Despite the enticing ‘M’ in its badge the M235i Convertible isn’t a 2-series chop-top that’s been fettled by Munich's proper tuning division.
Instead it joins BMW’s second-tier halo range, where the 1 Series, 2 Series (until the imminent 2M), and X5/X6 tri-turbo diesels benefit from a sort of M-lite tuning philosophy.
That means BMW matches its single-turbo N55 3.0-litre straight-six - that’s recently been fiddled to 240kW and 450Nm - to gluey Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, bigger brakes, variable steering and ‘adaptive M dampers’ for the compact 2-Series convertible.
Then there are 18-inch twin-spoke alloys, and ‘black chrome’ exhaust tips to help you spot an M235i from its blander siblings. And with its exclusive silver mirror caps and gloss kidney grille, it looks pleasingly higher-rent than a 228i.
Quasi-M car or not, though, we wish it had a little more menace in its appearance (our car wasn't equipped with M Performance bits down its sides), as spicier looks would help hint at the performance offered by the boosted inline-six lurking in its nose.
The engine’s free-revving down low, and its mid-range generates serious toupee-threatening speed before it arrives at redline a little breathless.
And if you wanted something to blame for the death of manuals, you could point the finger at BMW’s eight-speed torque converter auto. Its tendency to select higher cogs 'round town can be frustrating if you’re not an eco-mentalist, but we love its buttery upshifts, blink-quick downshifts and well-spaced gears.
Better yet, as a convertible the drivetrain’s aural signature can be bathed in after a pull of the roof button. The cloth roof takes a while to peel away, but you’re treated to all sorts of sonic treats you're normally insulated from.
They’re mainly from the turbocharger: a suck as it builds boost, a quiet sneeze as it dispels it, both punctuate the sonorous growl from the inline-six that’s the centrepiece of the experience.
The speed and sound makes for wonderfully entertaining touring, but approach a corner with the same enthusiasm and you’ll find the lack of mechanical differential spoils the romance. Anything less than smooth, dry corners see the ESP light flicker like a firecracker as it tries to paste 450Nm to tarmac during corner exit.
The chassis, however, tells a different story. It’s a substantial 250kg heavier than the coupe, but it feels just as playful, balanced, and composed. Provoke it even, and the Michelins Pilot Super Sports break away progressively enough that you’re given ample warning to catch the car with its accurate and direct electric steering rack.
Thanks to non-run-flat tyres, there's even a bearable ride. There are downsides. With its top up over ugly roads you can hear the chassis fidget where its A-pillars meet the roof. Nether is the damping completely sorted as the car needs a moment to settle after bumps.
That extra flab around its waist also means it’s not as sharp as its fixed-roof relations, but its handling is still involving, confidence inspiring, and it feels just as rapid between corners.
On the upside, the interior’s quiet and comfortable, so you can’t say its cloth roof takes anything away in terms of liveability.
Sure, for the same amount of money you could have the M235i with a $4300 M-differential, but if you want a roof it’s hard to argue against having the just-as-quick M135i for so much less.
So, if you're eyeing the cabrio in the showroom, we’ll assume you’re planning on cruising at speed rather than crushing corners. And for that, on the road, it’s pretty good. Even if it's not a full fat M car.
Engine: 2979cc, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo
Power: 240kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 1300rpm
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