The BMW M235i Gran Coupe is a little difficult to wrap your head around if you’re a traditionalist. For one, it is not very closely related to the outgoing, and soon to be replaced, M240i which is a coupe driven by its rear wheels and a 3-litre 6 cylinder engine. Instead, it’s more of a stretched M135i sharing the same 2-litre 4 cylinder engine and front wheel drive biased all wheel drive system (boo hiss). There will be a new M240i Coupe that will feature a 6 cylinder engine and will have the correct number of doors to wear the coupe name. Gran Coupe seems to skew more than just the number of doors in this instance.
The M235i and other 2 Series Gran Coupe models are, obviously, the result of the successes of the Audi A3 Saloon and Mercedes-Benz CLA models. Mercedes-Benz seem to have an appetite for niches and recently added an A Class Saloon to the range that makes no sense in my mind given that it looks like a slightly podgy CLA with no significant space gains. I’m sure the researchers at MB have their justifications…
Visually BMW were quick to flash up profile images of the, to my eyes, gorgeous 8 Series Gran Coupe overlaying sketches of the 2 Series Gran Coupe at the evenings press presentation. Again, to my eyes, one of these cars looks taught, sharp and rather tasty. Unfortunately the scaled down 2 Series doesn’t seem to wear the lines so well, they aren’t striking and melt away into the large and aesthetically heavy rear end.
Maybe it is a peach to drive? Well, the 1 Series is not available in China or the United States of America so it is up to the 2 Series Gran Coupe to whet the appetite of American and Chinese buyers. As a result, this is not just a stretched 1 Series. The suspension set up is softer to better accommodate poorer surfaces. The road route set up by BMW features a variety of road surfaces which the M235i I am piloting takes in its stride.
Make no mistake, the car is very good for doing the tasks that the vast majority of buyers will use their cars for, daily commutes and school runs. It is relatively spacious inside, comfortable, features tech that you would find in a 7 Series and it even feels plenty quick off the line with all wheel drive traction. 0-100 is done in 4.9 and accomplished courtesy of 306 horsepower and 450Nm.
My gripes relate to feedback and feel: there is, literally, none. Yes, the steering rack is quick and BMW have fitted a Torsen limited-slip differential in addition to the BMW Performance Control which ‘intelligently applies the brakes at the wheels on the inside of the bend before the slip threshold has been reached’ a bit like a McLaren does. As great as this sounds, the M235i GC is not engaging or particularly exciting to chuck into the bends.
Understeer still plagues the driving experience and when the front end is not pushing on, the car remains neutral and does not have you lusting to explore your favourite twisty roads with zeal. The M badge typically denotes more dynamic, and adrenaline fuelled drives. The synthesised exhaust noise is very clearly fake, more so than in other BMW models.
By no means does this mean that the 2020 M235i Gran Coupe is a bad car. If you are looking for a car to ferry your family around on short city journeys in comfort with great connectivity and convenience, this could well be the car for you. The M235i variant looks more imposing that lesser models and is well equipped. But if you’re looking for something with a little more zing, the Golf R is more dynamic and the Mercedes CLA 35 AMG is equally well appointed and feels more alive.