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2019 BMW X2 M35i – New Car Review – Just like a real M car?

2019 BMW X2 M35i – New Car Review – Just like a real M car?

We’ve previously tested the sDrive20i version of the BMW X2, and loved it. Then BMW sent us the sDrive18i model, which I thought would be a far less car than the 20i, since it ‘only’ has a 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder engine. But no – the little 3-pot was a great X2 as well, with an engine full of character.

Then BMW sent us the all-new M35i. So the reality is then that there’s only one question to answer: Is the X2 M35i worthy of an M badge, even if that badge represents an M Performance model and not the real ‘M’ deal?

The Range

The X2 range kicks off with the brilliant 1.5-litre, three-cylinder sDrive18i, fitted with a 7-speed automatic and putting out 103kW and 220Nm of torque. You can read our review on this car here. Next up is the sDrive20i, with a 2-litre twin-scroll turbo but with 141kW of power and 280Nm of torque. We tested this car out last year, and you can read the review here.

The all-wheel-drive version of the same model is next, the xDrive20i.

Lastly is the all-new M35i, with the most powerful four-cylinder engine BMW has put in a production car. Actually, it’s the first four-cylinder M car since the original M3, so there you go. With a single twin-scroll turbo and 2 litres, this engine manages a healthy 225 kW (306 horse power!) and 450Nm of torque.

The sDrive20i, xDrive20i and M35i all run with an 8-speed automatic gearbox.

For the base model’s money, you’ll get 18” alloy wheels, LED headlights with cornering lights, SatNav, Parking Assistant with rear-view camera, an electric tailgate, Driving Assistant, keyless entry and start, auto-parking electric mirrors, LED fog lights, auto wipers and lights, LED rear lights, lane departure warning, parking sensors, a 6.5” central display, ‘ConnectedDrive’ (Concierge Services, BMW Connected+, Intelligent Emergency Call, Real Time Traffic Information, Remote Services and TeleServices), 2-zone climate AC, and Sensatec upholstery.

Other than the bigger motor, the sDrive20i adds 19” alloys, Driving Assistant Plus with active cruise control, the M Sport X package, and heated front sports seats, and Alcantara trim.

Obviously for the extra $3,000, the xDrive20i gets AWD and a change to an 8-speed automatic.

The M35i adds in 20” M light alloy wheels, a heads-up display (HUD), DAB radio, a Harman Kardon sound system, the Lights package, M Performance features including M Sport brakes, M sports seats, M rear spoiler, M Sport suspension, M Sport exhaust system, Navigation plus with an 8.8” touch display, a panoramic sunroof, and memory settings for the front seats.

  •         BMW X2 sDrive18i $60,900
  •         BMW X2 sDrive20i $70,900
  •         BMW X2 xDrive20i $73,900
  •         BMW X2 M35i $89,900

Our test car was stock standard.

There are loads of options for the X2, including 12 types of wheels, 11 types of seat upholstery and 8 types of interior trims – to see more, check out BMW New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

The M35i looks like any other X2; yes, different wheels, but visually there’s little else, and it sure doesn’t scream out, “I’m an M Performance car!”. There’s a small M badge on each of the front guards, and one on the boot. There’s no M badge on the front of the car at all, not even any subtle red and blue stripes on the grille to give the game away.

At the rear, there’s some pretty decently-sized exhaust tips, at 100mm each, and they look mean. Instead of going for your standard chrome tips, the M35i differentiates itself from other X2s with tips that are finished in Cerium Grey (as are the mirror caps and grille).

It’s taken me a while to learn to love the look of the X2 range, but I’m getting there. I go in waves of liking/not liking it, depending on the colour. I thought it was a bit too busy to start with, but now I think they look great, especially with that BMW badge up on the C pillar – a nice touch that differentiates the X2 models from the rest of the range.

The Inside

BMW haven’t done too much with the interior, other than some sportier seats and included a full-length panoramic sunroof with an electric blind.

Those front seats do look the part, with a fixed headrest and contrasting white stitching. This stitching is continued on the dash and doors, too. Surprisingly, the front seats don’t have an adjustment for the side bolsters. I would have thought in such a performance car this would be standard. I didn’t need any adjustments for my size, but I could see others finding this a bit of an issue.

The dash lights up with a nice M35i logo down the bottom-right. In your face, sure, but a reminder that you are driving something special.

Speaking of the dash, there’s a strip of fake carbon fibre on there and on the doors too, carried over from the xDrive20i model. A shame that this doesn’t have some texture to it; it’s flat, so feels like it could be a printed sticker.

It may be a smaller SUV, but it’s still practical. There’s a small cubby on the rear of the console that’s big enough to hold a wallet, and rear passengers get 2xUSB ports. The rear seat is a 40/20/40 split, with rake adjustable to 2 positions, something you don’t normally see on a smaller SUV. There’s also a small cubby to the right of the steering wheel, another handy place to put stuff in you will never use.

As always with BMWs, the fit and finish is near on perfect. The joins between materials is tight, and you can see it’s beautifully put together.

There’s no spare tyre in the X2, it uses run-flat tyres instead. The bonus of this is the extra storage space you gain under the floor in the rear.

The Drive

It may not scream out M Performance car visually, but there’s no mistaking this car when you start it. Simply starting the M35i is an aural treat, as you are rewarded with crackles and pops. I’m bringing this up first, because that was my biggest take-away from my time with the M35i. Comfort mode? Loud. Sport mode? Even louder.

Head out on the road, give it a bit of boot to pass another car and you’ll hear loud braps on the up-change. And this is in Comfort mode! There’s almost no getting away from the sound unless you are cruising at a steady speed. Out on the open road and more opportunities to give it some boot, and more noises.

It’s funny, as the 3 Series sedan I had just dropped off looked the part, but really needed to sound a bit louder. The M35i almost takes it to the other extreme. And the sound isn’t weak or limp-wristed; it has a real baritone feel to it, sounding deep and rich.

I’ve realised I’ve gone on for three paragraphs about the noise the M35i makes. That’s because this is the thing you and your passengers will experience the most. Well, there might be one other thing: the performance has to be mentioned. The M35i is no slouch, getting to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. If you want to maximise your take-off, the M35i has Launch Control ready for you.

Again, even in Comfort mode, the car is so eager to please, wanting to leap ahead at any opportunity. Comfort mode is definitely where it’s at with the M35i – it’s a good combo of performance/driveability. In saying that, I actually used the car in Eco Pro mode quite a bit, because – believe it or not – the eagerness of the engine can get a bit wearing after a while.

There’s two sides to this, for me; it wants to go all the time, and I want to let it go. That’s not good for my driver’s license. The other thing is that yes, it can get a bit weary; it’s not jerky in Comfort mode, but at times it can feel like a squirrel that’s overdosed on coffee.

Then you switch it into Sport mode, and the car goes from hyper squirrel to Mental. A slight touch of the accelerator will see the car shooting forward. It may be all-wheel drive, but in the wet over 300 horsepower can lead to wheel-spin off the mark. I’ve got to say, it’s a whole heap of fun in Sport mode, but it’s not something you would want to use around town. It makes the car harder to drive smoothly at lower speeds.

I wrote in my notes one day, acceleration in sport mode is brutal. And it can be, sometimes becoming a whip-your-head-back moment if you give it too much gas and forget you are in Sport mode. Pocket Rocket is a term that really springs to mind for the M35i.

Mated to this, the most powerful four-cylinder engine BMW have ever made, is an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Like other BMW models, it’s faultless. Right gear at the right time, not much more needs to be said about the ‘box, other than the speed of changes. In Sport mode, the upshifts are so fast, you want to keep your foot down to hear them. It really reminds me of the C43 AMG.

So it sounds great, goes great – but what about the handling? This is another area we expect M Performance cars to shine. Overall, the X2 handles nicely, given the amount of power you have on tap. There is some body roll if you push on, but the grip is mostly there (again, unless it’s wet), and it’s a pretty easy car to chuck about on some twisty roads.  Turn-in is better than it should be for a small SUV, adding confidence to the driver to be able to push the car harder and harder.

The intelligent all-wheel-drive xDrive system has been coupled with the M Sport differential, a mechanical limited-slip differential fitted to the front axle to maximise front end grip and minimise torque steer.

You do need to be careful though; make no mistake, you can make the AWD M35i slide in the dry. But you’ll be going at a speed that means if you lose control, you are going to be going very fast. It may not end well.

I would have liked to get some more steering feel, but making up for this was the directness of the steering. I got out of the M35i and into another car, and thought the steering was broken. In the M35i, it’s a joy on just how direct the steering is. Hauling you up when you get into trouble – or preferably, before then – are the M Sport brakes, pulling the car up quickly and drama-free every time.

One thing I noted is coming out of a tight bend in Comfort mode, the car can bog down if you lose too many revs on the exit. You spend a second or so waiting for the turbo to spool up. You are much better off in Sport mode at times like this, so you have that instant performance, but I did find this bogging down could happen coming out of a roundabout. In the end, I used the paddles to come down a couple of gears before a tight roundabout, problem solved.

There’s a bit of an elephant in the room here, that needs to be talked about; the ride. It’s jiggly at best, and not just at low speeds. I could see this getting a little be weary after a while. I sort of got used to out while out driving, then I’d get out of the car and back in, and experience it all over again. As you’d expect, Sport mode makes it that bit harder riding over Comfort mode, but not hugely so.

Still, you don’t buy an M Performance car for a luxury ride. You’ve got to expect some noise (in a good way) and perhaps a ride that isn’t so smooth. So that pretty much negates all I’ve said. If you this X2, what I experienced is what you’d expect, so in that respect, the M35i is spot on.

Okay, I’ve got one more elephant; the heads-up display (HUD). I mentioned this in the review of the 3 Series sedan and also the X5 M50d I had before that – why no gear indicator shown in the HUD, especially when you are driving in Sport mode? So to the M35i; being an M Performance car, you would surely expect the HUD to show you what gear you are in? Nope, not even in Sport mode.

Not only that, but at least the 3 Series and X5 both have a too-small rev counter in the HUD (in Sport mode). On the M35i, you don’t even get that. This is a sports model and I’d like to know what gear the transmission is in and what revs the car is doing, right there on the windscreen, in the best and safest possible place.

Other than the jiggly ride and noise, can the M35i be used as a daily driver? No reason why not, although there are some good and not-so-good points for that. The M35i doesn’t have blind spot monitoring (BSM), and with that sexy side design, the rear doors sweep up high into the rear guard. Looks great, but cuts down in visibility. Also, the B pillar is really wide – I’ve never noticed this before, but I did this time around when I came to an intersection and the B pillar totally blocked my view of an approaching car.

The wheels look great on the M35i, but man are they hard to clean. I needed to wash the car for my photos, and even washing them didn’t clean them up properly, and then I resorted to Car Pro wheel clean from Detail Depot. Not even that got them properly clean. Likely there’s lots of brake dust from those huge brakes not helping things along.

The X2 M35i has an electric park brake, as you’d expect, but I long for an auto-hold function. I think all other new BMWs have auto hold for the park brake, except the X2. I really miss it, especially since I’d just finished reviewing two other BMWs with this feature.

And those two other BMWs had the latest version of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, while the X2 does with the previous generation. You know what? It works just fine. I did get very used to the new one, but the X2’s works a treat, and is still intuitive to use.

While the new 3 Series and X5 both have BMW’s new Active Cockpit display, the X2 has two simple dials, and they are crystal clear in their readout. You don’t get any customisations or anything like that, but they work just fine and suit the performance side of this car perfectly.

Still on the daily drive, there’s no 360-degree camera here, just a reversing camera with radar warnings of obstacles. At least the media screen will show you which side and front/rear where you are closest to whatever you are about hit. This is the next best thing to a 360-degree camera.

One more slight negative is the tyre noise; run flat tyres are always going to be noisier than ‘normal’ tyres, and the M35i is no different. Of course, coarse-chip seal really brings it out, as it does in other cars. It could be a whole lot worse, but it could also be better.

The M35i is up-specced with a Harmon Kardon sound system, and it works just fine. It wasn’t as good as the HK system in the 3 Series, but still worthy of the daily drive.

You’d expect that fuel economy would be terrible, when the car wants to go so much and eggs you on. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. Over 1,100km and two weeks of mixed driving, I got 8.6l/100km. That’s reasonable for a 2-litre turbo, and excellent for one pumping out 225kW. BMW claims a combined rating of 7.4.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/Torque

kW/Nm

0-100km/h, secondsCargo capacity, litresFuel L/100kmBase Price – High to Low
Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 AWD2-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol280/4754.44217.5$111,200
Lexus NX300 Limited AWD2-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol175/3507.1n/a7.9$94,800
BMW X2 M35i AWD2-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol225/4504.94707.4$89,900
Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic SE AWD2-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol220/4006.55778.0$89,900
Audi SQ2 AWD2-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol221/4004.83557.2$81,900

The Pros and Cons

ProsCons
  • Handling
  • Brakes
  • Interior quality
  • Sounds
  • Fun to drive
  • Steering
  • HUD
  • Relative fuel economy
  • No rev counter or gear indicator in HUD
  • Jiggly ride
  • Tyre noise
  • Blind spot/no BSM

The Verdict

Well, is it worthy of being called an M Performance car? I’m leaning more towards yes, than no. It has the fun factor, it definitely has the sounds, and the handling is acceptable.

I quite like that it’s also a bit of a Q car – minimal M badging is always good if you want to fly under the radar, and it can surprise people when you accelerate away from the lights, leaving them to only hear you depart.

Is it worth the extra over the xDrive20i? I don’t think anyone who wants this car will care; they will be after a smaller, performance SUV but one that’s got the badge to go with it – and the X2 ticks that box 100%.

2019 BMW X2 M35i

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4.0 Chevrons

Vehicle TypeSmall, all-wheel-drive, 5-door SAC (Sport Activity Coupe)
Starting Price$89,900
Price as Tested$89,900
Engine2.0-litre, 4-cylinder twin-scroll turbo petrol
Transmission8-speed automatic
Power, Torque (kW/Nm)225/450
0-100km/h, seconds4.9
Spare WheelNone – run flats
Kerb Weight, Kg1,580
Length x Width x Height, mm4369x2098x1526
Cargo Capacity, litres470
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – combined –  7.4

Real World Test – combined – 8.6

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Fuel tank capacity, litres61
Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

NA/1700
Turning circle, metresN/A

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

WarrantyFive-year warranty

Three-year service inclusive programme

Five-year roadside assist

ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star

 

How an earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? Recently my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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