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    Birds’ fully-fettled M235i / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-M235i / #BMW-M235i-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Birds-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-2-Series-F22 / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Birds / #2017 / #Birds / #Birds-M235

    Bird of Prey Everyone’s having a go at improving the M235i but Birds’ fullyfettled example might be the best yet. With more power and a thoroughly refined suspension set up this M235i is gunning for the M2… and might just beat it! Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith.

    It’s almost possible to determine how desirable a BMW model is by the amount of tuning products that become available from the aftermarket for that car. It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that we’re not inundated by companies offering upgrades for the 5 Series GT, but hardly a day goes by without there seemingly being an upgrade for BMW’s latest pocket rocket, the M235i and it’s slightly more recent sibling, the M240i. And in case hatchback owners are feeling left out it’s fair to say that the vast majority of what works on the Coupé also translates to the three- and five-door models, too.

    In the past few issues we’ve had several F22 Coupés in these pages vying to be the definitive version of the top-notch coupé and while we don’t think that any of them are claiming to rival BMW’s engineering capabilities what most companies are offering is something a little bit more hardcore than BMW’s factory offerings. There’s no doubt that if it chose to BMW could create the ultimate weapon using the F22 M240i but that car’s called the M2… and by the same rationale it can’t make the M2 the best thing since sliced bread as then no one would buy an M4. Ultimately the M240i is built to compete at a particular price point and for that reason there’s plenty of room for improvement.

    The world’s more or less your oyster when it come to tuning this model with a plethora of parts to choose from, both in terms of styling and performance, but at first glance Birds’ subtle black example that’s waiting patiently for me at the company’s Iver HQ looks like its missed out on the upgrades – take the badges off and it could almost pass for a 218d M Sport. Nice. That’s how I prefer my high performance machinery, understated.

    Despite its subtle looks a huge amount of work has gone into the set up for this 2 Series and when one speaks to Birds’ MD, Kevin Bird, it’s clear that he’s absolutely passionate about getting the best out of the car. As Quaife’s official distributor for both BMW and Mercedes limited slip differentials it’s almost a given that one would be fitted to the M235i to improve traction, and as more power never goes amiss an engine upgrade has endowed Birds’ M235i with a 390hp output. But it’s in the realm of #BMW suspension that Kevin really excels and he’s not been overly impressed with some of BMW’s latest offerings, especially on the F30 generation of machinery.

    Having already worked wonders on several of BMW’s latest cars – most of which we’ve driven and been impressed by (witness the 435d xDrive in last month’s issue) – Kevin set about putting the experience he’d gained working with the F-Series cars onto the M235i. While definite improvements were made with some bespoke springs and dampers Kevin decided to get a second opinion from James Weaver, a legendary sports car racer, who Kevin had become reacquainted with at a charity track event. Weaver had driven Birds’ Z4 35i at this event and had reckoned it could be considerably improved so Kevin wondered whether Weaver could offer some useful pointers when it came to the development work on the M235i. Weaver has won more sports car races than most people have had hot dinners and along with his chassis engineer, Peter Weston, knows more about setting a car up than just about anyone and after some initial meetings it was agreed that Weston and Weaver would help to fine tune the Birds’ M235i package and as a starting point Weston requested some measurements from the car. “I was astonished at the level of detail he required,” Kevin commented. “Not only things like arm ratios, corner-weights, spring stiffness, damper rates and so on, but stuff that we’d never even started to consider, like unsprung weights of each corner, centre of gravity above front and rear axles, bump stop stiffness and contact points. The measuring work alone took us two full days.”

    It was time well spent though as a few days later Weston came back to Birds with new spring and damper settings and after waiting for the springs to be produced and for Bilstein to re-valve the dampers they were duly fitted to the car to await a test by Weaver. Kevin takes up the story again; “The weather was cold and damp, but nevertheless, after much fiddling with tyre pressures, front and rear geometry and different wheel and tyre sets, a conclusion was reached. There was no doubt that the car was behaving much better than our own calculated confection, but it was suggested that even more could be achieved in terms of ride quality and especially traction and grip levels with a second revision to the set up”.

    After a further period of waiting the revised set up was fitted to the car. “This included changes to spring rates both front and rear, and damper curves to suit. Moreover, changes to the front track width (to generate less negative scrub radius) and, surprisingly, a different choice of tyre,” said Kevin, and he does admit to having his doubts as to whether the extra expense was worth it, after all, the first of the Weaver/Weston kits had seemed more or less spot on when he’d tested the car. He should have had faith though as when he drove the revised set up on the car he says it was a revelation. “Not only was the ride quality better than before, ultimate body control improved on our bumpy B roads and the steering feel improvements were in a different league. And the traction and grip levels? Simply unbelievable. Given the temperatures and conditions, we never expected to be able to assess that characteristic, but it’s blindingly obvious that where we had so little before, now we have it everywhere. This is without doubt the best suspension tune we have achieved so far.”
    Unsurprisingly as I stepped into Birds’ demonstrator I had pretty high expectations, especially as so much development work had gone into the car’s set up – no off the shelf parts here – with every aspect of the car’s underpinnings having been closely examined and finely honed by people who’ve probably forgotten more about driving and car control then I will ever learn. As is the way with these things the pictures have to take priority so I gingerly pick my way around the M25 and some of Surrey’s back roads to rendezvous with snapper Smithy. I’m concentrating on avoiding puddles and trying to keep the car clean at this point – and sadly I notice I’ve failed miserably in this respect when I arrive at our location – but it does dawn on me as I step out of the car that I’ve not actually noticed the ride quality as I’ve been cruising along. Which is exactly as you want it when not on a charge as you don’t want your internal organs going through a work out every time you drive your car, especially when you just need it to be a form of transport rather than for entertainment.

    Once the M235i’s been given a thorough cleaning and the static images are in the bag it’s time to head out for some action shots and now that I’m less concerned with keeping it clean I can delve a little bit deeper into the car’s performance and concentrate on the driving experience. Having slipped the car into Sport mode to sharpen up the throttle response one’s immediately hit by the additional soundtrack coming from the BMW M Performance exhaust with which this car is equipped – it might not make the car go any faster, but it sure sounds good.

    Running past the camera for the side-on panning shots is a little frustrating as what I really want to be doing is hammering the car as hard as possible but as this will make Smithy’s life tricky and will just make the process take even longer I content myself with driving briskly enough to give the images the sensation of speed, all the while feeling very comfortable in the car. No crashing over bumps, no jiggly ride, spot on in fact.

    Finding suitable corners in this part of the world can be difficult so we decide to head for where we know there’s something suitable which is a 15 minute drive away and what a 15 minutes they are. The back roads round here are quite tight but progress is rapid and massively grin inducing. Speeds rise as familiarity grows and my first impression is one of significant improvements to the steering, with the M235i almost feeling as if a slightly quicker rack has been installed. The car now responds with more immediacy as the steering wheel is turned and even on the damper sections of roads we encounter understeer really doesn’t rear its ugly head unless one’s being wildly optimistic with one’s corner entry speed.

    At the same time it’s devastatingly rapid on the straights between the corners and it makes no matter whether you simply leave the ‘box to its own devices or elect to swap cogs yourself with the paddles. This latter mode gives you a little more control as you enter the corners and one aspect I particularly like about this conversion is that it’s not afraid to allow the car a certain amount of body roll. This endows the M235i with the necessary compliance to shrug off and ride out mid-corner imperfections and the further I drive it the more convinced I become that virtually nothing is going to throw it off line or upset its cornering attitude. Grip levels are astonishingly high and there’s traction by the barrel load, not something you can always say about the M235i in inclement conditions when you ask it to deliver its last two-tenths of performance. In un-fettled form it can become a little ragged in these circumstances, but the Birds machine just gets on with the job of being blisteringly quick yet entertaining at the same time without a buttockclenching moment in sight.

    Once the pictures are in the bag and Smithy’s headed off to get editing the images I decide to take the long way home and avoid the M25, just to further experience the pace and poise of this car on the back roads. It doesn’t disappoint on any level. The ride’s great, the grip is of the highest order and the performance is sensational. The standard M235i might be a great bit of kit, but if you’re a keen driver who likes to use all the car’s performance without any compromises then may I suggest you speak to Kevin Bird about how he can transform your pocket rocket into an M2 eater.

    CONTACT: Birds / Tel: 01753 657444 / Web:

    DATA FILE BIRDS’ #BMW-M235i / #BMW-M235i-Birds

    / #Birds-B2-3.5-Complete-Conversion : 390hp engine upgrade, Birds’ springs and dampers, #Quaife limited slip differential, 18-inch tyres and geometry set up – £7239.

    B2 Dynamics package: Birds’ springs and dampers, Quaife limited slip differential, 18-inch tyres and geometry set up – £4776.

    Please note: Prices quoted include all parts, labour and VAT. Further upgrades are available on request.

    “Not only was the ride quality better than before, ultimate body control improved on our bumpy B roads and the steering feel improvements were in a different league”

    Speeds rise as familiarity grows and my first impression is one of significant improvements to the steering.
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    Small Wonder Motech’s fully-tuned M235i. How a few choice modifications can transform the M235i. There’s no doubting that the M235i is a wonderful pocket rocket but it doesn’t take a huge amount of work to turn it into an M2-baiting super coupé. Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Gus Gregory.

    As I’m blasting back and forth along one of Northamptonshire’s most excellent stretches of road I can’t help but think that in some respects the 2 Series Coupé reminds me of the venerable E30 3 Series. It’s small (relatively speaking) and feels lithe and eager when attacking a favourite piece of road. Obviously things have changed dramatically during the 30 years that separates the cars, but I can still detect the essence of the E30 in the 2 Series – BMW might have rolled out the old 2002 when it was launching the M235i, but for me there are more parallels to be drawn with the second generation 3 Series.

    And like the iconic E30 the new 2 Series Coupé seems to be attracting the attention of the tuning companies just like the E30 did back in the day. Virtually not a day goes by without an email dropping into the BMW Car inbox announcing the arrival of another new tuning product for the car, and there are no prizes for guessing which model is firmly in the centre of the tuner’s spotlight. Yup, the M235i is the weapon of choice and with prices for used examples now down to around the £20k mark owners can cherry pick a few tuning products and end up with a machine that’s every bit as quick and as entertaining as the new M2 but for half the price. Yes, it won’t have the attitude that the M2’s wide-arched styling brings to the party, but if you prefer to pass under the radar than be the centre of attention then that’s no bad thing.

    Mike Hodder who heads up Motech Performance has been involved with the BMW tuning market for probably more years than he cares to remember and like the 2 Series his roots go back to the days of the E30. His previous development mule was an E92 M3 and when we sampled it back in the October 2016 issue we found that his few simple upgrades had helped to bring out a little bit more from the already pretty effective M3. And while he was a big fan of the M235i straight out of the box he felt that he could apply his years of tuning experience to the newest pocket rocket to make it a real world friendly fun machine – one that could just as easily be used on the daily commute as well as coming alive when clipping apices on your favourite ribbon of back road.

    Thus he didn’t want to go too extreme with any of the work he was going to do on the M235i and after years of experience in the tuning world he feels that the majority of his customers want something that’s pretty straightforward and once fitted can more or less be forgotten about. Fully adjustable suspension set ups are all well and good and might have plenty of showroom appeal, but how many owners actually carry out those adjustments once the kit’s been fitted? Thus Mike decided to cherry pick some of the best products on the market, add a frisson of Hodder, and then package them up as a kit that can be fitted to an M235i (or M135i or the latest M140i and M240i).

    Thus what we have here is the full works, the M400 set up, but for owners not wanting to go the whole hog just about everything included in the M400 package can also be spec’d individually. While the M235i isn’t exactly lacking in power and performance if you’re looking at endowing the car with M2-rivalling pace you’re going to need to extract a little bit more from the turbocharged straight-six and the first step on the ladder for the M400 is a Remus Powerizer.

    This is a plug-and-play module that plugs into the M235i’s engine wiring harness and can run different states of tune. Mike finds that most people just leave it alone once fitted and while he knows there are other products on the market that give you greater functionality and more options he finds that the vast majority of his customers prefer the simplicity of the Powerizer. This is combined with a Pipercross freeflow air filter and a Forge Motorsport hard pipe and boost kit and a Forge front-mount intercooler.

    To ensure the last bit of efficiency is wrought from the engine a Remus turbo back exhaust system is fitted and for those of you who aren’t overly familiar with the company it’s safe to say that it’s one of Europe’s leading brands and you might be surprised to learn that its systems are OE fit to many performance cars. Like most quality set ups it’s tuned to provide an unobtrusive soundtrack when cruising yet will properly sing when the engine’s extended. What you can’t see in the pictures are the bespoke Eibach springs that have been fitted to the car. While Eibach obviously supply a huge range of off the shelf components Mike took advantage of Eibach’s new product line that’s available to its dealers called Private Label. This kit is based on a Pro-kit, and dealers can have their own Private Label kit which is to their specification but made by Eibach, so for Mike’s set up he’s gone for a greater suspension drop than that already offered by Eibach (25mm at the front and 20mm at the rear) but the progressive rate springs have also been designed to offer a comfortable ride as well as improved handling. Mike could have had the springs painted in a myriad of different colours but in the end he opted to go for a similar shade to the #BMW factory look and the only way you’d know by looking at the springs that these aren’t factory is the discreet Motech logo and part number.

    This particular example of the #BMW-M235i was an exdealer demonstrator and had been treated to a raft of BMW M Performance upgrades prior to Mike purchasing the car and all the official BMW styling does look good, from the lower front spoiler to the forged rims to the rear carbon spoiler and the carbon mirror caps it looks suitably purposeful and aggressive. Mike’s not a fan of run-flats so has ditched these in favour of some Yokohama Advan Sport tyres. Inside it’s more or less as BMW intended bar a great-to-the-touch alcantara-clad M Performance steering wheel, pedal set and some carbon-effect trim.

    The whole package looks very alluring as we’re shooting the statics and details at the nearby Sywell Aerodrome but I’m itching to drive the car so we head off to our favourite back roads in the area to see how it fares. The quick dash up the A14 confirms that none of the Motech upgrades have spoiled the everyday usability of the car. It’s a quick dual carriageway and cruising at the legal limit the exhaust’s perfectly muted and the ride’s firm but nicely compliant.

    Once we’re on the back roads we can have a proper play and it only takes a few flexes of the right ankle to have my VW Passat company car that’s acting as photoshoot support vehicle disappearing to a small dot in the M235i’s rear view mirror. Despite the bright skies it’s bitterly cold and the roads are still slick with moisture but the M235i takes all in its stride, the Yokohamas clinging on manfully as we up the speed as we become confident in the car’s abilities.

    There’s no doubting that there’s plenty of performance on offer and while quick getaways from a standstill will have the traction control light flickering demonically thanks to the ambient conditions the tyres soon find grip and the M235i’s hurtling off up the road like a scalded cat. Now we’re using more of the revs more of the time the Remus exhaust joins the party and it sounds glorious, singing away as the revs rise and eliciting a nice ‘barrumph’ on the overrun or as you swap cogs. It goads you on to try a little harder on each pass for the camera and I soon get into a rhythm with the car that’s deeply satisfying. Sometimes doing repeated runs for the camera can be a tedious affair, but this time I’m almost disappointed when snapper Gus raises his hand to say that’s enough as far as he’s concerned.

    The Private Label Motech/Eibach springs have proved very effective too, the lower centre of gravity helping the car to corner with a flatter attitude and while the ride can get a little jiggly at times when traversing really rough sections it handles dips and crests in the road very well and the set up proves to be very linear in its responses so you always know how the car is going to react. This inspires plenty of confidence and we’d say that between Motech and Eibach they’ve more or less got this set up spot on. As we head back to base we have one last banzai run on the B roads and the M400 gels together to dole out barrel loads of fun before we hit the more populated roads for our cruise back to base. It’s a job well done by Motech and has hit the duality of purpose nail of everyday usability with back road entertainment possibilities squarely on the head and proves that just like the good old E30 fun can come in small packages.

    CONTACT: Motech Performance / Tel: 01604 810000 / Web:

    THANKS TO: Sywell Aerodrome / Tel: 01604 491112 / Web:

    Now we’re using more of the revs more of the time the Remus exhaust joins the party and it sounds glorious, singing away as the revs rise.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Motech-M400 / #Motech / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-M235i / #BMW-M235i-F22 / #Motech-M400-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Motech-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-2-Series-F22 / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Motech-M400/ #2017

    ENGINE: straight-six, 24-valve
    MAX POWER: 380hp
    • Remus powerzier
    • Remus cat back with gloss black tips and carbon insets.
    • Pipercross panel filter
    • Forge hard pipe and boost kit
    • Forge Motorsport front mount intercooler
    • 12mm TPI wheel spacers
    • Eibach/Motech springs -25mm (front), -20mm (rear)
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    Tackling the North Coast 500 in an M235i. North by North West The North Coast 500 is reckoned to be the UK’s best road – we tackle it in an M235i. Is the #North-Coast-500 the UK’s best road? Matt Richardson climbed aboard an M235i to find out what it has to offer… Words and photography: Matt Richardson.

    The first shafts of sun are starting to cut through the early morning mist which hangs across the mountains to our right, while on our left the hills are mirrored in the perfectly still loch water. Ahead of us lies a deserted twisting road, disappearing into the horizon. In this incredible landscape it’s hard to focus on the road, but the growl of the M235i brings things sharply back into focus and it’s proving to be the ideal car for this trip on what must be the best set of roads in the UK.

    The story starts two years ago on America’s Main Street, when my best friend from school and I decided to do something big for our 40th birthdays and drove Route 66 across the USA. We loved it so much that we started looking for another road trip, this time closer to home and seeing as the North Coast 500 route is touted as Scotland’s Route 66 we had to take a look – but this time there would be corners, lots of corners. Thus we wanted a lively rear-wheel drive manual car instead of a dull rental. What could be better than a #BMW-M-Performance machine? We had driven to the start point of Inverness the previous day, checking into a motel after midnight.

    Over breakfast it occurred to us the 600 miles we had driven the previous day was actually further than the route of the North Coast 500. Nevertheless we headed west out of Inverness through light drizzle on to the A9, the scenery gradually improving as the city shrank behind us before heading onto the A832 to Muir of Ord and our first distillery stop at The Singleton. Just time to look through the door, sniff the whisky and get a stamp in the Classic Malts distillery pass booklet (an Eye Spy for whisky) before continuing.

    We’d picked our time to drive the route well – later in the summer the roads would be clogged with caravans and motorhomes, and any earlier in the year parts of it would have been closed by snow. We were fortunate to have the highest temperatures in the UK all week, so when we reached Achnasheen the sun was shining and we could bear left to take the seasonal route through Glen Carron along the tiny A890 and deeper into Wester Ross. This is Game of Thrones country and it certainly looked like Winterfell might be nearby.

    As the landscape became more dramatic the road got narrower and twistier. We only got to stretch the car’s legs for moments at a time before slowing for the next blind bend. The road runs around the top corner of Loch Carron’s coast before looping north inland towards Torridan. As our first sight of a big tidal loch, we were stunned by the inland sea and paused a couple of times to walk down to the water.

    Heading along the shore road we stopped for lunch at what would be the start of a recurring theme – amazing food in remote places. The Loch Carron golf club is in an isolated and beautiful spot, and locals immune to the scenery were amused at the two southerners sitting outside with the wind whipping their Tshirts, lifting salad from the plates, but to us it seemed crazy to go inside and not be immersed in the landscape. As we neared Torridon the road started to rise and offered more startling views of the water. Climbing higher the roads stayed single track with rock and scree fields on the side of the mountain but with great sight lines ahead we could press on and enjoy the curves. At the top snow was on the ground so we had to stop in a passing place for a snowball fight and to take in the silence at the top of the world.

    After a day of driving we’d covered only 100 miles on small, slow-going roads in a large loop, ending back at Achnasheen, but our night stop delivered an unexpected treat. To reach our hotel at Ledgowan we took a spectacular section of the A832 past Loch a’Croisg – the road rose and dipped across sweeping curves, and the BMW came alive on this gentle roller coaster. After a day of swapping turns at the wheel I was the lucky driver on this section, Barry consoled knowing he would be at the wheel the other way the next morning. We stopped for the night at Ledgowan Lodge, a grand Victorian hunting lodge of dark timber and mounted trophies at the foot of a heather-covered mountain. Before the light fell we headed out to hike to the top and try to see the loch behind before heading back for dinner.

    When we set out early the next morning the mist was hanging heavy across the hills again. In the morning light it looked like a different landscape and in the still air the loch water became a vast mirror, the mountains stretching above and below. I annoyed Barry by insisting we stop and take pictures, and could have shot hundreds more. However, the road was calling and we pushed on the other way along the A832 towards the west coast and further into the Highlands. With Loch Maree on our right we blasted though the national nature reserve, enjoying the deserted roads, quiet apart from occasional tractors and water-board 4x4s, which seemed to be everywhere. The M235i was proving to be the perfect car for these roads – small enough to squeeze down tight lanes but with plenty of power and control for the faster sections. We were both relieved to have a car with such a good manual gearbox to enjoy through the endless bends and hills.

    By the time we reached Gairloch on the coast we were ready for a break, so we pulled over for coffee and cake with another stunning view of the water before filling up and heading on the Aultbea where we thought we could kayak out into Loch Ewe, but alas we couldn’t – the downside of coming early in the season is that many attractions are not yet open.

    Stopping to take pictures at Aultbea a lady told us about an incredible beach she had just come from, so we turned back and took little more than a dirt track to Mellon Charles, a perfect sandy beach surrounded by rocks, where we had a picnic of our leftover motorway snacks from the drive up and discussed how this would be a great spot to bring our families back to.

    The road turns back inland along Little Loch Broom at this point and although the backdrop was still breathtaking, we were starting to become a little ‘landscape fatigued’ as each bend brought another amazing vista, so Corrieshalloch Gorge was a welcome change. The 60 meter deep gorge is narrow and has a suspension foot bridge so you can properly enjoy the waterfall and sheer drop below.

    We stopped for the night at Ullapool, one of the biggest towns on the west coast where large ferries sail for Stornaway. As evening came, we sat with a pint of the local beer (and later the local single malt) and Loch Broom could easily have passed for the Italian lakes.

    Next morning was again still and bright with mist hanging over the water. Driving north on the A835 the world was a green and brown mix of gorse and heather over rugged hills which the road snakes through. Again we were alone on the road and could make the most of the BMW’s handling. Over dinner we talked about whether a more hardcore M2 would have been more fun, but decided the M235i was the ideal combination of power and composure as we were tackling such a mix of roads.

    I had been concerned that finding the route would be tricky, but as it turned out there were almost no other roads to take. However, on this particular morning we took the route into our own hands and stopped at a scenic spot I had wanted to see. We stopped to shoot some pictures of the car with water behind it before I climbed a high bank and there it was, the ruins of Ardvreck Castle mirrored in the water of Loch Assynt. I didn’t have long to look as a moment later a blood red BMW was screaming past for photos but we were soon parked up to go all Scooby Doo over the spooky wreck. Once home to the Clan MacLeod (lots of Highlander jokes and movie lines shouted here) the castle is still claimed to have two ghosts lurking. We didn’t see them but Barry’s phone started behaving oddly.

    Here we had the choice of turning left towards Lochinver down a tiny single track loop (marked ‘drive with caution’ on the map) or go straight on towards the top of mainland Britain. Barry was driving so got the deciding vote and settled on the single track loop. The 15 mile section was undoubtedly beautiful, a barren landscape of muted colours, big rocks and deep pools of water and narrow Tarmac with endless blind crests and tight turns. A buttock-clenching 45 minutes later we emerged unscathed back on the main road – though we were not far past where we had started at Ardveck! This route was probably a mistake as we still had the longest leg of the route to drive and a distillery tour booked at 4pm that night in Wick. With the entire north coast of Scotland ahead of us, we needed sustenance and found it at Cocoa Mountain in Durness. From an ex-cold war RAF lookout station it serves ‘the best hot chocolate in the world’ and it certainly set us up for the short drive east from Durness to Smoo Cave – yes really – once home to smugglers. It is also a spot where a pirate lord threw his enemies to their death. The perfect spot for sandwiches.

    As we sped along the sweeping A road past Loch Eriboll we noticed a strange old fort-like building on an outcrop far below… so we had to go down to investigate. The structure turned out to be four peat kilns, and the 60 meter deep loch had been used as safe harbour for Royal Navy ships who’s crews spelt their ships names on the shore in white rocks. Interesting.

    We had definitively reached the North Coast part of the route by this point and the coastal scenery was rugged and weather-worn. The weather was becoming greyer by the minute but the roads were still clear and we could see miles in both directions. As we passed through Strathy and Srcabster we caught up with a Ford S Max. We had a brief moment where we thought about passing the car but the clearly local driver knew the line through every corner so we followed in his tracks.

    By the time we reached Thurso and passed the Dounreay nuclear plant the fog had fallen and before long we were at John o’Groats, almost the most north eastern spot on the mainland. Certainly it’s the most far flung cafe, but the true honour belongs to Duncansby Head. We stop and walk out to the lighthouse, and mid-boast about how good my boots are I slip and go trouser first down a muddy slope.

    Happily, the heated driver’s seat dried my jeans on the A99 towards Wick, where a side of our hotel occupies Ebenezer Place, the shortest street in the world – a fact we knew in advance and so had planned a photo stop… which we unfortunately forgot. We ended up arriving after 4pm and so missed our tour of the Old Pulteney distillery and whisky spotter’s stamp, so made do with a pizza in town. But it was a novelty to see a town with multiple streets after a few days in the wilderness. We left Wick on a sunny morning and drove south on the A9 into a very different landscape to the west coast. Rugged cliffs, blasted landscape and sheer drops gave way to rolling hills and open farmland but there were still cliffs hugging the coast and the road still entertained.

    We called in to the Clynelish distillery but the visitor centre wasn’t open yet so we drove on. Off shore they build oil rigs here and I’d happily stop to look at that but we had another distillery tour booked at Dalwhinnie south of Inverness so yet again we plugged on, reaching the coldest spot in the UK mid-afternoon. We drove past the official end of the NC500 route in Inverness and carried on towards Loch Ness. I wasn’t coming all this way and missing the monster. Needless to say, despite lingering over a cup of tea, Nessie didn’t put in an appearance.

    Our NC500 road trip was finished, but as we stood in the snowy car park at Dalwhinnie we tossed a coin – stay on another night or press on for home. Heads won which meant we were destined to head for home. We left at 3pm and were home by midnight – not bad going for a nigh-on 600-mile trek. The M235i ably demonstrated the other side of its character going from determined B-road blaster in sport mode to relaxing cruiser in eco mode eating up the miles back to Kent in what seemed like no time.

    Overall it was an amazing trip – perhaps not quite as epic as Route 66, but it’s a hell of a lot closer and the roads are a lot more interesting, especially if your weapon of choice is an M235i. I can’t think of anything that would have supplied the same blend of abilities as the M Performance pocket rocket for the trip.

    TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-M235i / #BMW / #2016 / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-M235i-F22 / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe

    ENGINE: Straight-six, 24-valve, #TwinPower turbo
    CAPACITY: 2979cc
    MAX POWER: 326hp @ 5800rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 332lb ft @ 1300-4500rpm
    0-62MPH: 5.0 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph
    ECONOMY: 34.9mpg
    EMISSIONS: 189g/km
    WEIGHT (EU): 1530kg
    PRICE (OTR): £35,225
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    Just Right / #Dinan / #BMW-M235i / #BMW-M235i-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance-F22 / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance-Dinan-F22 / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Dinan / #BMW-M235i-Dinan-F22 / #BMW-F22-Dinan / #Dinan / #2015

    A finely-honed BMW M235i with #M-Performance and Dinan upgrades. It seems like the M235i is loved the world over and here we have a subtle but stylish machine from Australia using a blend of M Performance and Dinan upgrades. Words & photography: Chris Nicholls.

    The M235i is, as has often been stated, the Goldilocks car of the BMW range. In terms of price, power, handling, practicality and even history, it hits the spot. This is especially the case in Australia, where #BMW list it at $55,000 in base form. In a country where a standard Cayman (the car’s natural rival in the UK) sells for double that, it has no real rivals. The new Mustang isn’t there yet, the local Holden and Ford performance heroes are much larger (and fourdoor), and none of its Japanese or European rivals are rear-wheel drive. It kind of explains why, when it first launched in Australia last year, there was actually a waiting list.

    That price also makes it the perfect base for tuning. Recent economic conditions in Australia mean that while the rich get richer (as they do elsewhere) and order ever more supercars, most people aren’t in a position to spend huge sums on modification. So an already fast and affordable base is a great starting point. But what to do? Obviously there’s a limit, given most people’s budgets, so it’s probably best to just make it look nicer and go a bit faster. But here again, there are options. Do you go aftermarket for everything, or do you go factory? After all, unlike some manufacturers, BMW does offer a large number of add-ons via its M Performance program. Perhaps a mix is the best way – combining the factory fit and finish of OEM parts and using aftermarket where the manufacturer doesn’t offer what you want?

    This is exactly the path Southern BM, one of Australia’s largest BMW specialists, decided to go down with its own M235i build. It realised there was room in the market for an affordable modification package to this popular performance car, and having gone the ‘all-aftermarket’ route for many of its other, more extreme builds, it wanted to offer something cheaper, simpler and easier to put together for its M235i customers.

    Given body and interior modifications are one area where hassles (namely fit and finish-related) almost always occur, the first order of business was to order extensively from the M Performance catalogue for these parts. On went almost the entire range of available exterior components, including front and rear lip spoilers, rear diffuser, carbon mirror covers, black kidney grille inserts, side skirt flashes and even decals, as well as the lovely 19-inch forged, doublespoke wheels. Inside, the excellent, hi-tech M Performance Alcantara wheel with race display replaced the standard tiller, not only adding some cool looks and a great steering feel, but also extra information for the driver. Many of the plastic components and panels were replaced by Alcantara and carbon ones, too.

    The results were, even after this round of alterations, profound. Decals aside, the exterior changes are subtle, but work together to help give the car a more planted, solid feel. Indeed, the extra aggression is something that many would probably argue the M235i needed from the factory. Andrew Brien, Southern BM’s co-founder, agrees, saying the looks were his team’s favourite part of the car. “We like the styling. BMW really changed up the looks with the introduction of this car and with the additional BMW M Performance parts, it really is a head-turner.”

    Inside as well, the seemingly small changes all come together to make the cabin a much more inviting and pleasant place to be. Slipping into the supportive leather seats, there’s an air of not just quality (as you’d find on the standard model), but genuine sportiness thanks to the carbon cladding and Alcantara coverings. It makes the M235i really feel like a driver’s car, and it’s an interior you don’t want to get out of.

    Initially, Southern BM also fitted an M Performance exhaust and brake discs to try and add some extra sportiness, but while the exhaust fitted perfectly and sounded great, Brien and his team also wanted to offer something more for customers, so as part of fitting a Dinan P1 Power Package (the aftermarket part of the mix), the M Performance system got dropped in favour of the included Dinan Free Flow stainless steel exhaust.

    Moving the car around for the shoot, it became obvious how different the Dinan exhaust was from the M Performance one, too. Listening to a YouTube video Southern BM posted of the factory version prior to the shoot, it’s clear the OEM pipes added a great bark on start up, a throaty burble on idle and a harder-edged metallic sound when revved, but the Dinan version steps it up a notch. You still get the bark on start up and burbling idle, but you get an even harder metallic kick on revving and it’s noticeably more baritone in its delivery. Southern BM has videos of both exhausts on its YouTube channel so they’re worth checking out for yourself if you’re planning to make such a move.

    The rest of the P1 package includes a carbon fibre cold air intake and Dinantronics Stage 2 tune, and fitting it all together was a smart move. Not only are all the parts designed to work in unison, in keeping with the whole ‘no fuss’ concept Southern BM wanted to offer, but attempting to tune things itself didn’t make much sense anyway.

    “With the introduction of the F-series cars, the tuning market changed a lot. These cars are no longer easily tuneable by means of flash tuning via OBD. We are Dinan dealers and the software development team at Dinan have great resources and talent to achieve a more enjoyable driver experience,” says Brien. The fact it also offers high-quality, ‘no compromise’ parts is just icing on the cake, so it’s no wonder Southern BM went with this kit.

    It’s hard to argue with the results, too. A quick chassis dyno check showed the components added 50whp, and while that’s less than the 56hp claimed by Dinan, as we all know, dyno differences, the weather on the day and other factors always come into play, so the claim seems solid.

    Interestingly, Brien argues that “the most impressive part of the tune is the increase in torque (a claimed 84lb ft), which allows you to pull hard when you open up the throttle”. As they say, though, power is nothing without control, which is why the final step in building this machine was fitting a #Quaife-ATB diff. “What is lacking on modern BMW cars is mechanical grip,” says Brien. “As you pull out of a corner, you want the throttle to respond, not react to traction control, so the Quaife LSD is a must-have.”

    For the unfamiliar, Quaife’s ATB series uses a helical, torque-biasing unit (as opposed to the more common clutch packs) which may not provide the same aggressive lock-up, but is much more usable on the road. Indeed, it’s likely you won’t notice it at all during daily driving – there is no clunking or recalcitrance. As with the rest of the build, it’s essentially like it was there from the factory.

    While it wasn’t possible to try the diff out at speed on the day of the shoot, riding along in a highly tuned 135i with one fitted a few weeks beforehand gave some insight into how much of a difference it makes. Not only does it work with the factory DSC, but when you turn the electronic aids off and slam the throttle, instead of traction control limiting things, both wheels spin up at equal speed and you get to enjoy the full accelerative force of the fettled N55 engine. It’s sublime. There’s also a very noticeable increase in turn-in, which, combined with the extra grip from the 19-inch Pirellis on the M235i, would no doubt transform it from being a nice, fast daily to a much more enjoyable winding road weapon. Indeed, Brien says that is exactly the case: “Not that the original car is in need of upgrades – they are nice cars out-of-the-box – but with these upgrades it makes this a really nice car and more enjoyable to drive.”

    Interestingly, despite the ever-increasing popularity of track days, Brien says he hasn’t taken it out on track just yet to truly test its limits, but then, that wasn’t ever really the brief for this car. “We weren’t looking to build a track car. To us, they are different beasts, looking to achieve different results. This car is a road tourer that you can have some comforts in if you are out cruising, but performs if you want to take the car to task up in the mountains.”

    Brien says they have considered building a “more extreme version”, and for track use would recommend Dinan anti-roll bars and Monoball kit, as well as performance pads, but for now, he’s happy with where the car is. “This build is to show the road user what can be achieved when looking for a clean road tourer,” he says. That ‘clean’ part is actually worth mentioning for those who might perhaps be unaware how important a low-key car is in Australia, especially the state of Victoria, where Southern BM is based. That’s because Australia in general, and Victoria in particular, has very restrictive laws when it comes to car modification. Bar some very small freedoms (mainly wheels, suspension and engine tuning mods that result in no more than a 20 per cent power gain), almost any aftermarket performance tuning needs to be certified by approved workshops, and given the truly serious stuff will likely never pass certification anyway, most people don’t even try.

    Even when they are approved or within legal boundaries to begin with, poorly-trained police can still pull your car over if they think it’s illegal and stick a nice, yellow defect notice on your windscreen that can’t be removed until you show them proof or get things recertified. This is why Victorian enthusiasts these days often try and go unnoticed and avoid police attention in the first place, and while this M235i is only lightly modified and therefore completely legal, the fact it’s relatively subtle means you’re likely to avoid being pulled over unnecessarily.

    Actually, the fact it can fly under the radar means this M235i ticks another box on the Goldilocks list. Right price, right performance, right practicality level and even right amount of tuning to be legal and avoid scrutiny. It really is just right.

    CONTACT: Southern BM

    TECH DATA #Southern-BM F22 M235i

    ENGINE: #BMW-N55 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six / #N55
    POWER: 308rwhp (230rwkW)
    ENGINE MODIFICATIONS: #Dinan-P1 Power Package (carbon fibre cold air intake, free flow stainless steel exhaust, #Dinantronics Stage 2 tune)
    DRIVELINE MODIFICATIONS: Standard #ZF eight-speed #Steptronic automatic gearbox #Quaife ATB LSD
    CHASSIS/SUSPENSION MODIFICATIONS: Standard M Performance adaptive dampers / Standard suspension arms and anti-roll bars
    WHEELS AND TYRES: M Performance double-spoke 624 forged wheels (7.5x19-inch front, 8x19-inch rear), Pirelli P Zero RSC tyres (225/35 R19 front, 245/30 R19 rear)
    BRAKES: Stock M Performance #Brembo aluminium brake callipers (four-piston front, two-piston rear), #M-Performance cross-drilled and slotted s (370mm x 30mm front, 345mm x 24mm rear)

    M Performance front splitter
    M Performance carbon fibre rear spoiler
    M Performance rear diffuser
    M Performance carbon fibre mirror caps
    M Performance side stripes kit
    M Performance Rocker Panel film set
    M Performance gloss black grilles

    M Performance Alcantara steering wheel with carbon trim and race display
    M Performance carbon fibre and Alcantara interior trim set
    M Performance carbon fibre shifter console
    M Performance carbon fibre selector lever trim
    M Performance carbon fibre and Alcantara handbrake handle assembly
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    We find the M235i’s top speed, the Cooper GP takes to the drag strip and we say goodbye to a car. New tyres for the M5, the E34 M5 departs the fleet, the BMW-M235i has been to VMax at Bruntingthorpe, the MINI’s been drag racing at Santa Pod plus a roundup from the rest of the fleet.

    Having been well and truly smitten with my recent purchase of a 135i I haven’t actually set foot in the 2 Series for a good couple of months, so it was quite nice to remind myself what the car is like. Although, to be honest, I partially feared it as I was concerned it might make my wonderful little 1 Series feel a bit dated. It some ways it did a bit; the interior switchgear, controls, iDrive and sat nav feel years ahead and the throttle response in Sport mode is noticeably sharper, but other than that it feels different; a lot more refined, although this does not necessarily mean it’s better…

    Anyway, the reason for driving the M235i was to take it up north for a photoshoot and then pop over to Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground for a VMax Top Speed event. I wasn’t competing in the event; I left that to the hoards of 911 Turbos, Ferraris and tuned Nissan GTRs along with the odd Bugatti Veryon. But we were there for a little performance comparison test between the M235i and a #Mercedes-AMG-A45 that a fellow journalist friend had on test. The new hot hatch features a 360hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, four-wheel drive and a seven-speed DCT gearbox. With those credentials the 2 Series felt positively outgunned, bearing in mind I had rear-wheel drive, 326hp or so, and a manual gearbox. AMG claim a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds whereas the M235i is rated as recording 5.0 seconds, so it would be fair to say I thought the #BMW would be obliterated off the line but I was confident it would pull it back with its ferocious mid-range assault. Plus there was the fact we had an LSD fitted, which was bound to help with the traction.

    The time soon came to find out and lined-up side by side at the start of the airstrip with two miles of road ahead of us the stage was set for a drag race until we ran out of space. With traction control turned off, I waited for the countdown and launched the car at 4000rpm. It blasted off the line and, to my surprise, I looked right to see the AMG was next to me rather than in front. Grabbing second gear, the wheels spun and it threw the car slightly sideways on the rough surface, but I kept my foot down and changed into third. I looked right and saw the AMG dead level with me, with literally not so much as an inch in it.

    Amazingly, the plucky 2 Series had kept up with the more powerful fourwheel drive #AMG off the line!

    Then, also surprisingly, the BMW didn’t pull ahead as expected with its big mid-range punch as it went through third and into fourth. The two cars simply stayed completely level pegged up until about 130mph, when the #BMW-M235i finally starting edging ahead. With plenty of track left I was in sixth gear before I knew it and now with a firm lead ahead of the AMG I decided to keep my foot in and see just what the car would do; it was a private test track after all so opportunities like this don’t often present themselves. It got to 140mph pretty quickly and then started easing its way towards the 155mph limiter, which it then passed before settling on an indicated 160mph. It was hard to say if the limiter cut in then or if it just ran out of power/gearing or I backed off the power as I approached the braking zone but I have to say it felt remarkably stable and it stayed at that speed long enough for my passenger to take a picture of the speedo for me.

    So that’s what our M235i does top end, and it’s faster than an AMG. Although it’s interesting that the Mercedes was apparently showing an indicated 150mph, so someone’s speedo is a little out. Pulling that speed from a standing start seemed pretty good going, I thought, and the car even attracted a few looks despite being among more prestige machinery. A good day out for the car and another box ticked for the M235i.

    Tech data #BMW-M235i-F22 / #BMW-F22 / #N55
    YEAR: #2014
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 14,028
    MPG THIS MONTH: 33.7mpg
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    The Sharpest Tool in the Box AC Schnitzer’s tuned M235i is the most fun we’ve had in a pocket rocket for a while and we explain why it ticks all the boxes. #BMW-F22 / #BMW-F22-AC-Schnitzer / #AC-Schnitzer / #BMW-M235i / #BMW-M235i-F22 / #AC-Schnitzer-ACS2-Sport / #2015 / #BMW-F22-AC-Schnitzer

    We’re big fans of the M235i but the addition of a host of performance-orientated upgrades courtesy of AC Schnitzer makes it a really exciting drive Words: Bob Harper /// Photography: Max Earey

    As the speedometer in AC Schnitzer’s ACS2 Sport arcs remarkably quickly past the 240km/h mark the blue M235i that’s being driven by snapper Earey starts to dwindle in my rear view mirror.

    Schnitzer’s breathed-on version shows little sign of abating its rate of acceleration and we see an indicated 260km/h with seemingly more to come before we have to call on the anchors to wash off some serious speed as traffic up ahead spoils the fun. To be honest I’d been a little surprised that our M235i Longtermer had been keeping pace quite so well as the Schnitzer car has had a pretty hefty dose of steroids but all becomes clear once we reach our destination. It turns out the wily old fox Earey had been making extensive use of the gearbox in our car while I’d simply been leaving the ACS2 Sport in sixth!

    Were it not for the traffic on the autobahn the Schnitzer M235i feels like it could maintain this sort of speed all day long and as well as the pace impressing the car’s composure is equally striking. As you’ll no doubt be able to see from the pictures the car’s suspension has been set up in a very uncompromising manner – more on this in a bit – but it’s not made it an unruly companion at speed. Initially it seemed like it was going to be a little skittish when you hit expansion joints or the like but once I’d traversed one or two I grew in confidence as while the car was thrown off line a tiny amount it immediately settled back into the desired rhythm and after a short time behind the wheel I didn’t give it a second thought.

    Our autobahn dash has been prompted by Earey’s request to go to the roads around the Nürburgring in order to photograph the Schnitzer car and his promise of some decent driving locations that he’s used before has swung the decision to comply with his request. It’s really worthwhile, too, as the roads are lightly trafficked and entertaining and the chance to spend a decent amount of time in the ACS2 and being able to drive it back-to-back with the standard car will really help in seeing quite how different the two machines are.

    I first clap eyes on the Schnitzer example in the company’s pristine workshops and before it’s even barked into life it looks like it’s going to be an entertaining companion. It’s seriously low and those 19-inch rims are really filling the wheel arches completely eradicating the slightly ‘gappy’ look that our car has with its 18-inch setup and standard suspension. The ACS2 has had some major camber added and the reason for this is that it’s literally just returned from a big test with the German magazine Auto Bild Sportscars where it was track tested. As part of the car’s spec is a fully-adjustable Schnitzer Racing suspension that’s been honed for this purpose. It looks mean and moody and the choice of Melbourne red works with the other Schnitzer enhancements. While we’re about it we might as well cover the upgrades that are immediately obvious externally.

    Those wheels are Schnitzer Type VIII Forged items and measure 8.5x19-inches all-round and are wearing 225/35 19 Continental ContiSportContact rubber. The whole car has been treated to a series of carbon embellishments that really do suit its shape and endow it with a serious dose of visual drama. At the front there are a pair of carbon flippers either side of the spoiler while the mirror caps have been replaced with carbon covers. At the rear there’s a very sexy carbon rear diffuser that wraps around the quad exhausts while atop the rear screen there’s a small roof spoiler. Sitting on top of the bootlid is actually a BMW M Performance carbon spoiler and Schnitzer figured that it looks so right and is so keenly priced that there really wasn’t any point in trying to better it.

    We’ll cover the exhaust a little later on but what we want to do now is hit the road as if we leave things too much longer we’ll end up getting caught in the rush hour on our way back from the ‘Ring so it’s time to get under way. Before I do, though, it’s interesting to note that this M235i has the European-spec cloth and Alcantara trim on its seats and door trim panels. It looks and feels really nice and I wonder if BMW UK has missed a trick by spec’ing all UK M235is with leather as standard. Schnitzer upgrades inside have been kept to a minimum with a gear knob, handbrake handle and an aluminium pedal set being the main additions.

    Once I’ve settled into the cockpit I thumb the starter button and all hell breaks loose as the massaged N55 straight-six erupts into life. In the confined environs of the Schnitzer workshop it sounds absolutely wonderful with a deep, meaty burble as it goes through its cold start cycle before settling down to a still loud but less lairy tickover. There’s something about a loud and cultured exhaust that really brings out the schoolboy in me and I can’t help but have a little giggle to myself… this is going to be fun.

    Manoeuvring the car out of the tightly-packed workshop is always a little bit of a nerve wrackingexperience – I always seem to find reversing a left-hand drive car tricky for some reason – but we emerge into the late summer sun where the ACS2 Sport’s Melbourne paintwork takes on an altogether more strident look. I pootle up the road not wanting to lose Earey from my mirrors before we get onto the autobahn and while the ride is a little uncompromising around town I guess that’s only to be expected given that it’s set up for track work. As the system is adjustable for height, bump and rebound it could certainly be tailored to one’s own requirements and tastes.

    As we sit in traffic waiting to get a move on I chat to Schnitzer’s Oliver Lindstedt who is accompanying us to make sure we’re fully informed about the engine upgrade the car has been given. In the past Schnitzer hasn’t been too concerned with offering upgraded hardware to accompany its tuning software but it’s found that increasingly customers are asking for these type of upgrades and seeing as many other companies offer it Schnitzer has decided to develop its own hardware.

    Thus as well as an AC Schnitzer performance upgrade box we have a new intercooler, downpipe and some high-flow cats, too. The Schnitzer highperformance intercooler is larger than the standard item and the company reckons it has an 80 per cent larger air contact surface and 62 per cent more charge air volume than standard, which allows the engine to fight off the effects of heat soak very effectively. Couple this with the 200-cell sports catalyst and the car’s power figure takes a hefty hike – 380hp at 6000rpm and 397lb ft of torque at 3800rpm. Those are gains of 54hp and 65lb ft – not to be sniffed at – and while the Schnitzer car does without the standard machine’s 1300-5000rpm torque plateau it’s worth noting that the ACS2 Sport delivers more torque than the regular M235i all the way from 1600rpm to the redline.

    By now we’re used to trusting Schnitzer’s figures – it doesn’t make outlandish claims for its upgrades – but the performance figures obtained by Auto Bild Sportscars very much back-up the on-paper stats. The German magazine recorded a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds (an improvement of 0.4 seconds) and a 0-125mph time of 15.7 seconds – that’s a whole two seconds quicker than series production. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you of the car’s newfound ability then a track time around the Sachsenring where the magazine holds the majority of its tests recorded a time of 1:36.48 compared to the standard car’s 1:40.90.

    Once free of Aachen we peel onto the autobahn and it really feels as if the car is hunkering down on its haunches as we round the tight slip road before entering the two-lane motorway. A glance in the mirror reveals it to be all clear so I give the ACS Sport the full works as we join the major road and it doesn’t disappoint in either the way it dramatically picks up speed or the soundtrack that accompanies it. As the rev counter needle whips round the dial it’s time to grab third and in a blink of an eye I’m repeating the process to engage fourth as the acceleration continues unabated, other than for the briefest of pauses while I swap ratios. The exhaust we have fitted to the car is the ‘Export’ version meaning that it’s too loud to gain TüV approval for use in its domestic market but the good news is that it’s fine to use this in the UK. Schnitzer has also updated its tailpipe design for these exhausts and you can now have the tips in either the ‘Racing Evo’ look we have here or a more traditional-looking ‘Sport’ which will give you four round outlets, as you’d see on an M car.

    A slower section of heavily-trafficked roadworks sees us cruising at much lower speeds where the ACS2 is all calm and serene (bar the slightly lumpy low-speed ride) and the next section has a 120km/h limit in force which equates to more or less the UK motorway speed limit. This section proves that Schnitzer has done a very good job on the exhaust as when on a constant throttle cruise it’s perfectly quiet and subdued. Eventually the magic derestricted signs are illuminated which brings us to the acceleration fest we started with. After half-an-hour of speeding up to more or less the car’s maximum speed and then slowing for traffic before repeating the process doesn’t dull the enjoyment but eventually we peel off the autobahn and head for the ‘Ring using some of Oliver’s local knowledge to traverse some fairly challenging roads.

    As befits the engineering excellence that I’m sitting in we also have some German Tarmac engineering excellence here and the ACS2 Sport really revels in putting down its power on the smooth surface and serves up big thrills on these roads. Those Alcantara seats really grip your body much better than the standard leather in ‘our’ car and that’s just as well as the Schnitzer car has much higher levels of grip due to the suspension setup and larger rubber footprint. Not everything has been sacrificed to the great god of grip, though, as you can switch the traction to its DTC mode to allow a little slip and the car’s more than happy to entertain in this manner with a little quarterturn of opposite lock proving most satisfying when coming out of some of the slower corners.

    And all the while that wonderful exhaust is egging you on reverberating off the hills as the revs rise and fall, slightly gruff and meaty at low revs yet rising in timbre and pitch as the revs rise. It really is a wonderful noise and it even pulls off the feat of some angry popping on the overrun, too, and I reckon that it would be hard to better the sounds coming from an M235i than this Schnitzer example.

    Overall it’s a fairly dramatic conversion – it’s significantly quicker, sounds awesome and has the road manners and looks to back it up. I can say with complete honesty that I’d be hard pushed to decide between this fully-fettled 2 Series and the M4 I spent a week with a few months ago. This certainly bodes well for the forthcoming M2 and if it’s as good as this BMW will have a real winner on its hands. I wonder how much better Schnitzer will be able to make it?

    CONTACT: AC Schnitzer UK Tel: 01485 542000 Web: AC Schnitzer (Germany) Tel: +49 (0) 241 5688130 Web:

    The ACS2 Sport really revels in putting down its power on the smooth surface and serves up big thrills on these roads.

    All the while that wonderful exhaust is egging you on reverberating off the hills as the revs rise and fall.

    TECH DATA #BMW / AC Schnitzer M235i
    ENGINE: #N55 six-cylinder, 24-valve, turbocharged / #N55B30
    CAPACITY: 2979cc
    MAX POWER: 380hp @ 6000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 397lb ft @ 3800rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.6 seconds
    0-125MPH: 15.7 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
    ENGINE: #AC-Schnitzer 380hp performance upgrade consisting of a tuning module, high-flow intercooler, downpipe and sports cats.

    WHEELS & TYRES: AC Schnitzer Type VIII alloy wheels, 8.5x19-inch with 225/35 Continental ContiSportContact tyres.
    SUSPENSION: AC Schnitzer fully-adjustable Racing suspension.
    STYLING: AC Schnitzer carbon front flippers, mirror caps and rear diffuser.
    EXHAUST: AC Schnitzer Export sports rear silencer with quad tailpipes.
    INTERIOR: AC Schnitzer pedal set, handbrake handle, gear knob and floor mats.
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    The Wasp Factory #Manhart #BMW-M235i-F22 #2015 #Manhart-Performance #BMW-F22

    Performance has taken the #BMW-M235i and turned it into a fire-breathing weapon. Manhart’s black and yellow M235i has been taken to the max and back again to create a fire-breathing 400+ horsepower #BMW-M2 rival Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith.

    Waiting for the arrival of a new M car can be a frustrating business. We know the M2 will be along shortly, or at least by the end of the year – thinly disguised prototypes clad in the typical black and white swirly-pattened wraps have been keeping the spy photographers busy for a while – and a few scant details about the car have appeared in American BMW dealer paperwork that’s been leaked on the internet. But when you ask BMW M’s chairman of the board Frank van Meel about the car (as we did when we talked to him at the Nürburgring 24 Hour race) the car’s existence cannot be confirmed or denied.

    It’s definitely coming though, and when it is eventually revealed you can more or less bet your bottom dollar that it will be very similar in concept to the much-loved 1 Series M Coupé that had a limited production run of just under 6500 examples during 2011 and 2012. Thus it will be a blend of M235i and M4 components and promises to be a pretty stunning machine, but, and it’s quite a big but, you can guarantee that #BMW won’t endow it with so much performance that it will take sales away from the much more profitable M4 – that just wouldn’t make financial sense. So if you’re after the ultimate in pocket rockets you’re probably going to have to look to the aftermarket, and you don’t even have to wait for the arrival of the proper M2 either as Manhart Performance is already building it in the form of its MH2 400 WB.

    It’s not a machine for shrinking violets, at least not in the form you see here, as this machine was actually built for the company’s stand at the Essen Motor Show at the tail end of last year which accounts for the special black wrap with yellow highlights, but as it stands, hunkered down on its Clubsport suspension in front of us, it does look pretty awe-inspiring. It doesn’t matter where you look, there seems to be very little of the standard M235i left and it’s plain to see that Manhart has carried out a very comprehensive conversion.

    Let’s start with the looks as so far all we’ve done with the car is trundle down the road from Manhart’s HQ to a suitably dilapidated building that seems to have piqued snapper Smithy’s creative juices. All we really know about the MH2 so far is that on cold start up it sounds a little like someone has just unleashed the hound of the Baskervilles and that the four-point harnesses are a pain in the backside for road work.

    Even sitting stationary it looks absurdly purposeful, as if it’s an affront to its DNA that it should have to sit still for any length of time. At the heart of its looks is a Manhart wide-body kit that features a set of heavily revised front- and rear-wheel arches that appear even wilder than those fitted to the M235i Racing track car and widen the M235i by 12 centimetres. These blistered arches have been skilfully blended with a few items from the BMW M Performance accessories catalogue such as the lower front lip spoiler, the rear diffuser and the carbon boot spoiler.

    The overall effect is absolutely stunning. If you like your pocket rocket to look as mean as it sounds this must be the perfect look for your M235i. As well as the paint work the other aspect that makes the car look particularly aggressive is the set of Manhart ‘Concave One’ alloys, 20-inches in diameter and 9.25-inches wide at the front and 10.5-inches wide at the rear. These are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres measuring 255/30 and 295/25 front and rear respectively. The wheels on this example are the matt black versions with a yellow key line painted around the edge of the rim, but if I were buying I’d go for the silver version of the wheel – I’m bit old school and prefer wheels to be silver!

    That’s nit-picking though as the aesthetics are simply stunning and every time I drink in another detail of the nightclub bouncer-look exterior I just want to jump in and drive the wheels off it to see if it’s as similarly hardcore from behind the wheel. As this was a show car built to a ‘Clubsport’ spec, Manhart has also gone to town on the interior with a set of Recaro Pole position seats, the deletion of the rear seats which have been replaced with a half cage painted in the lurid yellow and to which have been attached a set of Schroth harnesses.

    Plenty of the interior details have also been picked out in yellow and Manhart has installed a few items from the M Performance accessories catalogue here too, such as the hand brake handle, gear knob and pedal set. There is also one of those rather natty displays replacing one of the air vents that shows boost, power and torque, performance etc which does look rather cool and can display a whole host of useful information.

    So far then there’s no doubting the Manhart MH2 400 WB looks the part and from our brief excursion down the road it sounds the part too, but if you’re looking for an alternative to the M2 it’s going to have to have the performance to back up those looks and Manhart has certainly come up trumps in this department. The company has been fettling BMWs for more years than it cares to remember although it’s actually only fairly recently that it has been doing this under its own name, but with the advent of the turbocharged BMW engine it’s really been able to bring big power outputs to the table. Its work on the M235i’s N55 ‘six is no exception with power taking a hike from 326hp to 413hp at 6250rpm while torque has been boosted from 332lb ft to 416lb ft at 3590rpm. The top speed limiter has also been removed which Manhart reckons takes top speed up to over 300km/h which is getting on for 190mph. To release this additional power, Manhart has tweaked the ECU, installed a cat-less downpipe and a bigger bore exhaust as well as installing its uprated intercooler which gives 30 per cent more cooling power than the standard item.

    Power, as they say, is nothing without control, and to this effect Manhart has endowed its MH2 with a series of revisions under the skin to ensure that the additional power and torque can be safely deployed. Stopping power has been taken care of by a set of Manhart 350x34mm front discs clamped by six-pot callipers and while the rear brakes are the standard production items, Manhart has installed steel flexi pipes and Pagid pads, too. As you’d expect the suspension setup has also been honed with the installation of a KW Clubsport three-way adjustable setup which also lowers the car by 40-45mm. Completing the package of under-the-skin upgrades are a Manhart limited-slip differential and a Sachs sintered clutch.

    Prior to our visit, the car has been used for plenty of track work so it’s been setup pretty aggressively but now Smithy’s finished with the static and detail pictures we can finally put Manhart’s extensive work to the test. Installing oneself in the cockpit is both a pleasure and a pain. The Recaro seats grip you perfectly in all the right places but the Schroth harnesses are a pain in the behind in a road car, but that would easily be cured by simply leaving them off the spec of my MH2!

    Firing the beast up brings the typically bass-heavy burrumph you expect to hear from a modern turbocharged machine that’s running a meaty exhaust system, and it doesn’t matter how many times you hear it, it always raises the hairs on the back of your neck in anticipation for what’s to follow. The Manhart exhaust does score well for soon settling down to a pretty muted idle though as a system that’s just loud for the sake of it soon becomes pretty wearing.

    The first task is to negotiate our path out of Wuppertal and at low speeds the MH2 is perfectly drivable, although the sintered clutch can be a bit of a pain, juddering slightly if you don’t get a perfect pullaway from a standstill. Again it’s not a criticism of the car, it’s merely a standard feature of this type of clutch – if you don’t want it you don’t have to have it, although if you’re going to be doing a significant amount of track work it would be a wise buy. The Pagid pads also like to squeal a little at low speeds, but again if you’re primarily going to be using your MH2 on the road you’d leave them off the order and stick with standard pads.

    As we start to leave the town of Wuppertal behind and snake along the river valley the MH2 starts to come alive a little more. There’s a huge amount of performance potential here and rapid progress can be made by simply leaving the car in a higher gear and mildly flexing your ankle. If you want more, simply drop down a cog or two and floor it and you’ll be very firmly pinned back into the Recaro seat while the Pilot Super Sports struggle for traction as the rear end squats and the nose rises. Make no mistake this MH2 is very, very rapid indeed, and once you’ve started using more revs you get some delicious pops and crackles from the exhaust on the over run or when you change gear.

    We pull off the main road in search of some more entertaining roads and while the ride quality can be a little lumpy at times (it is set up for smooth track work remember) the car feels hugely planted at all times, especially as speeds rise and we attack a little harder. A couple of tighter hairpins demonstrate that it has an astonishing reluctance to understeer and unless you’re pretty brutal with the throttle the rear end remains very planted as well. When traffic allows we dip further into the MH2’s performance and we have to say it feels every bit as quick as its 400+ horsepower would suggest and without another machine to make a back-to-back comparison we can’t say for sure, but it feels every bit as fast as an M4. Ramp the pace back and it becomes a pretty docile companion once again providing the road surface is decent and now we’ve given those stoppers a proper work out (which they passed with flying colours) the Pagid pads have quietened down too.

    Sadly our time with the car is all too brief as we have another appointment in Germany to get off to but we have certainly had a pretty decent insight into what the MH2 has to offer. For me it feels like the perfect size for a performance car, especially on the UK’s smaller roads where even something like an M4 can almost feel a little unwieldy. Its performance is stunning and when you’re on a charge the soundtrack is sublime, too.

    If you’re after an M2 before it’s officially on sale then chances are Manhart’s MH2 400 WB is the closest thing you’re going to get, and who knows, perhaps the official M2 might not even be as sharp as this. One thing’s for sure, though, if Manhart can do something as impressive as this with an #BMW-M235i-Manhart-Performance just imagine what it’ll be able to create using the M2 as a basis. We can’t wait to find out.


    Manhart Performance
    Tel: +49(0)2 0294 624445

    TECH DATA #Manhart-Performance-MH2-400WB #BMW-F22-Manhart-Performance
    ENGINE: Straight-six, 24-valve, turbocharged
    MAX POWER: 413hp @ 6250rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 416lb ft @ 3590rpm
    TOP SPEED: 188mph

    ENGINE: Manhart MH-tronik Performance Kit Stage 2, Manhart high flow intercooler.

    EXHAUST: Manhart Sport-exhaust, 2x90mm tailpipes (Export version), Manhart ‘Race’ downpipe (cat-less Export version).

    SUSPENSION: KW Clubsport Coilover Suspension (three-way adjustable) set up to Manhart's specification.

    WHEELS: Manhart Concave ONE Forged 9.25x20-inch (front), 10.5x20-inch (rear).

    TYRES: Michelin Pilot Super Sport 255/30 ZR20 (front), 295/25 ZR20 (rear).

    BRAKES: Manhart six-piston front callipers with 34x350mm discs and Pagid pads (front); standard discs with Pagid pads (rear), steel flexi lines all-round.

    EXTERIOR: Manhart wide-body kit, #BMW-M-Performance front spoiler, rear spoiler, rear diffuser, mirror caps, Manhart design elements in yellow.

    INTERIOR: Recaro Pole Position seats, Schroth four-point harnesses, rear seat delete, half cage, Awron vent gauge, BMW M Performance handbrake handle, pedal set, gear knob.

    DRIVETRAIN: Manhart 0-100 per cent locking limitedslip differential, Sachs sintered clutch.

    This MH2 is very rapid and you get some delicious pops and cracks from the exhaust. If you like your pocket rocket to look as mean as it sounds, this must be the perfect look for your M235i.

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    Don’t Call Me Baby

    The 2 Series is finally here and we’ve had a drive of the awesome new range-topping M235i. We loved the M135i hatchback, so big things are expected of this M235i coupé Words: Shane O’Donoghue. Photography: BMW.

    BMW’s product range is expanding at a rapid rate in a bid to keep sales alive and Audi behind. As reported on these pages previously, the 1 Series name will now be used only on the three- and five-door hatchbacks. The Coupé and Convertible variants (along with others…) meanwhile adopt the 2 Series title, and though the relationship between the 1 and the 2 is similar to that between the 3 and the 4 (I know, it’s beginning to sound like a maths lesson) the 2 Series Coupé looks remarkably different to the hatchback it’s based on.

    That’s not only thanks to the adoption of attractive new lights front and rear, either, as the 2 Series is a full 11 centimetres longer than the 1 Series hatchback (and 72mm longer than the 1 Series Coupé of old). That enhances the appearance no end, as do dimension increases elsewhere over the car’s predecessor; the new coupé is 32mm wider, though significantly, the front and rear tracks are 41- and 43mm wider respectively, bolstering the stance and, as we’ll soon discover, the car’s roadholding abilities.

    The increased dimensions and more sophisticated surfacing certainly reduce the stubbiness of the coupé design in comparison to the 1 Series Coupé, but it retains the unique notchback appearance that harks back to the beloved BMW 2002 family. The extra millimetres here and there also mean the new coupé is more spacious inside. BMW reckons there’s 6mm more headroom in the front, 21mm more legroom in the rear and boot volume is up 20 litres to a usefully commodious 390 litres. That’s accessed by a split-fold seat too, so this is a surprisingly practical two-door coupé.

    Indeed, though coupés are often considered to be extravagant purchases, the new 2 Series starts at a quite reasonable £24,265 (about £2300 more than the equivalent 1 Series three-door hatch). That’s for the 218d SE model. Other diesel options include the 220d (£25,865) and the twin-turbocharged #BMW-F22 225d M Sport Coupé. Petrol power kicks off with the 220i, powered by BMW’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo unit, producing the same peak 184hp as the 220d – though with lower torque and fuel economy figures to talk about. A 228i Coupé with 245hp joins the range later this year. Most variants will be available in SE, Sport, Modern and M Sport specifications, though it looks like the 225d may only be offered in M Sport guise to reflect its 218hp/295lb ft performance.

    And then there’s the M235i Coupé. As with the M135i hatch, this isn’t only the most powerful model in the range (for now…) with an M Sport body kit slapped on; it’s what BMW calls an M Performance car, one that has been developed by BMW M GmbH, but not quite hardcore enough to be referred to as an M car proper. We are hoping that means there’s still room at the top of the range for a future BMW M2 Coupé.

    There’s certainly scope to beef up the car’s looks a little further. The additions that make it an M Performance model are tasty enough, including the deep front and rear bumpers with air intakes instead of foglights in the front and twin-exit exhausts in a diffuser-like rear. Ferric grey metallic is applied to parts of the front bumper and the door mirrors, while the side skirts and small bootlip spoiler are unique to the car. Bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels in a five-spoke design are standard, fitted with 225/40 tyres up front and lower profile, wider rubber at the rear, in 245/35 specification. The detailing is lovely, but taken as a whole there are angles from which the M235i looks a little awkward. Under-wheeled even. Gorgeous 19-inch rims are available as an aftermarket accessory, of course, but we really hope that some of the M235i Racing’s appearance makes its way to the road some time soon.

    Inside, the M235i is similar to the M135i hatchback, which is no bad thing, as that’s one of the highest quality hot hatches money can buy. There’s liberal use of the ‘M235i’ name, including on the way in on the aluminium door sill strips, which is classy enough, but the rather prominent digital emblazoning of the name in the bespoke instruments may not be to everyone’s taste. The dials themselves go heavy on red detailing to differentiate them from the rest of the 2 Series family. Ahead of the clocks is a lovely M leather steering wheel, with a deliciously small hub. Part-Alcantara sports seats are standard and the Aluminium Hexagon interior trim is complemented by either blue or black accent strips.

    Blue is used on the ignition key too, though of course you don’t need that to start the car. Push the familiar button on the dashboard and a pleasing rumble emits from the exhausts before the straightsix engine settles into a muted idle (when cold it blares for longer to warm the catalysts, which will bring a smile to owners’ faces in the winter months). A twin-scroll turbocharger is used, along with direct injection, Valvetronic variable valve timing and Double Vanos camshaft control. Apparently BMW M has also made specific modifications to the cooling system and to the sound. Power is up a fraction on the M135i’s numbers, with 326hp produced at 5800-6000rpm.

    That sounds peaky, but as ever with this engine it gives its best in the mid-range, and to that end it produces 332lb ft all the way from 1300-4500rpm. In the relatively compact frame of the 2 Series, this feels plenty quick enough, and the official 0-62mph time is as low as 4.8 seconds. That’s if you go for the optional automatic transmission. It’s the familiar ZF eight-speed unit, available in its Sports guise here only, which brings with it tactile gear change paddles and launch control. In the dry, using the latter is so drama-free that all it really does is reinforce your belief in the immense traction at the rear wheels.

    Naturally, the gearbox also blips the throttle for you when you manually down-change, and its characteristics may be tweaked using the drive Performance Control toggle switch. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard and though the auto doesn’t really detract from the driving experience, we would still prefer to change gears for ourselves – it’s a rather useful £1825 cheaper too.

    How the #BMW-M235i-F22 gets its power down to the Tarmac also separates it from the big boy M cars. There’s no fancy electronically controlled M diff here. As standard the electronics can apply the brakes to individual rear wheels in a bid to mimic the action of a limited-slip differential (BMW calls it Active Differential Brake). It’s largely successful, and quite efficient. On a dry track with space to spare, it took a lot of provocation to unstick the rear tyres, and several attempts to master keeping the slide going. The car is naturally very well balanced and inherently as safe to drive as it is competent. The sideways photograph you can see on the next page was taken with the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) firmly switched off, and there’s an interim setting too that’ll suit confident drivers on an interesting stretch of twisty back road. Those that are really keen can specify the aftermarket M Performance mechanical limited-slip differential. The car’s electronics are not altered when this is fitted so it’ll give its best with the DSC switched off completely.

    But before we took to the track to push the M235i’s limits, we spent a few hours on the road. And in the USA that generally means at low speeds. Impressively, the car didn’t feel out of its depth. On the motorway it was quite content to amble along at the posted limit, exhibiting newfound refinement that the 1 Series Coupé could only dream of. Despite the wide tyres, noise from them is minimal, wind roar is kept at bay nicely and the engine is all but inaudible at a cruise.

    Thankfully, and despite the somewhat draconian reputation of American law enforcement, we did get the opportunity to switch the car back into Sport Plus mode and test its mettle on a seriously challenging piece of black top. And we came away smiling. The M235i is the perfect size for this type of road, where sharp, unsighted curves make way for blind crests and straights that appear connected to the horizon. Contrary to popular belief, not all US roads are wide and flat. This one, close to the Valley of Fire in Nevada, bucked and weaved with the best of British B-roads, and the surface wasn’t especially good. Admittedly the weather was far better.

    The car soaked it all up, and some. It’ll be interesting to try a version without the (optional) adaptive damping, but even in its firmest setting the #BMW-M235i found plenty of traction at the rear, loads of front-end grip and it never once skipped off line. The larger brakes were fade-free, despite our lack of knowledge of the road, and the middle pedal is perfectly weighted to allow decent modulation of the braking force, while endowing the driver with plenty of confidence. The car is stable too, yet changes direction as quickly as you can turn the wheel.

    Variable sport steering is fitted as standard, which results in what appears to be slow response at first away from the straight ahead position, but you soon acclimatise to it, and we found it a great compromise between comfort and directness overall. As with most modern power-assisted systems it’s a shame there’s not more feel through the thick steering wheel rim, but it’s still easy to place the car. Importantly for those that love their driving, the M235i retains sublime balance and its attitude through a corner can be adjusted as much by the throttle as by the steering. Obviously it will understeer on entry to a bend if you’re ham-fisted, but it is not its natural stance at all. Neutrality is. Those that want it can make the car oversteer too.

    And we did plenty of that at the Las Vegas Speedway. If you know your motorsport then you’ll know that this circuit houses 150,000 NASCAR fans that pay to see oval racing – not really the natural habitat for the BMW M235i. For kicks we did take to the (frighteningly steep) banking at speeds of well over 100mph, but there was also a technical in-field track set up to really get to grips with the chassis. And it was huge fun in this environment.

    The location was laughably all-American. Next door to the NASCAR race track is Nellis Air Force Base – boasting more squadrons than any other US Air Force base in existence apparently. Out of the flat landscape in the middle distance rises the bizarre phenomenon that is Las Vegas city and the roads are full of large pick-ups with very large engines. This is not BMW coupé territory. Hell, we’d suggest that the new 2 Series Coupé isn’t even all that optimised for the German road network. It’s made for the UK, yet it excelled at anything we threw at it in America, demonstrating that the M Performance vehicle really is one that can do a bit of everything. Even so, it’s one that petrolheads will adore. They’ll certainly be applauding this model range expansion. While secretly hoping they can afford the new M2…

    The #2014 #BMW #F22 #M235i
    ENGINE: Six-cylinder, 24-valve, twin-scroll turbo #N55 #N55B30
    CAPACITY: 2979cc
    MAX POWER: 326hp @ 5800-6000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 332lb ft @ 1300-4500rpm
    0-62MPH: 5.0 seconds (4.8)
    STANDING KM: 23.8 seconds (23.7)
    50-75MPH (4th/5th): 4.2/4.9 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph limited
    ECONOMY: 34.9mpg (37.2)
    EMISSIONS CO2: 189 g/km (176)
    TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, eight-speed automatic with paddle shift optional #ZF8HP #ZF .
    BRAKES: Vented discs with four-piston callipers at the front and twin-piston callipers at the rear.
    STEERING: Electronic Power steering
    WHEELS: M Double-spoke style 436M light alloy wheels, 7.5x18-inch (front) and 8x18-inch (rear)
    TYRES: Michelin Pilot Super Sport, 225/40 (front) and 245/35 (rear)
    PRICE (OTR): £34,250
    Figures in brackets refer to the eight-speed auto

    Right: On track with the traction control off the M235i is happy to powerslide if you’re feeling brave enough.

    The Two is 32mm wider than a 1 Series and the track has increased over 40mm front and back. It makes the car feel more planted and look more aggressive.

    On the motorway it was content to amble along at the posted limit, exhibiting newfound refinement that the 1 Series Coupé could only dream of.
    There’s more room inside for occupants now thanks to a 6mm increase in headroom at the front and 21mm more legroom in the back.

    The M235i is perfect for this type of road, where sharp, unsighted curves make way for blind crests and straights that appear connected to the horizon.
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