A BMW SUV with a hot-hatch heart
High-powered X2 M35i brings out your inner racing driver
The M35i went on sale locally a month ago as the sporty flagship of the BMW X2 crossover range. Or, as BMW calls it, a compact Sports Activity Coupe.
There’s no six-cylinder howler under the bonnet, despite what the badge might promise, but the four-cylinder doing duty is the most powerful exponent of BMW’s 2l TwinPower turbo engine, producing an impressive 225kW and 450Nm of torque.
That’s the same power as the 3l straight-six turbo engine used in the 2006 BMW 335i.
This is duly fired to both axles in the X2 via an intelligent xDrive all-wheel drive system and an eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic gearbox equipped with launch control. There’s no manual option available.
MOTORING PODCAST | Cargumentative: Gymkhana life & best advice
Helping to keep this excitable X2 gripping the tar is firmed-up M Sport suspension and uprated brakes, while optionally available is an adaptive suspension system offering comfort and sport modes.
This sporting upgrade squeezes almost all vestiges of SUV out of this car. There’s not much sense of an elevated driving position (the main reason people tend to buy SUVs and crossovers), although the ground clearance is still a higher-than-average 182mm.
The harder springs very effectively banish body roll when exploring fast bends, and an M Sport differential maximises traction of the front wheels when exploring the car’s limits.
The brakes have also been uprated to deal with the extra performance, and the typically meaty BMW steering is made even sharper.
It’s a satisfyingly swift machine and a great-sounding one too, with a loud vrr-phaa when the perrformance is being exploited with a heavy foot. BMW claims a hot hatch-like 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.9 seconds, a number that’s easily believable from the fiery way this X2 gathers pace, while top speed is an electronically governed 250km/h.
For all that foaming at the mouth, fuel consumption in our test car averaged a quite decent 10.8l /100km, and BMW claims 7.4l is possible with more right-foot restraint.
It’s not a car that lends itself to driving moderation though. Selecting either Comfort or Eco Pro modes in the Driving Experience Control doesn’t do much to quieten the beast or dampen its sporting spirit.
This high-performance X2 always feels quite highly strung. In Sport mode it positively sizzles, with an edgy demeanour that seems to want to pick a fight with every other car on the road — and it will usually win.
Always underpinning the experience is a decidedly firm and choppy ride but the flip side is a corner-loving nature. Again, there’s no sense that you’re at the wheel of an SUV. It’s almost pure hot hatch in the way it carves curves with a high-spirited nature and hunkered-down feel.
The X2 M35i is visually vamped up with Cerium Grey treatment for the kidney grille, exterior mirrors, and dual exhaust tips. A rear roof spoiler further confirms its sporting credentials, as do 19-inch alloy wheels (or optionally Cerium Grey 20-inchers as fitted to our test car).
Inside, standard fare includes an M Sport leather steering wheel with shift paddles and door scuff plates bearing “M35i” lettering.
Our test vehicle was specced with the optional M Sport bucket seats that provide added support when exploring this car’s heightened handling limits. They’re available in three different colour schemes, and this car’s lurid red ones perfectly encapsulated its incendiary personality.
The extroverted exterior design takes a detour from the regular BMW blueprint. With its upside-down kidney grille and the unusual placement of the BMW badge on the C-pillars, the X2 strives to be the quirky rebel in the Bavarian line-up, the cool uncle with the rolled-up blazer sleeves.
It is shorter and lower than the BMW X1 yet has the same wheelbase, with short overhangs and a coupe-style roofline.
This athletic vibe is accompanied by a decent dose of practicality however, including a sizeable 470l boot and enough cabin space to house four adults in reasonable comfort.
The base price of R809,100 comes standard with items like an infotainment system with navigation and real-time traffic information, and wireless smartphone charging. Interacting with the infotainment system is done in three different ways: via the traditional iDrive knob, voice control, or touchscreen.
There’s a raft of extra-cost options available. Our test car was specced up to R926,172 with items like electrically adjustable front seats, Driving Assist Plus (including active cruise control and lane departure warning), an automatic tailgate, rear view camera and a panoramic sunroof, among others.
There’s also the option of a full-colour Head-Up Display which projects driving information and navigation readouts onto the windscreen.
Overseas the car competes against Audi’s SQ2 but since that four-ringed hotshot isn’t available locally, the X2 M35i rules its own niche.
Though this BMW is classed as a compact SUV, I’d be inclined to compare it to a hot hatch like the Golf R in terms of its performance and driving dynamics, and the way it brings out one’s inner racing driver.
Type: Four-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Eight-speed Steptronic automatic
Type: xDrive all-wheel drive
Top speed: 250km/h
0-100km/h: 4.9 seconds (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 7.4l/100 km/100km (claimed); 10.8l/100km (as tested)
Automatic start-stop function, Harman Kardon audio system, infotainment system with USB and Bluetooth, navigation with real-time traffic alerts, LED headlights, electric windows, electric mirrors, cruise control, climate control, six airbags, ABS brakes, stability control, iDrive control, M Sport differential, 225/45 19-inch tyres, height-and reach-adjustable steering, Driving Experience Control switch, multifunction steering wheel, runflat tyres, M Sport brakes, M Sport suspension, hill-descent control
Warranty: Two years/unlimited mileage
Maintenance plan: Five-year/100,000km Motorplan
Lease*: R17,285 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
BMW X2 M35i
WE LIKE: Performance, handling, style
WE DISLIKE: Firm ride, price
VERDICT: A hot hatch masquerading as an SUV
Motor News star rating
Design * * * *
Performance * * * *
Economy * * *
Safety * * * *
Value For Money * * *
Overall * * * *
Volkswagen Golf R, 228kW/400Nm — R676,000