M-fettled X2 grows on you
Many moons ago in what today seems another life, I used to tune cars. We had a wonderful little business and we did pretty much what M, RS and AMG do today — take a regular car and tune it to something completely different. We also learned what people wanted and delivered to those needs and the biggest trick was to balance rowdiness and noise to match the market niche.
So if we were say tweaking a Laser 1600i Sport or a Kadett GSi, we had far more leeway, but it was different if we were modifying, say a 325iS or the occasional E300. Those guys wanted their cake and they wanted to eat it too. We delivered — a free-flow exhaust need not be rowdy. And a tuned suspension need not rattle your fillings out.
Which is why I am a little confused by this BMW X2 M35i. I am always more critical of M cars, AMGs and the like, especially their more modern dumbed-down ‘performance’ variants, because I have a fairly good understanding of what they mean — and what people want from them, even if what we did was 30 years ago, the same wan still applies.
So when a purported wannabe luxury car like this turns out way too firm and too rowdy to really enjoy driving over a ling trip, I begin to wonder - who are they aiming it at, especially at the price…
Look, BMW’s first transverse-engined four-cylinder M car was always going to cop more flak than it might have were it a good old straight six twisting the rear axle, but this AWD critter is edging into SUV territory and the cars it must still compete with are better rounded n a hot hatch sense without even a hint of utility pretence...
Anyway, this X2 M edition is an interesting prospect — that utility angle over say a Golf R or a Countryman S is an interesting one and beyond its harshness, 35i is a strong contender across the board. It delivers the performance to scare that dude and his R — 5.3 seconds to 100 is competitive enough for sure and it and it packs more than enough punch through the range, while its well-geared auto box shifts crisply for a most engaging drive.
The gruff exhaust note is reasonably pleasing but it lacks that sweet six song; it handles well, turns in crisply and wears those M dampers well. When you're pushing on, that is.
The M addenda brings a welcome dose of aggro to X2’s quirky appeal and this one's mad red pews and trim clearly help M in its quest to eke a sporting bent out of its utility cabin and M35i is reasonably well equipped, comfortable, easy to get along with and is spacious enough too. The X2 flagship however somewhat surprisingly misses some spec common to even humble Korean hatchbacks.
To be honest, my picky criticisms aside, the X2 M35i is a pretty good car and the more I drove it, the more I liked it — it’s engaging and fun, yet utilitarian enough to still be versatile. With a little luck, someone in Munich is listening and they will charge its engineers to develop the simple changes necessary to eke back the sophistication it needs to make it a very good car. - Michele Lupini
Images — Michele Lupini
ROAD TESTED: BMW X2 M35i
Engine: 225kW 450Nm 1998cc turbo petrol I4
Drive: 8-speed automatic AWD
0-60km/h: 2.68 sec
0-100km/h: 5.39 sec
0-160km/h: 12.04 sec
400m: 13.5 sec @ 169km/h
80-120km/h: 3.22 sec
120-160km/h: 4.88 sec
Fuel: 7.4 l/100km
CO2: 168 g/km
Warranty/Service: 2y Unl/5y 100Kkm
LIST PRICE: R815K