Ride and handling
There’s less roll than in the M135i. On track, the 235i is noticeably flatter both into and through the corner. With 15 per cent stiffer springs and firmer bumps stops, this is to be expected, but the 235i feels lower and smaller too. Turn in too aggressively and your only reward will be the front tyres letting go and the nose running wide of the apex. But take a more considered approach, learn where the grip levels lie, and you find a beautifully balanced car that is very rewarding to string a lap together in.
The newly recalibrated DSC will let you have much bigger slides, too, and when it does rein everything back it does so much more smoothly, so you feel much happier leaving it on. If you turn it all off then there is of course the potential for even more fun. With the standard rear axle set-up, the only help comes from something called Active Differential Brake, a sort of pseudo LSD that brakes a spinning driven wheel under acceleration. Although ABD doesn’t give you the satisfying control of a proper LSD (a proper LSD is available as an option), the M235i is still a huge amount of fun over the limit.
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'In the M235i you can pick a line through a corner and fling it around a little' - Dan Prosser, evo 209
The steering isn’t wriggling with feedback sadly (how many cars’ helms are these days?) but it is accurate and well weighted in Sport mode so that it gives you confidence to push on. It's here that the convertible suffers, lacking the coupe's crispness and consistency of weighting – at times it feels a little sticky, at others very alert and jumpy.
Small and medium-sized bumps are dispatched with aplomb in both, and although just occasionally a bigger lump or compression can make the rear dampers struggle slightly under rebound it is never enough to make you back off like it would have been in some previous small BMWs.
The problems arise when the driver pushes the drop-top a little harder. Over bumpy roads it’s actually possible to see the steering wheel and rear view mirror shake and shimmy as the whole structure flexes. That loss of torsional rigidity gives the car a pervading sense of fragility, and it also means that there just isn’t the same precision and immediacy of response as in the Coupe.