Imagine if the very first BMW you ever drove was the 5 Series Gran Turismo, the sedan with more bass in the trunk than even Chris Bangle could have stomached. The 550i xDrive GT weighs approximately a jillion pounds and makes even a hippo look gainly by comparison. That first-time driver would wonder what all the BMW fuss is about and might come to believe that automotive journalists really do receive a monthly stipend from Munich.
Now let’s pretend that the rear-wheel-drive BMW M235i coupe came to you instead. Here’s what you’d be in for: the sound of an inline-six ripping to 6,000 rpm in gear after gear, zinging its 3,500 pounds down a road so quickly that tires kissing asphalt sound like a hamburger hitting a hot grill.
Making a case for minimalism: The 2 Series doesn’t try to wow with specs but just might win over new Bimmer fans.
The suspension crouches low so you feel near to the road rather than apart from it, and your passenger is close enough that you can nudge him with your elbow knowingly. Because this is fun, right?
And it is. The 2 Series is BMW’s most intimate car, at least distantly related to the 2002 model, and it’s diminutive by today’s supersized standards. The 3.0-liter turbo is one of the sweetest engines made today, partly because it’s potent but not pretentious, and intensely responsive. Like the entire car, it’s not out to make a big statement. This car is for the true Bimmer believers or, better yet, the car to create a new crop of believers.
The BMW M235i is not a true-blue M model — gods willing, an M2 will arrive soon — but even the base 228i is a total blast. The engine and power are downsized (a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 240 hp), but the fun isn’t. Equipped with a manual, it weighs less than 3,300 pounds. It will teach you a lesson in rolling momentum, using the brakes only when necessary and negotiating the highest cornering speed while mitigating understeer. Any decent driver can go quickly with 600 hp and carbon-ceramic brakes; it takes old-school skills to do the same in a 2. The beauty is that you’ll murder heavier, high-horsepower cars in the corners.
Editor-in-chief Mike Floyd and I drove the BMW 2 Series and VW GTI back to back along a twisty, dippy section of deserted road, and then we switched cars halfway. At the end of the run, he got out red-faced and said, “Man, those really are fun cars.” The 2 and GTI might be starting from two polar opposites—a rear-wheel-drive coupe trying to downsize and simplify, the front-wheel-drive hatch trying to muscle up — but the goal is roughly the same. Fun for real people on actual roads.
Which brings us to the other good stuff. The BMW 228i gets up to 36 mpg highway and starts at $33,025. The BMW M235i is steeper, jumping off at $44,025. Not cheap, but $28,300 less expensive than the 550i xDrive GT and a zillion times more fun.
Read about the other 2015 AUTOMOBILE All-Stars:
- Alfa Romeo 4C
- BMW i8
- Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
- Ford Mustang
- Honda Fit
- Lamborghini Huracán
- Mercedes-Benz C-Class
- Subaru WRX/WRX STI
- Volkswagen Golf GTI
2014 BMW 2 Series Specifications
- Base price: $33,025-$44,025
- As-tested price: $37,675 (228i)/$49,470 (M235i)
- Engines: 2.0-liter turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/240 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm, 255 lb-ft @ 1,450-4,800 rpm; 3.0-liter turbocharged DOHC 24-valve I-6/320 hp @ 5,800 rpm, 330 lb-ft @ 1,300-4,500 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual, 8-speed automatic
- Layout: 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD/AWD coupe
- EPA mileage (city/highway/combined): 19-22/28-34/23-26 mpg (manual), 20-23/30-36/24-28 mpg (automatic)
Click here to read about all the 2015 AUTOMOBILE All-Star awards.