2014 BMW M235i
2014 BMW M235i
2014 BMW M235i
2014 BMW M235i. Click image to enlarge

Review by Jacob Black, photos by Jacob Black and Jonathan Yarkony

For years now, BMW enthusiasts have been peppering the internet with complaints that the new BMWs are not as exciting to drive as the old ones. “An E46 is smaller, lighter, firmer, twitchier and just plain better than a current-gen or even previous-gen M3,” they say.

These are the hardcore, the aficionados, the true believers. And the 2014 BMW M235i might actually be the return of the saviour they’ve been aching for.

Sure, it’s not as powerful as an M3 – well, not a current generation at least. But it is almost as powerful as an E46, and more powerful if you care much about torque – which you should.

In 2006 the M3’s naturally aspirated 3.2L inline six was good for 333 hp at 7,900 rpm and 262 lb-ft of torque from 4,900 rpm. In 2014, the M235i runs a single, twin-scroll turbo forcing air into the 3.0L straight six. That lump puts out 322 hp @ 5,800 rpm (10 less hp but earlier) and 332 lb-ft of torque from 1,400 rpm. That’s 70 lb-ft more, and a heck of a lot earlier.

Suffice to say, on the engine front the M235i would satisfy anyone who adores the E46. It even matches its older sibling on the 0-100 km/h front with both cars capable of the task in 4.8 seconds. My real world experience with the loud pedal led to heavy use of the words “raucous,” “awesome” and “bwahahahahahahahaha.”

The M235i is heavier, though, at 1,590 kg compared to the E46’s 1,549, but the M235i is also shorter both in wheelbase (2,690 mm vs 2,730) and length (4,432 mm vs 4,493) with shorter overhangs, so it is more flickable than the halo model E46. The snappier turn-in is balanced by a slightly wider (12 mm) front track and 30 mm wider rear track.

That’s a lot of statistics, and it boils down to this: The M235i has the right size, shape, chassis and power characteristics to not only appease the stalwarts and true believers – but it is also better than the car they hold above all others.

This thing is crazy-good. The electric steering is direct and well-weighted. If I wanted to whinge I’d ask for more heft to it, but there is no wobble on centre. On centre is straight, 0.5 degrees either side is a change in direction. With a short wheelbase and a fast rack, turn-in is rapid, more rapid perhaps than the downsized winter tires fitted to my tester were entirely happy with. Mid-corner the M235i begins to pick up more understeer – exacerbated by but not entirely the fault of the winter tires. Happily the understeer is easily sent packing with the application of some right toe – use a little to get the car to track more true, or use a lot to ignite the rears and initiate a lurid skid. Especially in Sport+ mode.

2014 BMW M235i2014 BMW M235i
2014 BMW M235i. Click image to enlarge

If you are a true risk-taker, you can put the M235i in Sport+, then hold the TC button for five seconds and totally remove traction control. Then there’s no understeer, but there might be an M235i-shaped dent in your nearest bus shelter, light pole or snow bank. Happily, my very short (and exhilarating) experience sans traction control ended without incident, though it did ruin the career of one pair of boxer shorts.

If you were so inclined (and not petrified of the BMW PR department), you could also do donuts to your heart’s content because this little puppy is a rear-wheel drive with a six-speed manual. Sorry, you probably can’t read this anymore because the clouds have parted, there is now a blinding light shining on your screen and angel choirs are singing.

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