BMW’s X2 M35i is a bit intense

CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer

BMWs are usually delightful cars to drive, but some of the M editions can be a bit intense with their stiff suspensions, tight steering and right-now throttle response. One could argue that’s exactly how a performance car should behave, and if you don’t like it buy something else. But should a compact crossover be that intense? The 2019 X2 M35i answers the question.

It’s a sexy little compact crossover, sports activity coupe or whatever BMW wants to call it. It looks like an X3 was shrunk and squished down over hulking 20-in. wheels. Up front, BMW’s wide kidney grille is flanked by curve-following LED headlamps. An aero kit, rear spoiler and painted brake calipers bring on the glitzy performance references. In some ways, it’s kinda cute, but in others, it looks like it will eat your head off. Seems perfect for a BMW.

Inside, BMW’s driver-focused cabin is all business. A thick M leather-wrapped steering wheel falls at hand with large analog gauges behind it. A heads-up display keeps eyes forward. Our car came with M Sport front seats with extendable lower cushions, in Magma Red Dakota leather. The orange-red hue makes a bold statement, especially as it extends to the dash and carpet. I love it.

Sweet Harman/Kardon audio, panoramic sunroof, navigation and automatic climate control also found favor. Connect with Bluetooth, USBs and Apple CarPlay. Safety is enhanced with adaptive cruise, park distance control, lane departure warning and front crash warning. It’s a little difficult to see out of this bunker, so the rearview camera is a must.

Wedged under the low hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, connected to a paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic transmission that delivers a potent 302 horsepower and 332 lb.-ft. of torque. It all routes to the road through an upgraded xDrive all-wheel-drive system with limited slip differential and launch control. BMW claims 0-60 mph runs of just 4.9 seconds — blitzing fast for a vehicle in this segment. You’ll want to stay off the throttle to see 23/29-MPG city/highway.

Along with the track-tuned powertrain is a chassis to match. As appropriate, the M35i comes with stiffer spring and damper rates, lower ride height and quicker ratio steering that seems linked to the driver’s synapses. While it comes with electronically adjustable dampers, in no mode would you call the ride “comfortable.” It’s a seriously stiff little whipper, lurching over road bumps. It also takes finesse to keep from lighting off rockets when you touch the throttle. Nothing is subtle, and it’s all a bit much for daily commutes.

But on open Interstate and fast tracks, the M35i is an absolute joy. It goes like a kicked jackrabbit and grips corners by their necks. The exterior and interior both look like they came from a concept car. It’s a beautiful composition, even if it feels like it is trying too hard to prove its M credentials.
One more area is a bit intense: A base price for the X2 of $36,400, or $55,020 as-tested in full M accoutrement. That’s fully competitive with the Mercedes-AMG GLA45, Volkswagen Golf R, Cadillac XT4 Sport and Audi Q3 S Line.