I bought an M235i and took it on a 30000km roadtrip from Toronto to California, Alaska and the Prairies
All it took a was wiggle of the backend
For months I’ve been test driving all enthusiast cars to replace my BRZ (rip, deer): from the 124 Abarth, to the WRX, to all the American V8s. I even built a spreadsheet to weight-average each car’s fun level based on the types of roads I drive. I was this close to getting the sensible, AWD, low-depreciation, in-warranty, highly tunable Golf R mk7.5.
But all it took was a shift into first gear, a roar and a chirp. I was caught by surprise like missing an extra step at the bottom of the stairs. Unexpected and potentially catastrophic, but familiar and, by now, built into my reflexes. For that split moment of vulnerability, a dormant part of me woke up and what follows was one of the most natural and instinctive coordination of my body I’ve felt in a long time.
I just laid my hand on it and we’re already in the most in-sync dance, doing risky/qué manoeuvres. I missed a step and you made feel like I recovered by doing a double backflip. A stupid grin has lingered on my face ever since. It was the one.
100 Days / 20000 Miles / 6 Cylinders
Being bored with the roads near Toronto (there aren’t more than 5 interesting ones within a 3hr radius), I was lucky enough to get 4 months off work for a roadtrip across North America with the F22 M235i.
With it, I got to explore half of a continent, ranging from Mars-like deserts to Antarctica-like icefields. It forged through the Loneliest Road of America and hit the speed limit… of the road. As if I wasn’t already overloaded by the glorious ocean-bound cliffs and the spectacular Jurassic-like valleys, the car’s agility and willingness to play was peppering my sense of awe with shots of adrenaline, at each corner, like spraying fuel into fire.
And then it brought me to the Arctic Circle. It shielded me from the massive smoke when finding my way out of forest fires. It was my home, my 320-horsepower home.
The Perfect Car for the Job
I would have been immensely happy with any of the following cars, but let me just indulge in the confirmation bias that it was one of the best cars I could have brought with me.
Yes, an ///M car or P car would have been glorious to come down from the desert plateaus to deserted stretches of the Pacific Coast Highway, reverberating through the valleys like the “real F22” jets they test there. They would have allowed me to foolishly throw the car into corners with the confidence I had with the BRZ but with the speed of 2 more cylinders. But, they would have been too precious and worrisome for me to enjoy them fully, especially through the dangerously crappy roads in Yukon, Alaska or, worst of all, Northern California.
Yes, a WRX or an STI wouldn’t have to yield to any r̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶s̶t̶a̶g̶e̶ bad roads, but RWD! Seriously though, I know I shouldn’t complain about ride quality as a young able-bodied guy. But, the adaptive suspension, which initially felt like they made no difference, now feels like the car is actively trying to care for you through thousands of km of gravel like, actual gravel or worse-than-gravel roads, rather than passing the shaking to you. While the interior is not as lavish as a Mercedes’, you can definitively feel everything is designed for the driver. The iDrive + programmable buttons are very functional and don’t need you to take your eyes off the road to operate. It’s not that I wouldn’t be able to live with the Boxers, it’s that the M235i’s refinement, warmth and comfort provide some notion of “home” while I’m thousands of miles away from it and frequently live in the woods or on freezing glaciers. Plus the flat-4s are not particularly fast without a tune and I’m not brave enough to run any aggressive tune in such remote areas.
Yes, a Camaro SS or a Mustang GT would have been fast and resilient… and have ventilated seats, and cheap parts, and knowledgeable mechanics in any remote areas… Wait a minute! Oh yeah, the practicality and the reasonableness is exactly what makes them popular even in the middle of nowhere. However, being out of place add to the extra “fizz” that makes the 235 feel special and more of an adventurer. Also, despite how well they handle nowadays on a track, I’ve always felt unsatisfied that I don’t dare to push these muscle cars, especially in narrower roads.
Yes, a VAG product like the Golf R / S3 / RS3 would have been great shrunken down and practical sports cars with a flair of out-of-its-natural-habitat specialness. But, on a long trip to northern Quebec last year, with the new A4 Quattro, it felt a bit too stable and sterile to any of my provocations.
Thank you M235i. Thank you BMW engineers.
Here are a few more place to see the car and the trip
Medium: A collection of written thoughts
I already crossed 140000km or 90000miles, which makes it one of the highest mileage M235i out there. I might do a long-term review on it you guys are interested (spoiler alert: if you’re looking in this segment, get it).
I’ll also post the cost of the trip broken down by days and types (spoiler alert: cheaper than my cost of living in Toronto).