More than just added power
With a new M35i model, BMW appears to be doubling down on one of the X2’s strengths. After we compared a base-engine X2 xDrive28i against a Jaguar I-Pace and Volvo XC40, the BMW placed last, mainly because of its cramped and loud interior. We praised its sporty handling and fun-to-drive factor, but it’s hard to convince millennials to buy a premium crossover that comes with one USB port and a high price tag. The X2, we said, behaves more like a hot hatch than a mini SUV. The new BMW X2 M35i doesn’t change any of that, but as we recently discovered, the more powerful higher-trim model adds a few things that make it even more fun.
First, the 2019 X2 M35i has the most powerful 2.0-liter turbo-four engine we’ve seen from BMW, producing 302 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 74 in both categories over the X2 xDrive28i. That boost in power means it can get from 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds, BMW claims, much better than the 6.3 seconds it took the xDrive28i during our First Test. But that’s not all you get on the M35i variant; the crankshaft was reinforced with larger main bearings, and new pistons reduce the compression ratio to 9.5:1 (from 10.2:1) to allow a larger turbo and more boost. Of course, the intake airflow tract had to be changed to allow a higher flow, and the cooling system was upgraded to deal with the extra power.
The X2 M35i also comes standard with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission with updated gear ratios, adding Launch Control and paddle shifters. A front limited-slip differential adds more fun to this crossover. Given that this is an M Performance vehicle, the retuned suspension gives it a sportier character, lowering the ride height by 10mm and offering three drive modes—Comfort, Eco Pro, and Sport. You also get M Sport brakes and M Sport steering.
Aesthetically, you’ll have to get a magnifying glass to see the changes over the regular X2, but the grille surround and mirror caps are gray, the rear has an M spoiler and M Sport exhaust system, and 19-inch wheels come standard (you can get 20-inch wheels for $600 USD).
But how does it perform? We drove the X2 M35i on public roads and on South Palm Circuit at California’s Thermal Club, and we enjoyed its handling and added boost over the standard X2. We started driving in Comfort mode and felt the added power instantly. Peak torque arrives at 1,750 rpm, so the power gets delivered pretty quickly. Simply step on the throttle, and you’ll feel your back push hard against the seat back. The transmission changes gears precisely, even when it’s in full auto. Switch to Sport mode, and you’ll hear a louder exhaust, the steering and suspension become stiffer, and the tranny revs at higher rpms. Although it’s more enjoyable to drive in Sport mode, we’re sure you’ll want to stick to Comfort when you have passengers with you.
At the track, the X2 M35i was even more fun. I started driving with the transmission in manual shift mode but instantly switched it back to Sport, where it shifted quickly and at the right time. In the tight corners at Thermal I noted little body roll and movement inside the cabin (though the optional M Sport seats deserve credit, too, as they provide good lateral support). The steering provides good feedback and responds quickly to your commands; it’s well balanced, and required few corrections in the corners.
Inside the cabin, you won’t notice any significant changes. Besides the M Sport seats and steering wheel, looks similar to other X2s. You should definitely take a look at the Magma Red Dakota leather, which is only available with the $500 USD M Sport seats, but it’s worth the price. The eye-popping red is not only young and fresh, but it adds character to an otherwise OK interior.
We’ve criticized how pricey the X2 is, and as you might expect, this M35i variant is the most expensive X2. Starting at $47,445 USD, you get lots of standard equipment, but our model quickly escalated north of $55,000 USD with the options it had. You can probably pass on the $1,350 USD panoramic moonroof and the $1,850 USD Premium package, which adds a head-up display and navigation. Apple CarPlay comes standard for one year (then you’ll have to pay $80 USD per year), so you don’t really need another nav system; if your phone supports wireless charging, though, the extra $500 USD is probably well spent.
If you’re looking for a fun-to-drive compact crossover and don’t mind the expensive cost of entry, add the X2 M35i to your list.