Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld
2020 BMW M235 Gran Coupé
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
This week we are reviewing the BMW M235 Gran Coupé. Our vehicle was assembled at the Leipzig plant in Germany and has an approximate MSRP of 58845.00 CAD / 65116.00 Euro.
Fun Factor: 8
Can it Family: 8
City Cruising: 8
We've tested the M235GC quite extensively over 2 weeks in Germany and Austria. We picked it up in Munich from BMW's Press and fleet service just off the Autobahn; we could had the joy of driving it full speed for a couple of kilometres when traffic allowed before crossing over to Austria. We travelled through the Alps with their beautiful landscape and sinuous roads to finally arrive in Styria, Austria's southern wine region, located just an hour away from Graz where other BMW's are currently assembled, such as the plug-in version of the 5 series and the Z4. It felt like the BMW M235GC was in its natural habitat with its tight and twisty roads looking down through rows of grapevines. Yes, this is the same road we took to drive the M240i last year. While many purists have been upset that the M235GC is not based on a RWD (Rear Wheel Drive) platform like the M240i, BMW did a fantastic job mitigating any torque steer often apparent on vehicles based on FWD (Front Wheel Drive) platforms with this much power. This is thanks to the excellent calibration of the xDrive system that provides the vehicle with all-wheel-drive capability. The 2.0L in-line turbo engine under the hood makes an astonishing 306PS (Pferdestärke) like the German's would say, converted, this makes 301HP on our shores. BMW chose an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission for this vehicle; although this isn't the fastest shifting transmission from BMW, we found it extremely smooth at higher speeds. In combination with the integrated navigation system, the vehicle prevented unnecessary gear changes around corners resulting in smoother transitions out of corners. We naturally couldn't resist pushing the M235GC to its limit. The maximum speed announced for this vehicle is limited to 250km/h; on our journey, we were able to push the car to 261km/h for a moment as there are speed limits on some sections of the Autobahn. We shared the road with other users who were either faster or slower.
Can the M235GC be a family vehicle? It sure can, and it will do a better job than its Coupe counterpart. Not only is it easier for passengers to get inside the vehicle thanks to its additional doors, but it also does a better job with cargo practicality. This was quite important for us as we needed to fit 2 large suitcases and hand luggage in the trunk for our long journey. We travelled well over 3000km, and we adored the support and comfort the M Sport Seats gave us. The heated seats offered a nice and toasty feeling; in combination with the heated steering wheel, it felt heavenly to drive through Austria's mountainous Pyhrn Autobahn, where temperatures dipped below freezing. The rear seats offer a seating capacity of up to 3 passengers; however, we will say this right away if you're planning to transport that many passengers, you might as well get a 3-series. For 2 adult passengers, the rear seating is surprisingly good considering it's such a compact vehicle. Kids will enjoy the comfort of the back seats a lot more. You'll also find 2 USB-C connectors in the back row, making your vehicle future proof.
The average fuel economy observed on a 3000km round trip was 7.9L/100km; obviously, this included driving on the German Autobahn at speeds well above 200km/h. We conducted our Hwy fuel economy test on the Austrian Autobahn, where speeds are limited to 130km/h and averaged 5.1L/100km. Naturally, this is not the usual stretch of flat, linear Hwy where we test our vehicles; here, driving involves different incline degrees. Our city test used 2 different averages; one was driving in a smaller city like Graz, where speeds are limited to 30km/h with a few stretches of 50km/h where we achieved 9.2L/100km. Then, in a larger city like Munich, where mixed driving cycles are possible, the fuel economy averaged 8.8L/100km. BMW announces a combined fuel economy based on the WLTP cycle of 6.7L/100km in Europe. On the Autobahn, the fuel economy is 5.6L/100km, and finally, in an urban area, the fuel economy situates at 8.6L/100km. These results are quite different from those BMW announces in Canada, a combined fuel economy of 9.0L/100km and a Hwy fuel economy of 7.3L/100km, and in the city, 10.3L/100km. The difference is quite drastic for the same vehicle from one market to another; Europe's fuel quality may explain this variation. However, even with Canada's higher fuel economy, the lower fuel prices more than tip the balance at the fuel pump compared to Europe's prices.
On the Autobahn, the M235GC shows its versatility as being a comfortable 4-door coupe and at the same time packs a lot of punch when in Sport mode. We noticed that in Sport +, the suspension becomes so stiff that when driving on uneven pavement at speeds below 150km/h, it upsets the chassis and makes the ride feel rollercoaster-like. Yet above these speeds, that mode makes sure your vehicle feels balanced and enjoyable to drive. On the other hand, in Comfort mode, the drive is so smooth, pleasant that we could forget we were behind the wheel of a 300+ horsepower sports vehicle to a certain extent. I mean this in the best possible way; BMW has nicely balanced this vehicle depending on your mood and driving style. While driving at high speeds on the Autobahn, it's nice to see the speed without looking at the instrument cluster. The 9.2-inch coloured heads-up display (HUD) comes in quite handy and provides turn by turn directions directly. The system also advises you of a safe distance from the vehicle in front based on both cars travelling speed. Many manufacturers haven't yet achieved that the smartphone integration shows the turn by turn navigation from your smartphone directly in the HUD.
The M235GC we tested was equipped with the optional Harman Kardon Surround Sound System and its 16 speakers. It just sounds so delicious inside the cabin. The infotainment is a 10.25inch screen that can be controlled either via click wheel or via touch. The screen is angled towards the driver making operations on it quite user-friendly. Anyone coming from the previous generation of iDrive will find this system is an evolution of those. At night the system lighting is comfortable to the eye, and the ambient lighting doesn't feel like a nightclub. At the time of testing, the vehicle offered Apple Car Play wirelessly and a wireless charger that holds the phone firmly so that it doesn't move around during spirited driving. Android connectivity is available as a software update at the dealer and will be standard as of 2021.
Where the M235 Gran Coupé becomes interesting compared to its Coupe counterpart is in how easy it is to get car seats in and out of the vehicle. Even with its sloping roof, we did not have too much hassle installing car seats. We did have to enter the rear-facing car seat laterally, then rotate it inside the cabin. In general, ISOFIX ports are easily accessible, and BMW has mastered easy car seat installation even in their sportier variants.
In the city, the M235GC's compact size makes it a superb vehicle to drive. We have to point out one major irritant for us: its turning radius at low speeds. Especially in Europe, where parking spots are extremely small and require a 3 point turn to get out, it makes the whole experience unpleasant. The vehicle's rear camera offers excellent visibility additionally offers sensors in the front and back to make sure that you don't get any scratches on your brand-new car. It would have been nice to have a 360-degree camera to make this experience even better.
Why would we buy the BMW M235GC, or what we liked about it? Sporty & fun driving dynamics, all-season performance with the xDrive system. Comfortable seating.
Why would we not buy the BMW M235GC, or what we did not like about it? Large turning radius, stiff suspension in sport+, sunroof optional on Germany variant.
BMW AG has lent us this vehicle for two weeks as a press vehicle. We have no affiliation with BMW Canada/ BMW Germany. The above is a recollection of our personal opinion of the car referred above.
Our tour of Germany and Austria brought us to some unique locations; here are some pictures of them and the food we enjoyed.
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