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First drive: BMW X2 M35i xDrive. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW X2 M35i xDrive
BMW jazzes up the exterior styling of the X2, while giving us a 300hp M Performance flagship. Is it the compact premium coupe-SUV to go for?

   



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BMW X2 M35i xDrive

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

BMW gives us a new X2 to go with the third-generation X1, but this time around it has made the model look far more like a coupe than its immediate predecessor, which was always a dumpy little hatchback-type thing. Two petrols and two electric models, the latter dubbed iX2, make up the new 'U10' range, and here we've sampled the most powerful internal-combustion variant: the M35i xDrive. Is it a worthy sports flagship for this new coupe-SUV's line-up?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 BMW X2 M35i xDrive
Price: X2 range from 40,515, M35i xDrive from 49,340
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: seven-speed Steptronic dual-clutch automatic, xDrive all-wheel drive
Power: 300hp at 5,750-6,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2,000-4,500rpm
Emissions: 174-181g/km
Economy: 35.3-36.7mpg
0-62mph: 5.4 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Boot space: 560-1,470 litres

Styling

Coupe-SUVs are blatantly love 'em or loathe 'em, and we're sure there'll be plenty of you in the latter camp when it comes to the X2. We, however, aren't totally against the appearance of some of this sub-breed of crossovers, and the X2 M35i is one of the better efforts from an aesthetic perspective. It helps being in M Performance trim, of course, with the big 20-inch alloys, quad pipes and that lovely ducktail spoiler on the bootlid all bolstering the X2's form, but another masterstroke is finishing it in Frozen Tampa Bay Green. This is quite the colour and, again, while we're sure it'll be divisive, at least you can't accuse the M35i of trying to blend into the landscape when it's rendered like this.

What's not immediately obvious about the second-gen X2 is that it's much larger, in every dimension, than the old one. In terms of width, height and wheelbase, we're talking about modest gains of 22-64mm, but from front to rear it's a whopping 194mm longer than the car it replaces. That's to the benefit of interior practicality, mind, and we'll come onto that soon; the other plus point is that the swoopy shape results in a low coefficient of drag - 0.27Cd for these petrol models, 0.25Cd for the even slipperier iX2.

Interior

As with many a manufacturer these days, BMW is increasingly moving to a touchscreen-centric interior ethos. This is represented in the X2 by the Curved Display, a 10.25-inch instrument cluster and 10.7-inch infotainment screen which merge together in one widescreen panel on the dash. This naturally means the separate, physical climate controls have gone for a burton, the interface now squirrelled away in the central touchscreen. It's a move that drives some people wild with anger, us included, but we have to admit we didn't find the M35i's set-up too infuriating to use on the move. It has sharp, ultra-responsive graphics and an intuitive layout, so it doesn't take too much familiarisation to use it efficiently.

Otherwise, material quality is high and the general design of the fascia is pleasing. We're also big, big fans of the paddle shifts in the M35i, which are a great size and shape, and a tactile delight to use, but countering that with a grumble, we've once again got a BMW M Performance steering wheel with a (stop sniggering at the back) comically fat rim. It's not pleasant to hold and, as we shall come to see, it robs the driver of another few degrees of useful feedback at the helm, because it can feel like you're driving in oven gloves at times.

Practicality

More leg- and headroom is the order of the day in the second row of the X2, thanks to the longer wheelbase it has that's just shy of 2.7 metres. You could certainly imagine two tall(ish) adults being comfortable in the back, though if you regularly have to transport multiple basketball-playing giants around then the X1 - with its higher rear roofline - is going to be a better bet. Interior storage for oddments and the like is impressive in the X2, though, and then the boot is a fair old whopper; 560 litres with all seats in play, 1,470 litres with the second row folded down. The M35i has an advantage over any iX2 in this regard, as well, as the electric versions lose 35 and 70 litres respectively, due to the placement of their battery packs and rear motors (if equipped, in the latter case).

Performance

BMW equips the X2 M35i with the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine seen in the current X1 M35i; an entirely understandable decision. It's also the unit used in the MINI Countryman John Cooper Works ALL4 we drove recently, and - frankly - our criticisms of it from that car remain valid for the M35i.

For starters, on the face of it, it's weirdly (until you dig down into the spec, that is) less powerful than the F39 X2 M35i it supersedes, to the tune of 6hp and 50Nm. The former's no great loss, of course, being a mere two per cent drop - although, annoyingly, in the US (and other markets), the M35i has 317hp due to different exhaust routing - but the latter is a noticeable deficit.

And it comes about because there's been a change of gearbox. It might still be called a Steptronic, as it was before, but this U10 M35i's transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch unit, selected for reasons of quicker shift speeds and greater fuel economy/lower CO2 emissions, whereas the old hot X2 had an eight-speed torque converter which could handle the higher output.

Getting considerably bigger in frame has resulted in the M35i putting on some timber, too. EU weight to EU weight, it has gained 85kg (F39 1,685kg v U10 1,770kg) over its dad, which is like having a medium-sized passenger onboard at all times. This results in an on-paper 0-62mph time which is half-a-second slower in the new car than it was in the old, at 5.4 seconds all-in.

A meaningless stat, as so few people absolutely light up their compact crossovers from a standstill on a regular basis? Maybe. But that one seemingly irrelevant metric speaks volumes about the new X2 M35i's sense of speed. Or rather, lack of it. For all the immediacy of response of its xDrive tractive efforts and its slick-shifting seven-speed DCT and the undoubted strength of something that still possesses 300hp/400Nm, the BMW coupe-SUV feels appreciably blunted. It's quick, but not dramatically so - the old M35i was a right rabid little thing at times.

Not helping matters is that the four-pot soundtrack is rather soulless here, not even enlivened that much in Sport mode when the exhaust adds a cacophony of muted rumbles and thuds to proceedings, and so you just end up feeling pretty 'meh' about the whole experience. Not something you'd want to admit of a vehicle wearing that single letter and tricolour stripe, eh? Even if it is 'only' an M Performance car and not a full-on M.

Ride & Handling

There's little doubt the new X2 M35i xDrive is a capable machine in the corners. It has simply stacks of mechanical grip, possibly even too much of the stuff, and while it doesn't have shock absorbers that you can adjust with a dedicated button in the cabin or a flick of the mode switch (Sport only enhances the throttle, steering and soundtrack, not the suspension), they are at least Adaptive M frequency selective dampers (FSDs) - so the body control remains good when you start throwing this 1.8-tonne performance SUV about the place like an oversized hot hatch.

The summation of that paragraph above is that you will very quickly be able to drive the X2 M35i almost right up to the limits of its abilities. And if you're then extrapolating from that statement that it's all just a bit dull to drive, you'd be right. The M35i is rapid, it is assured, it is dependable and it is talented in the corners. But it's rarely ever much fun. The super-safe, 'point-it-and-go' driving dynamics remind us of certain high-performance vehicles of the past with four rings on their nose and a 'quattro' badge slapped on their arse, and that's not something which a self-respecting hot BMW should be compared to, quite honestly. A big part of the problem is steering which is surprisingly lightweight and uninvolving, not helped by gripping that stupid bloody wheel with its 20-metre depth of foam padding.

All of this means you throttle the X2 M35i back to a more sedate pace far sooner than you might have expected to. Whereupon you can revel in the impressive rolling refinement and ride quality which is surprisingly supple and accommodating, given the tough suspension and whopping alloys on low-profile tyres. Yes, the BMW coupe-SUV is very grown-up and cultured... but there are other drivetrains in the line-up, most notably the electric ones, which are a far better fit for that sort of character than a 2.0-litre turbo which'll struggle to breach 20mpg if you start thrashing it. All of which makes the M35i feel like a bit of a pointless addition to the X2/iX2 canon.

Value

Working in the M35i's favour is that it is significantly cheaper than either of the electric iX2s, including the entry-level, single-motor eDrive20 with a 204hp propulsion system. It's a good 8,105 less than the 313hp, dual-motor xDrive30, which is about its analogue on the zero-emission side of the range, although that's beholden on you ignoring a) the options list for the M35i, and b) the potential running cost and tax benefits of the iX2 xDrive30, especially if you're a company user. As an M Performance car, standard equipment on the X2 M35i is very generous, which also makes its purchase price look reasonable.

Verdict

The new BMW X2 M35i xDrive is certainly very capable and there will be plenty of people who will admire its sleeker exterior styling, its deeply composed driving manners and its easy-to-access pace. Sadly, we were hoping for a bit more from an M Performance car - not an M3-rivalling experience at the wheel, you understand, we're not lunatics, but certainly something with a bit of the rawness and edginess that used to underscore the old X2 M35i. For all its sporty appearance, it feels as if the latest model of this 300hp performance SUV has lost some of the fire in its belly, and that - we reckon - is a real shame.



Matt Robinson - 27 Feb 2024



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2024 BMW X2 M35i xDrive. Image by BMW.2024 BMW X2 M35i xDrive. Image by BMW.2024 BMW X2 M35i xDrive. Image by BMW.2024 BMW X2 M35i xDrive. Image by BMW.2024 BMW X2 M35i xDrive. Image by BMW.

2024 BMW X2 M35i xDrive. Image by BMW.2024 BMW X2 M35i xDrive. Image by BMW.2024 BMW X2 M35i xDrive. Image by BMW.2024 BMW X2 M35i xDrive. Image by BMW.2024 BMW X2 M35i xDrive. Image by BMW.








 

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