2015 BMW 2 Series Driving Impressions

It’s clear BMW didn’t cut corners on engineering. Notably, BMW keeps its performance-oriented, rear-wheel-drive platform on all 2 Series models, which is admirable at a time when other manufacturers are using less expensive and less dynamic front-wheel-drive configurations, like those found on the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA.

We’re already fond of BMW’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the 3 Series sedan and the 4 Series coupe, and it’s even better in the 2 Series, given the latter’s smaller size and slightly lighter weight. Although a bit noisy when pushed hard, the BMW 228i’s 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque offers plenty of pep. With its sprightly characteristics, the four-cylinder is especially a great match for the convertible.

We drove a BMW 228i convertible with the Track Handling package, which adds variable sport steering, sport brakes and the adaptable suspension found on BMW’s M performance vehicles, as well as sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires and 18-inch wheels. These options make a significant difference to handling.

As expected, the turbocharged six-cylinder in the M325i is even more of a joy. It isn’t exactly a svelte car; the curb weight with the automatic transmission is 3505 pounds, heavier than the 428i, yet lighter than the 435i with the same gearbox. But the rigid chassis, agile suspension and near-50/50 weight distribution handles the M235i’s mass with panache.

At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, we drove a M235i coupe, also fitted with the adaptable M sport suspension, which we’re told is specially tuned for this model and differs slightly from that in the 228i. On the speedway’s oval track, we reached speeds of well over 100 mph, where the turns are banked by as much as 20 degrees. The M235i was perfectly stable and stuck its ground impeccably.

On the in-field road course, we kept it in Sport-plus mode and the car felt planted and hunkered down around the circuit, even when we turned in too early on the first lap around a couple of late-apex turns and pinched off the exit. In Sport-plus, traction control is off but dynamic stability control stays on, though at a lower threshold. As a result, the car didn’t let us get too out of control, even when it wasn’t always happy with our line through the corners.

Variable ratio steering does its job, tightening up at higher speeds and around corners, with very few turns-to-lock, enabling us to keep our hands at 9- and 3-o’clock at all times. Steering isn’t overly heavy, unlike some cars made by other manufacturers that attempt to create an artificial feeling of sportiness via a ridiculously high steering effort.

Big brakes bit hard and fast, letting us push our braking zones just a little more with each lap.

Real-world driving proves nearly as satisfying. BMW says the M235i can sprint from 0-65 mph in 4.8 seconds, and we believe it. Merging onto the freeway with 320 horses on tap is a cinch, and we were surprised to look down at the speedometer in what seemed like no time at all to find we were doing 85 mph on the (straight) onramp. Hearty thrust comes from 330 lb.-ft. of torque, available as low as 1300 rpm. Passing is a breeze, and turbo lag is virtually nonexistent.

Even stop-and-go-traffic in the M235i is fun. Cruising the Las Vegas strip, our Melbourne Red Metallic test car took off easily at each green light, and the big brakes halted us firmly and confidently at every (inevitable) red light. The variable ratio steering was noticeable around town, too, allowing more maneuverability at slower speeds and in and out of parking spaces.

Plenty of interior insulation keeps road noise at a minimum, even in the firmer Sport and Sport+ modes. The cabin feels solid and well-damped at all speeds. Even the Michelin PilotSport tires didn’t complain too loudly. We noticed some wind noise from around the A-pillar, but this is normal for the class.

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