BMW (BAMXY.PK) has had some uncharacteristic lackluster attempts at passenger cars recently — think the 5- or 3-Series GT, or the odd-looking and expensive (but overall quirky and fun) i3. But when it comes to tight, agile performance cars, few companies, if any, do it better. Remember the super-limited 1M? Top Gear called it one of BMW’s best, and it was made from the parts bin: a conglomeration of several other BMW M models morphed into a gloriously small and potent package. If the M3 or M5 is coffee, the 1M is an espresso.
Fortunately, the Munich-based company is at it again with the M235i. It has 320 horsepower, BMW’s legendary 3.0-liter inline six, gaping front air intakes, and power sent to the rear wheels. It checks all of the right BMW boxes and adheres to the brand’s winning formula in every way. And while the M235i is largely designed to take on the Audi S3 or Mercedes CLA45 AMG, its recent marks from Consumer Reports puts it in a league with some other more unlikely performance rivals.
On the surface, the BMW M235i and the Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) Corvette don’t look like direct competitors — and they likely are not, as the two cars are different enough to cater to two different demographics. But at the end of the day, the two are competing for performance car dollars, and despite their very different attitudes, they do pose some similarities, mainly in price, capability, and impressive ratings over at Consumer Reports.
At $43,100, the BMW falls about $10,000 short of the Corvette’s lowest point of entry (though with options, the BMW can soar past $50,000). It’s also understandably down on horsepower by about 140. But when it comes to their ratings, the two were much closer: at 98 points, the BMW M235i is the highest-rated car the brand has ever produced. The Corvette put up a 92, which is still an exceptional score. The Porsche 911, long considered a gold standard of performance cars, scored a 95.
The M235i has a “classic BMW mold” and offers “tenacious cornering” on the track while embracing the company’s recent focus on comfort and luxury, Bloomberg quoted Consumer Reports as saying about the car. “This really is a totally dual-purpose car,” Jon Linkov, the magazine’s deputy cars editor, told Bloomberg in an interview. “This is a car you could drive to work every day of the week without it killing you. And then you could go take it to the track on the weekend.”
He added: “It seems like it has almost a direct lineage. This is just an inspiring, sporty car, plain and simple.” The magazine acknowledged that both the Corvette and the Porsche “pack more punch” than the Bimmer, but the latter’s performance is close enough with more comfort — an impressive feat, given the Porsche’s reputation for such accolades.
Essentially, it comes down to this: You’ll buy the model that better suits your needs and tastes. When you’re talking about models that are so closely clustered in comprehensive ratings like in Consumer Reports, there isn’t a wrong answer. If you’re looking for a bonafide track toy, the Corvette is your ideal bet. If price is no concern, the Porsche is always a safe bet, whereas the BMW is ideal for more urban environments and daily commuting.
Nonetheless, the results indicate that BMW is still on top of its game as much as before. What will be interesting to see is whether the Corvette Z06 — due out next year — will be able to improve on the Stingray’s already superb score. As good as the BMW is, it fell just 1 point off tying with Tesla’s Model S, which sits with an industry high of 99 points out of 100, tied with the 2007 Lexus LS460L.