Take a look around and you’re bound to spot a BMW with an M badge somewhere. Australia is the biggest market in the world for M badged Beemer’s. But of course, there’s a big difference between a proper M car than one with logos, special brakes and a sporty steering wheel. But then we have M Performance BMW’s, a kind of rung or two below the ultimate BMW. This week I’ve been getting around in the first ever BMW X2 M35i.
What is it?
Being an X car means it fits into BMW’s SUV category, fair enough, I guess. It sits higher than a normal hatch and has a version of the brands xDrive all-wheel drive system. But this car is also a first, thanks to the debut of a petrol turbocharged four-cylinder M performance engine under the bonnet. Plus it is based on the front-wheel drive X2 and X1 models that depart from normal convention for the BMW brand. But more on that shortly.
Behind the wheel
When you start the engine it’s immediately apparent this car is no pretender. There’s a bit of a bark, a pop and general metallic exhaust note going on even at idle. It’s the type of sleeper car that can also wake the whole street, if you’re feeling prickly.
I love the sound of it, from EcoMode to Sport Mode it always feels willing to get up and do the bolt. The X2 M35i doesn’t score the latest generation interior, but unless you’ve driven every BWM on the market I can’t see this being a massive deterrent.
But wow once you find a twisty bit of safe road and slide open the sunroof, the X2 M35i is capable of some very naughty things. Despite being able to shuffle power to all four wheels drive it is clearly biased towards the front. In other words this is no trick Audi quattro system. But in some ways, it makes for a more engaging and challenging drive, at the edge.
This is every inch a genuine turbo, once you find the sweet spot the M Performance enhanced X2 really turns into a mighty midget. Four-cylinders scream their heads off ricocheting off the rock walls through the gorges on the EFTM Proving Ground.
Just occasionally the car, although very grippy seemed to want to power slide from the front end, not understeer but just 225kW wanting to go one way before the all-wheel drive system remembered it’s ok to send some of that power to the rear.
The brakes are really up to the task too, a good sign is that it never seemed like a fire was about to break out when I got home.
It’s a tremendously fun car, with some flaws, like not really being an SUV in my mind. But if a car puts a smile on my face, then life is good.
As mentioned 225kW is on tap along with 450Nm of torque from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That torque figure is what you play with the most given all of that is available between 1750rpm and 4500rpm. In fact, at times, when in Sports mode the eight-speed transmission can become a little too jerky, it does love to hang onto a gear.
There’s a front differential lock that explains the unusual all-wheel drive feel, but that’s all due to the original architecture being designed to spin only the front wheels.
The ride is pretty firm, it does sport 20-inch rims, but long stretches of crappy roads will equate to an equally crappy mood, even when in Comfort mode.
All BMW’s have wireless Apple CarPlay now for a price, but the X2 M35i lacks a wireless charging pad. BMW’s iDrive is now up to version 7, this car still has the previous software. Which is fine but does age the experience a little.
Prices start from $68,900, claimed fuel economy is 8.4L/100km, I averaged 10.1L/100km. It comes with an unlimited kilometre/three-year warranty.
Why would you buy one?
Because you heard one go past and thought it was a good idea.
This is kind of a strange one, it’s a very fast car that will dash to 100km/h in around five seconds. It has a stack of grip, but actually makes you work to keep on the straight and narrow. The interior is a tad last gen and why people like a pretend SUV I’ll never know. It’s a great car, but I’m not sure I like it, or perhaps I do. It’s a 7.8 out of 10 from me.
Chris was EFTM’s Motoring Editor for many years, driving everything from your entry level hatch to the latest Luxury cars through to the Rolls Royce.
He has been in the media for 20 years, produced three Olympic games broadcasts, attending Beijing 2008 & London 2012.
Strangely he owns a Toyota Camry Hybrid, he defiantly rejects the knockers.
Chris is married to Gillian and resides in Sydney’s North West. They have Sam the English Springer Spaniel and Felix the Burmese cat to keep them company, and recently welcomed baby Henry to the family.
He has now left EFTM, and writes freelance and runs his own Facebook Page “Bowen’s Garage”