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People seem to hate this X1-chassis-based (and Mini Clubman-based) Bimmer. But trust me, it actually drives really well! Especially for being front-wheel drive.

  • Car(s): 2020 BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe
  • Location: Malibu, CA
  • Photog: Peter Nelson (IG + Twitter: @16vPete)
  • Camera: Canon 6D, EF 50mm 1.8 AF

I know, I know, xDrive means all-wheel drive, but this is a special kind of all-wheel drive system, known as a Haldex-type. This means it barely factors in the rear wheels when some slip is detected, otherwise it’s largely a FWD situation. It’s not like those found in a Subaru, real Audi Quattro (they sometimes dub their Haldexes as Quattro), etc.

For a fast front-wheel drive compact, the M235i is great. Fully independent suspension at all four corners, a front limited-slip differential, and excellent power from its B48 2.0-liter turbo-four. It was so fun to carve through some tight canyon roads in… maybe the allish-wheel drive helped with corner exit? Actually, probably not; it was most likely just the front diff and good traction aided by its planted ride.

It’s especially great when you consider that its cousins the Mini Cooper Clubman, as well as BMW X1 and X2 are based on the same chassis. The 228i Gran Coupe is its close sibling, though this is more of a comfy-commuter lump. While I haven’t driven the Clubman or X-lumps, I can’t imagine they’d drive nearly as well. I haven’t driven that new Mini JCW, either.

Sure, the M235i Gran Coupe doesn’t look too great; people say it looks like a Corolla, Kia Forte, etc. And, it won’t do classic, well-balanced drifts like RWD Bimmers. but if one were to look past that and just want a fast, reasonably thrifty on fuel, nice-handling German sport compact, it’d be a solid choice. Kinda like a VW Jetta, but more luxe and much, much faster.

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