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      03-09-2014, 09:21 PM   #1
vanbmw
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M235 vs 135...test drive

I had a good long test drive of an M235 at my local dealer on Friday. Here's how it compares to my car. I have a 2009 135i 6spd manual.

The M235 demonstrator was fully loaded, white with coral red interior and 8spd automatic.

Exterior:

They have smoothed the lines on the car and gotten rid of the "pot bellied pig" look of the 135. It is a very nice looking car. White is not a good colour for this car. I found white hid the fender flares and it didn't look as good as some of the other colours I have seen. The pictures of the red make the car look more aggressive to me. The wheels are nice and fill up the wheel wells nicely.

Interior:

Nice looking inside but I found it a bit busy compared to my 135. The I drive screen looks like an after thought. It looks like they had finished and some engineer attached a tablet computer to the top of the dash. That said the I drive works very well. Easy to use and intuitive. The seats are comfy and everything fits together well. The new style gauges are a nice touch and everything else was familiar and worked well.

Engine:

I had expected a it to feel more powerful. It is faster then my 135 but only SLIGHTLY. The engine has a great growl...more aggressive sounding then the stock 135 motor. It is flexible and has good power up until close to redline. Like the 135 it runs out of steam in the last 750 rpm's. I had thought it would be quicker.

Transmission:

Here was the big surprise. When I read the M235 would not have a dual clutch tranny I was disappointed. However, the 8 spd is excellent. It shifts fast and smooth. I found the different modes (comfort, sport and sport +) work very well. The manual mode also is very good. So many auto's try and guess what you want even in manual mode. Not this one. You want to hold it at redline...no problem. You want to floor it in 7th and stay in that gear...no problem. Most I have driven try and guess that you want it to shift up or drop down gears for you. Not this one. It acts like a true manual when in manual mode. This tranny surprised me big time.

Handling:

Here is the HUGE difference from my 135. The 235 is very stiff but not harsh. Body roll is minimal. I keep reading how BMW steering is going to hell with the electric boost. Not on this car. Steering feel was really good. I pushed it hard in a few corners. No understeer. Car is very neutral and power oversteer is available. The 235 has no nervous habits and it transitions really smoothly from neutral to tail out. The ride is certainly sporty but not harsh or bone jarring. My 135 feels soft and sloppy in comparison. The 235 felt so tight and sporty.



Overall I really liked this car. I didn't leave the dealer thinking that I had to sell my car and get a 235 right now. However, it is a nice upgrade and a step up on my 135.
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      03-09-2014, 09:39 PM   #2
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Thanks so much for posting.

How many miles on you're '09?

The reason I ask is that suspension aging (bushings, etc.) might have contributed a smidge to the handling difference.

Thanks.

Karl.
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      03-09-2014, 09:55 PM   #3
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I question the reason for deleting the oil temp gauge.
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      03-09-2014, 10:05 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vanbmw View Post
So many auto's try and guess what you want even in manual mode. Not this one. You want to hold it at redline...no problem. You want to floor it in 7th and stay in that gear...no problem. Most I have driven try and guess that you want it to shift up or drop down gears for you. Not this one. It acts like a true manual when in manual mode. This tranny surprised me big time.
ALL dual clutch transmissions are in FULL manual control when in manual mode. That ability is always there in dual clutch gearboxes. You will never find a dual clutch gearbox trying to 'guess' for you unless you place it in "D". Not sure what your'e referring to.

i've driven several ZF 8 speed transmissions now in different cars (BMWs and Audis) and it is not nearly as good as a DSG or DCT gearbox....i think most of the people praising it don't have a lot of seat time in a proper dual clutch gearbox.
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      03-09-2014, 10:13 PM   #5
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M235 is not dual clutch. Several cars I have driven when you put the auto into "manual mode" ...shift using the paddles or +/- of the shift lever...the tranny will shift for you. You are driving along in 5th gear in manual mode and you floor it...the tranny will shift down. You hit redline on some and it will not bounce of limiter but it will change up a gear. I have experienced this in my wife's MDX (yes a different class of vehicle) as well as several other cars. Yes even in some sports cars.
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      03-09-2014, 10:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wjk_glynn View Post
Thanks so much for posting.

How many miles on you're '09?

The reason I ask is that suspension aging (bushings, etc.) might have contributed a smidge to the handling difference.

Thanks.

Karl.
68,000km (about 42000M) on my car. My car still drives great and the handling is good. The M235 is VERY well set up. It will stack up a top notch handling car versus any serious sports car.
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      03-09-2014, 10:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vanbmw View Post
M235 is not dual clutch. Several cars I have driven when you put the auto into "manual mode" ...shift using the paddles or +/- of the shift lever...the tranny will shift for you. You are driving along in 5th gear in manual mode and you floor it...the tranny will shift down. You hit redline on some and it will not bounce of limiter but it will change up a gear. I have experienced this in my wife's MDX (yes a different class of vehicle) as well as several other cars. Yes even in some sports cars.
i know it's not....i'm just telling you that feature is NOT impressive. It exists on all dual-clutch gearboxes and the shifting quality of REAL dual clutch gearboxes are waaaaaaay nicer than the 8 speed ZF. I gather you haven't driven many dual clutch gearboxes right?

it's pretty sad that BMW put the disappointing 8 speed ZF gearbox in there.....it's like a luxury-gearbox....but not one meant for real enjoyment.
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      03-09-2014, 11:30 PM   #8
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I have driven multiple dual clutch transmissions. Audi, Porsche and Ferrari to name a few. All very impressive hence my disappointment in BMW not putting one in the M235.

I was expecting the transmission to be a disappointment. It was not. A dual clutch would be better but the 8 speed was surprisingly good.

If I was buying a M235...I would personally buy a 6speed manual but call me old school.

Last edited by vanbmw; 03-09-2014 at 11:39 PM.
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      03-10-2014, 04:50 AM   #9
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Another question about your car...

Quote:
Originally Posted by vanbmw View Post
68,000km (about 42000M) on my car. My car still drives great and the handling is good. The M235 is VERY well set up. It will stack up a top notch handling car versus any serious sports car.
Are you running RFT? What type of tires on the M235i? In the USA, RFT for this model are a no cost option, but it comes with regular Michelin PSS rubber.
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      03-10-2014, 08:34 AM   #10
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I have Michelin PSS on my 135. I didn't look at the tires on the M235 sorry! However, I did go over a few bumps and man hole covers that the M235 absorbed nicely so I would guess it had Michelin PSS. My runflats used to transmit a loud "bang" thru the car over manholes or pot holes...I didn't get any of that with the 235.
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      03-10-2014, 08:59 AM   #11
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Great write up comparison. Thank you for sharing with the community
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      03-10-2014, 09:24 AM   #12
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FYI- on the BMW 135 DCT full manual if you leave it in a higher gear and slow to a stop it'll downshift back to first, albeit slower than if you leave it in S or full auto.

If I had to buy a 235 today I'd go with the manual. I'm not exactly thrilled with the DCT some of the time. I would have to drive the ZF to compare.

Does the 235 have cylinder deactivation? The 3-series loaners I drove with it are horrible. That and the fact you have to disable it every time you start the car is a PITA.
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      03-10-2014, 09:48 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Overpar56 View Post
FYI- on the BMW 135 DCT full manual if you leave it in a higher gear and slow to a stop it'll downshift back to first, albeit slower than if you leave it in S or full auto.

If I had to buy a 235 today I'd go with the manual. I'm not exactly thrilled with the DCT some of the time. I would have to drive the ZF to compare.

Does the 235 have cylinder deactivation? The 3-series loaners I drove with it are horrible. That and the fact you have to disable it every time you start the car is a PITA.
I think you meant auto start/stop feature not cylinder deactivation? It does have this. My buddy at BMW said it is getting much better. Early versions were rough but BMW has improved it. He said the turbo 4 was really rough but the 6 is good. BMW will reprogram your car once so the auto start/stop feature defaults to off when you start up. I didn't notice the engine start or stop but I don't think I ever really idled for long. I was out on country road and a freeway so I didn't do any stop and go driving. Maybe he had it turned off?
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      03-10-2014, 10:33 AM   #14
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Good review OP. No surprise the motors chokes some on top, its your basic N55 with a PPK. You will get a little closer to redline making power but not much.
I'm going to test drive one for the hell of it in the next couple weeks.
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      03-10-2014, 10:52 AM   #15
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Good write up.

The problem with most EPS is not the feel when you push the car around the corner, but rather the feel of the road at all speeds and when driving straight and over small imperfections.
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      03-10-2014, 11:31 AM   #16
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Thanks

Thanks for your thoughts. Little bigger but better styling. New gauges but no oil temp (damn). Good 8 spd tranny and better handling. "Maybe" no RFTs. Sounds like a winner to me. I rarely can afford a new car so I expect to keep my 128 6MT Sp Pkg for a very long time.
I own 3 "older" cars and all have manual trans. I've been driving manual trannies for longer than most here have been alive yet I do know that the new autos, both DCT/DSG and 8 spds are the way of the future. That said, I do have more than 163,000 miles on original clutch of 01 Audi A4 1.8TQ and this car has been on track for 3 BMW HPDE's. (HPDE's are not hard on clutches tho)
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      03-10-2014, 11:41 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vanbmw View Post
Handling:

Here is the HUGE difference from my 135. The 235 is very stiff but not harsh. Body roll is minimal. I keep reading how BMW steering is going to hell with the electric boost. Not on this car. Steering feel was really good. I pushed it hard in a few corners. No understeer. Car is very neutral and power oversteer is available. The 235 has no nervous habits and it transitions really smoothly from neutral to tail out. The ride is certainly sporty but not harsh or bone jarring. My 135 feels soft and sloppy in comparison. The 235 felt so tight and sporty.
If you wouldn't mind, what is your definition of steering feel?
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      03-10-2014, 12:11 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSt|G View Post
If you wouldn't mind, what is your definition of steering feel?
You could feel the tires doing their job thru the wheel. Was not over boosted to the point of getting no feedback from the road. Steering feel is more E36 M3...maybe reminds me of a cayman S.
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      03-11-2014, 01:07 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vanbmw View Post
You could feel the tires doing their job thru the wheel. Was not over boosted to the point of getting no feedback from the road. Steering feel is more E36 M3...maybe reminds me of a cayman S.
Effort /= Feel.

I certainly agree it feels like the current Cayman S, but I would not see that as a compliment. I thought both were fairly lifeless, and nothing like the ever so feelsome E36 M3.
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      03-11-2014, 08:17 PM   #20
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I do like the M performance brakes on the m235i and the soon to be option to get a LSD. It does seem like a much more complete factory package. The comparison is really a stock m235i vs stock 135i(s). The 1M and modded e82's shouldn't even be in this conversation.
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      03-11-2014, 10:36 PM   #21
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Thanks for the review
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      03-12-2014, 05:49 AM   #22
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Agree completely with OP's finding with the Auto, I've spent considerable time in the E92 M3 with the DC as well as VW's DSG, and the Auto in the BMW is brilliant.

I also would only ever buy a manual but if I were able to choose, I'd have to be honest and say that I think I'd prefer the Auto. It shifts fast, maybe not quite as, but damn near close enough, and it's more fluid and predictable. It does low speeds better and doesn't sometimes feel a little clunky when shifting.

And you take your foot off the brake, you know what it's going to do every time, it moves away, it doesn't have to engage. The DCs can feel a little strange in this area.

Great car.
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