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We drive BMW's razor-sharp 2 Series

By: Jesse Adams

Las Vegas, USA - Don’t worry, this isn’t as complicated as it looks. BMW has added yet another new armament to its ever-growing battalion, but the new 2 Series launched to the world in the US last week is really just a coupé version of the current 1 Series hatch.

Though based on the 1 Series platform, the 2 Series has some neat individual touches.Though based on the 1 Series platform, the 2 Series has some neat individual touches.Though based on the 1 Series platform, the 2 Series has some neat individual touches.Though based on the 1 Series platform, the 2 Series has some neat individual touches.Though based on the 1 Series platform, the 2 Series has some neat individual touches.Though based on the 1 Series platform, the 2 Series has some neat individual touches.Though based on the 1 Series platform, the 2 Series has some neat individual touches.Though based on the 1 Series platform, the 2 Series has some neat individual touches.The cabin features the usual upmarket finishes that you would expect in a BMW.

Okay, that might be a little of an oversimplification to be honest.

Just as the previous 1 Series coupé was based on its hatch sibling of the time, so too is the new 2 Series, only this time it’s a more differentiated model with more unique bits and pieces.

Probably not enough parts to justify a new numerical nameplate on its own, but remember, with the introduction of the recent 4 Series (the two door version of the current 3 Series), BMW will from now on give all sedans and hatches odd insignias and all coupés and convertibles evens.

DISTINCT IDENTITY

With identical wheelbases the new 2 Series obviously shares a basic floor plan with the now two-year old 1 Series hatch.

Other genetic giveaways can be spotted inside where most of the interior is the same, and much of its essential mechanical components are shared too. But this time around BMW gave its coupé variant more of its own identity with a standalone, and rather attractive, front end. It’s also safe to say it’s the sportier of the two ranges with a wider rear track, increased torsional rigidity, stiffer suspension settings, and more powerful engine choices across respective model lists.

At the Las Vegas Motor Speedway-based media presentation BMW offered its flagship derivative, the M235i, for test drives, and even if it’s not considered a purebred M car, it’s still an extremely focused performance model. Specced with 240kW and 450Nm (5kW more than the existing M135i hatch), this is the most powerful petrol engine yet fitted to a vehicle in Beemer’s M Performance line.

3-LITRE JEWEL

As we know from many other 35i models in BMW’s arsenal, this 3-litre turbo is an absolute jewel. It gushes torque from idle and pulls across a seemingly endless rev range with a wonderful wail only a high-revving straight-six can make. BMW says the M235i is good for a 4.8 second 0-100km/h dash when fitted with a launch-control-enabled eight-speed auto box. This transmission will come standard in our market, but a six-speed manual (claimed 0-100km/h in 5 seconds) can be ordered.

Handling is exceptional. Around the Vegas racetrack the coupé exhibited levels of grip that will doubtfully ever be tested by buyers on public roads.

Turn-in is sharp and immediate, and from there corners can be rounded off with throttle inputs as the wheelbase is short enough to get the tail drifting around in a slightly wider arc than the nose - if the driver has the guts.

LIVELY CHASSIS

Customers looking to extract even more from this already lively rear-wheel drive chassis can order a mechanical limited-slip diff (this has been a notable absentee from the M135i’s options list), but our test cars were equipped with standard electronic wheelspin prevention aids. Still, corner exit grip is superb, and it’s this less expensive option that I’d recommend for most daily drivers.

BMW will cater to even harder-core enthusiasts with a range of M Performance parts comprising 19” wheels, flashy side stripes, lowered suspensions, free-flow exhausts, carbonfibre accessories and suede steering wheels among other things. Then, on top of this, there’s also an M235i Racing model with a stripped out interior, roll cage, wildly flared wheel arches and functional aerodynamic devices. The M235i Racing is strictly for track use only, and will cost in the region of R1-million if ordered into our market.

On the more sensible side BMW SA will also offer entry-level 220i and 220d models. These versions feature 2-litre turbo engines, one petrol and one diesel with 135kW/270Nm and 135kW/380Nm respectively. All three models are scheduled to arrive here in April.

PRICING:

BMW 220i – R376 000

BMW 220d – R406 000

BMW M235i – R512 500

BMW M235i AT – R532 600

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