. The M35i comes with stiffer spring and damper rates, lower ride height, and quicker ratio steering that seems linked to the driver’s wishes. This little hauler is a cornering beast begging the driver to dig deeper into his bag of limited talent. If there ever was a "hot hatch" this is it. Warning — the wonderful handling qualities come with a rather stiff ride that can be a bit annoying after too many miles.

There's another compromise with this little beauty and it's with space. While it comes in at just about the right dimensions for us — 172.2 inches long with a wheelbase of 105.1 inches — it doesn't have the rear-seat room or cargo capacity of its standard X1 crossover sibling, or for that matter the more pedestrian fun-to-drive Volkswagen Golf R.

Seating is tight for second-row passengers and cargo space is only 22 cubic feet behind the seats and 50.1 cubic feet with rear seats folded. The traditional X1 can store 27.1 cubic feet of stuff behind the seats. We wished for a bit more passenger space, but we were fine with storage even though — because of its low roofline — it doesn't quite match up to the same-sized standard crossover. And we did put two under-6-foot adults in back for a short jaunt with no complaints about legroom or space.

For those who want the Ultimate Driving Machine experience and the head-turning styling in the X2, but don't need the ferocious power or high price tag, the base turbocharged 4-cylinder should work quite well. It makes 228 horsepower with a 0-to-60 time of around six seconds.

Inside, BMW’s driver-focused cabin is all business. A thick M leather-wrapped steering wheel falls at hand with large analog gauges behind it. A heads-up display keeps eyes forward. Our M35i came with the great-sounding Harman/Kardon audio system, which surprisingly is only an $875 option, a panoramic sunroof, navigation, and automatic climate control. Safety is enhanced with adaptive cruise, park distance control, lane departure warning, and front crash warning. The backup camera with blindspot warning and cross-traffic alert is very welcome because outward visibility is somewhat hampered by the sloping roof design.

Pricing starts at $37,395 including a $995 destination charge for the X2 sDrive28i, $39,395 for the all-wheel drive version, and $47,445 for the M35i, which comes standard with AWD. Be aware that options are many and can run the price up in a hurry. For example, our M35i carried $7,565 in options including $1,800 for a Premium Package that brings heated steering wheel, heated seats, head-up display, navigation and an 8.8-inch high-resolution screen. The Magma Red Dakota Leather for $1,450 on our test car looked great, but we could do without the $1,340 panoramic moonroof, which was also included.

The X1 xDrive28i we also drove came with White Metallic paint ($550) and an all leather interior ($1,450), plus a convenience package and an M Sport Package that ran $4,650. Including destination the bottom line came to $45,245.

The X2 comes with 4-year/50,000-mile basic and drivetrain warranties, and free maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles.

2020 BMW X2 M35i

Base price: $37,395; as driven, $55,020
Engine: turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 301 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 258 foot-pounds @ 1,450 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Length: 172.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,721 pounds
Turning circle: 37.2 feet
Luggage capacity: 21.6 cubic feet
Cargo capacity:50.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16.1 gallons (premium recommended)
0-60: 4.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Mercedes AMG GLA45, Cadillac XT4, VW Golf R

The Good
• Blazing acceleration with M35i
• High quality interior
• Unique styling

The Bad
• Stiff ride

The Ugly
• Option list long and pricey