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Exterior view of the BMW M235i xDrive driving down the highway


2020 BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe Test Drive Review

By Derek Shiekhi | September 08, 2020

When you own a car, it's helpful to have the manual that goes with it. When it comes to the 2020 BMW 2 Series, you might benefit from a glossary and some guidance.

You've probably guessed that the 2 Series Coupe has two doors and the 2 Series Convertible has two doors and a rag top. If you have, congratulations. You guessed correctly. Then there's the M2 Competition. As its name implies, it's a high-performance model built to compete against other fast cars on the street and track.

There's another variation called the Gran Coupe. It's got the word "coupe" in its name, so it must be a two-door, right? Wrong. The Gran Coupe may have a swoopy roofline, but that arches over a quartet of door handles and frameless windows.

I should also mention that the Gran Coupe has a completely different drivetrain format than its 2 Series siblings. The traditional coupe and droptop are rear-wheel-drive by default, but offer BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive as an option. The M2 Competition routes its 405 horsepower exclusively through its back tires. The Gran Coupe is based on front-wheel drive underpinnings and is only available with xDrive here in the U.S. The 2 Series Gran Coupe BMW sends to our shores is available in two forms: the 228i (starting price: $37,500) and the more performance-focused M235i (starting price: $45,500), which I spent a week driving through the suburbs and back roads of Central Texas.


2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe Exterior

Exterior view of the BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe

My $50,295 Alpine White test car was just as unusual in person as it is on paper. It had the design touches you’d expect from a souped-up Bimmer, such as a special insert pattern for its signature twin-kidney grille, lower front fascia with large air intakes, wheels — optional 19s wrapped in 235/35 Bridgestone tires — that perfectly filled the wheel wells, M Sport brakes and dual exhaust outlets.

But the designers combined those elements with the short dash-to-axle ratio typically seen on FWD cars, and a rear end with a conventional trunk and slim wraparound taillights that made the back of the M235i Gran Coupe look a lot like the one on the X4 Sports Activity Vehicle.

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2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe Interior

Interior view of the BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe

The inside of the M235i Gran Coupe was much more familiar. I recognized its switchgear and instrumentation from other BMWs I’ve tested in the past. I was used to the sight of the large instrument and infotainment screens that are part of the Live Cockpit Pro feature. In the M235i Gran Coupe, those displays measure 10.25 inches and are packed into the Premium Package along with navigation, adaptive LED headlights, Connected Pro Package of remote vehicle functions and concierge services you can access through your smartphone, a 9.2-inch head-up display and other features.

My press loaner still managed to surprise me, though. Its bright Magma Red Dakota Leather seats made the cockpit more distinctive and exciting. The standard M Sport steering wheel had a thickness to it that made it feel like a substantial piece of performance equipment. The biggest surprise came at night, when the veins in the illuminated trim lit up and gave the interior a bit of style right out of a sci-fi movie.

While taking interior photos, I moved to the back seat. I had just enough legroom to sit behind the driver’s seat adjusted to my 5’10” height. Unfortunately, I didn’t have nearly enough headroom to be comfortable.

I had a more positive experience with the trunk. Not only did it easily fit the week’s-worth of groceries my fiancé and I needed it to hold, but its outer dimensions made loading them a breeze. The lip of the cargo area was so low that we barely had to lift our bags of food and toiletries. We basically just pushed them forward, as if we were feeding them through a massive slot.

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2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe Powertrain

View of the powertrain and engine block of the 2020 BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe

The M235i is more than just a 228i with a body kit and hot tune. It rides 10 millimeters lower on its standard M Sport suspension than a regular 228i. BMW equips it with a front strut tower bar, beefs up the front axle subframe and strategically mounts the anti-roll bar so that it supports the body around it. That thick-rimmed M Sport steering wheel I mentioned earlier is connected to a rack with “a more direct ratio, sharper response and power assistance which varies according to vehicle speed and lateral acceleration,” according to BMW.

Of course, BMW made sure to enhance the M235i’s engine, too. They kept the basics of a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder intact, but upgraded the hardware. Engineers set their sights on a target of 301 horsepower and 331 lb-ft, then reinforced the crankshaft, installed new pistons, swapped the turbo out for a larger one, augmented the cooling system and popped in higher-flow injectors to make sure they hit it safely. The M235i puts that impressive power to the road with the help of an eight-speed automatic transmission and xDrive all-wheel drive, which can divert up to 50 percent of engine power to the back axle.

As soon as I was able to, I headed out to some curvy country roads, put the M235i in Sport mode and put my right foot down. Once the turbo spooled up, I was off at a pace that made me realize just how fast cars have become in my lifetime. When I was a teenager, the Mustang GT, a V8 sports car, only had 260 horsepower. But this little four-door packs significantly more grunt, and has a low, throaty exhaust sound to go with it.

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2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe Safety

With the exception of a couple of items in the Premium Package, my M235i’s safety equipment was all standard. That was OK with me. I had the protection of automatic high beams, Frontal Collision Warning with City Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, Active Blind Spot Detection and other electronic bodyguards.

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2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe Overall

Exterior view of the BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe

The M235i Gran Coupe may send mixed messages about how many doors it has or should have, but it makes it clear that it packs a punch. Just in case you need a little more clarity, go to an AutoNation BMW dealership and take the 2020 M235i xDrive Gran Coupe for a test drive.

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2020 BMW M235i xDrive Specs

Layout

4-door, 5-passenger, AWD

Engine/Transmission

Turbocharged 2.0L I4, 301 hp, 331 lb-ft
eight-speed automatic

Mileage

23/32 mpg (city/hwy)

NHTSA Safety Rating

N/A


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