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First drive: BMW X2 M35i. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW X2 M35i
Another performance crossover arrives, and it's bound to infuriate many. But this Beemer is brilliant.


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BMW X2 M35i

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

BMW gives us the first properly hot version of the X2, in the form of the M Performance derivative. Badged M35i, it features the most powerful four-cylinder production engine ever coughed up by the Munich bunch... and, rather more pertinently, it seems to have a genuinely brilliant little chassis under it. A great car, undoubtedly, but will its talents be enough to convince those who dislike performance crossovers/SUVs?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW X2 M35i
Pricing: X2 range from 27,955, M35i as tested from 43,315
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: xDrive all-wheel drive with limited-slip diff on front axle, eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic
Body style: five-door crossover/SUV
CO2 emissions: 158g/km (VED Band 151-170: 530 first 12 months, then 465 years two-six of ownership, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 40.9mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
Power: 306hp at 5,000-6,250rpm
Torque: 450Nm at 1,750-4,500rpm
Boot space: 470-1,355 litres

What's this?

The BMW X2 M35i, another in the line of 'new age hot hatchbacks', if you will; well, come on - these performance crossovers are fast, practical and in demand from the buying public... it's just they're a little taller than hot hatches, is all. Of course, the idea that a Cupra Ateca or Audi SQ2 might be considered a hot hatch will stick in many enthusiasts' craws, but it's where we're at right now.

Best, then, to try and assess this pacey X2 on its own merits, rather than wondering what this engine might mean for the next generation M140i and M240i models. The X2 M35i's 306hp/450Nm 2.0-litre turbo'd four is a neat match for the aforementioned Volkswagen Group motor in the Cupra and SQ2, and it also conveniently outpunches the mill in the Mercedes-AMG A 35 for torque, to the tune of 50Nm - we can't help wondering, though, that if AMG does a GLA 35 with its particular powerplant, then the next GLA 45 might even elicit an X2 M in response from BMW...

Anyway, the engine in the M35i is the 2.0-litre unit you'd find in a MINI John Cooper Works, only with a bigger turbo, uprated pistons and conrods, a reinforced crankshaft and optimised fuel injection valves to liberate the additional muscle. Interestingly enough, MINI has already announced that this 306hp iteration of the four-banger will, in turn, be slotted into forthcoming JCW models, which means the very exciting prospect of a 300hp-plus factory MINI for the first time.

Ahem. We've got side-tracked. Again. So, back with the X2 and as standard it comes with 10mm lower, sports-tuned springs and dampers, 19-inch wheels on Pirelli P Zero tyres (20-inch alloys are an option), larger brakes with an M compound for the pads, a revised rear axle construction and M Sport-fettled steering. There's also an M Sport exhaust with 100mm-diameter tailpipes, part of a modest visual overhaul that includes Cerium Grey exterior details (kidneys, air intakes, door mirrors) and a more sizeable boot spoiler.

However, the X2 M35i's most intriguing feature is the limited-slip diff that is incorporated into its transmission; transmission that features an eight-speed Steptronic Sport auto and xDrive all-wheel traction. You'd think, as a 4WD, that a 'slipper' on the front wouldn't be needed, but this one detail speaks volumes about how seriously BMW wants this rapid X2 to be fully deserving of its M Performance credentials. Options include two-stage adaptive dampers (Comfort and Sport are the modes - and these switchable shocks were fitted to our test car) and, for the first time ever on a BMW M Performance model (and not a full M), the ability to spec in one-piece M Sport bucket front seats (again, fitted to our test car). These alone lift a cabin that's not quite at the same level as the biggest BMWs for tech and layout, but one that offers a great driving position - you can sit low in the car, even if you're higher relative to the road - and plenty of space for four adults.

The price for all of this - which, lest we forget, includes performance stats of 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds and 155mph flat out, making the X2 M35i properly rapid despite its 1,685kg kerb weight - is 43,315. Now, whether we've just become inured to exorbitant windscreen stickers on desirable cars in the 2010s or not, we happen to think that's not bad. It's only 55 per cent more expensive than an absolutely boggo X2 with a 140hp three-cylinder motor and SE trim, and the difference between the M35i and the next two most powerful X2s down the tree - these being the xDrive20i (192hp) and xDrive20d (190hp), in M Sport X spec - is 5,260 and 4,170 respectively. Not huge gaps, considering the M35i is more than two-and-a-half seconds faster for the benchmark sprint than either.

How does it drive?

In truth, we have three main bugbears with the X2 M35i's dynamics. And they are these: one, the steering is stodgy in Sport mode, with an excess of artificial weight trying to stand in for genuine feel, and (furthermore) you control said steering with a wheel that's too thick to hold comfortably; two, the one area the X2 M35i betrays its heavy crossover/AWD DNA is on the brakes, because you need more stopping force on the middle pedal than you might at first think when you're driving it, er... briskly; and three, the four-pot's exertions are overlaid with a synthetic soundtrack broadcast into the cabin through the BMW's speakers.

And that's it. Number one is annoying, number two is something you can easily acclimatise to after a few miles and number three didn't actually bother us that much, as the augmentation seemed to only enhance what was already there, rather than trying to project a different voice entirely. Other than that, there's a lot of shining brilliance regarding the way the X2 M35i dynamically goes about its business.

The diff, first of all, makes itself very keenly felt during cornering, allowing you to tighten or open your line using the minutest adjustments of the throttle. It also, along with the xDrive, blesses the X2 with quite fearsome traction, despite the use of Pirellis and not Michelin Pilot Sports - our test drive began in torrential rain and yet the BMW managed to find grip and deploy all of its torque without any histrionics whatsoever. This makes it devastatingly fast, whether the road in front is tight and intricate, or more open and flowing.

After the diff, the damping deserves huge credit. This optional set-up does that useful trick of being neither too loose for body control in Comfort nor too firm for ride comfort in Sport, which means you can flick between the settings as your heart desires and the X2 will have beautifully sorted control and comfort in equal measure. There is some lean in the very tightest corners in Comfort, and occasionally the 19s do thump through larger surface imperfections when in Sport to remind you unequivocally that you're in something sporty, but overall the dampers are superb.

Then there's that engine. If you're a devout BMW straight-six aficionado, you might not be that impressed with the phrase 'the most powerful four-cylinder engine yet from BMW'. But you really ought to be impressed with the way it catapults the X2 M35i down the road. Any gear, any revs; this thing has punch aplenty. With the stunning eight-speed Steptronic backing up its every move and very little to report in the way of noticeable turbo lag, the M35i simply and instantaneously thumps you back in the seat when you floor the throttle. We drove it on German Autobahns and the way it disdainfully hauled in 140mph was quite astonishing, the midrange grunt melding beautifully with the high-revs reach to ensure the BMW feels almost linear and non-forced induction when you're caning it. Honestly, the M35i felt every bit as impressive as the 360hp, six-pot M40i vehicles you can find elsewhere in the company's brochures.

Thankfully, the X2's ability as a performance machine does not detract from its capabilities as an everyday vehicle. The low-speed ride comfort is fantastic, the suppression of noise is first-rate, it lopes along motorways with a composure and grace of an SUV far bigger in scale than it actually is, and the fit and finish and ergonomic correctness of the cabin make it an easy place to spend some time. Fast and thrilling when you want it to be, quiet, calm and practical when you don't; surely the X2 M35i is deserving of the highest critical praise as a result?


BMW could carefully control some factors of this launch, such as holding it in its hometown (where the roads are almost all immaculate... and not a little bit dull, truth be told), speccing the cars up with the adaptive dampers and the snazzy M Sport seats, and generally keeping us in a good mood by offering other BMWs to play with once we'd sampled the M35i. However, it couldn't control the weather, which was abysmal at first, and yet still the X2 excelled in these conditions, providing an engaging and rewarding drive.

We'd like to try an M35i back in the UK, on 20s, the standard springs and dampers, and without the M Sport seats, to see if it feels quite as special as it did in Germany. But two things are for sure: one, this crossover will always have THAT engine; and two, it will always have THAT diff. And these two things alone make it a quite excellent performance vehicle. And one thoroughly deserving of the tricolour-striped M badge on its boot lid, no matter what you think of its general shape.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 17 May 2019    - BMW road tests
- BMW news
- X2 images

2019 BMW X2 M35i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW X2 M35i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW X2 M35i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW X2 M35i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW X2 M35i. Image by BMW.

2019 BMW X2 M35i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW X2 M35i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW X2 M35i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW X2 M35i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW X2 M35i. Image by BMW.


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