BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe — Performance in a small package

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(September 6, 2020) We delight in driving a small car relishing its city driving maneuverability. Throw in outstanding handling attributes and it's even better. Then toss in immense turbocharged performance and it's an automotive brew that we find irresistible. And as frosting on the automotive cake add standard all-wheel drive. The 2020 BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe fulfills all these attributes and then some.

The 2-Series Gran Coupe is an all-new four-door model — never mind the coupe moniker — in the BMW lineup. It's built on the Mini crossover platform and much to the horror of BMW aficionados it has a front-wheel drive bias. But since all 2 Series sedans come with all-wheel drive probably only the savviest drivers will realize the true nature of the drivetrain. Once behind the wheel most drivers will have the same reaction we did — the M235i xDrive Gran Coupe is one gutsy small crossover-based sedan.

The Gran Sport comes in two turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder flavors —228i xDrive making 228 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque @ 1,750 rpm; and the M235i xDrive making 301 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 332 foot-pounds @ 1,750 rpm. We dove the M235i and found it exhibited exhilarating merging and passing capability. Our excitement at this small package was verified in a published 0-to 60 time of 4.6 seconds. The 228i is no slowpoke itself recording the 0-to-60 sprint in 5.1 seconds. Both engine variants are paired to an eight-speed manual automatic transmission.

Besides the difference in horsepower and performance there's an $8,000 difference in the base price and that might be just enough to persuade buyers that the 228i's performance is plenty. The 228i starts are $38,495 and the M235i carries a starting price of $46,495. Both prices include a $995 destination charge.

You will not pay the price at the gas pump for all this luxurious automotive fun. The 228i xDrive is rated at 23 mpg city, 33 highway and 27 combined. The M235i xDrive is only slightly less fuel efficient at 23/32/26. The downside is that premium gas is required.

We found the driving dynamics to be quite rewarding whether it be in around-town cruising, tearing down our usual rural-road "test track," or passing and merging with ease at any speed in highway travel. Note that these small and nimble cars have a stiffly tuned suspension that is highlighted on rougher pavement and transmitted to the seat of your pants.

There are no comprises in the interior compared to bigger and more expensive BMWs. If you've been in any current BMW, the cabin looks and feels much like a typical BMW interior with its horizontal dash layout and use of above-average materials. BMW's latest iDrive infotainment system comes standard. It includes Apple CarPlay smartphone integration and wireless connectivity, meaning you can bring up the interface on the screen without using a USB cable. Our 2 Series Gran Coupe lacked Android Auto, but BMW has said it'll be adding it to its cars in the latter part of this year. Our M235i test vehicle included sports seats covered in Magma Red Dakota Leather, and a capable 10-speaker sound system with SiriusXM capability.

The biggest downside for us was the lack of rear-seat space — legroom is on the short side and headroom because of the sloping roof is compromised, although two average-sized passengers found the accommodations adequate. On the other hand, the trunk is capable of carrying 15.1 cubic feet of cargo, which is generous for a car is this size range.

BMW has loaded the 2-Series Gran Sport with a suite of safety/driver-assist technologies, including rearview camera, programmable LED daytime running lights, SOS collision notification, and automatic high-beams, front/rear parking alert, frontal collision warning with city-collision mitigation and daytime pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, and speed-limit information.

Our M235i came very well equipped for the base price, but there were several options tacked on including a $2,650 Premium Package that added a heated steering wheel, adaptive full LED lights, head-up display and navigation. Other options included M Sport front seats, 19-inch M Forged wheels, and remote engine start bringing the bottom line to $51,295 including destination charge.

The 2-Series comes with 4-year/50,000-mile basic and drivetrain warranties. Free maintenance is offered for three years or 36,000 miles.

2020 BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe

Base price: $38,495; as driven, $51,295
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 301 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 332 foot-pounds @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Length: 178.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,605 pounds
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 15.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (premium)
0-60: 4.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class, Mercedes CLA

The Good
• Strong performance
• Athletic handling
• Good gas mileage
• Attractive interior

The Bad
• Stiff suspension

The Ugly
• Back seat headroom lacking