Models that made BMW great include cars like the 2002 and E30 3 Series. There are plenty of others, but the formula of an engaging yet practical driving machine seems to have been nearly perfected in these two compact sport sedans. But what’s the modern equivalent? If you follow the lineage, the 2002 essentially became the 3 Series, which is now available in its seventh generation. During that time, it’s also grown to nearly eclipse the dimensions of the first 7 Series, but there are obviously quite a few other benefits that have since become standard as well. Still, we are left wondering about what truly fills the role of the entry-level BMW sport sedan today.
According to ExtremeTech, it’s the X2 M35i. We’re sure we’ll take a good bit of flack for agreeing, but if you look at the 300-horsepower M Performance X2 model as the all-arounder for the modern family (read: yuppies) it becomes clear that it makes a strong case. Sure, the 2 Series Gran Coupé is on its way to act as the new most-affordable BMW model, but the X2 M35i likely handles just as well, and is infinitely more capable thanks to interior passenger room and cargo capacity.
When it arrived over 50 years ago, the 2002 offered seating for four and a surprisingly spacious trunk. Although the entire range is engaging to operate thanks to a well thought-out suspension and marvelously direct steering, it is the 2002tii that truly embodied BMWs first effort at the sport sedan, a segment it went on to essentially create. Thanks to Kugelfischer mechanical injection and a number of other minor but important supporting changes, the tii came with 130 horsepower and a top speed of 115 mph, both of which remain impressive given its period cost and competition.
Aside from horsepower, torque, and performance, the stats and figures for the X2 M35i aren’t too far off: It’s a great driver that seats four in reasonable comfort, with a respectably sized rear cargo area that is easily accessed through the lift gate (or hatch, whichever you prefer). It gets 35 mpg at 65 MPH, and although that’s not as great as the current G20 330i, remember that we’re talking about the X2 M35i here, which has 300 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque at its disposal. It also has xDrive, and can hit 60 from a standstill in 4.9 seconds according to the automotive news media.
Perhaps most important, the X2 M35i remains fun to drive, especially when pushed. Don’t believe us? Ask Satch Carlson, who got to put an early model through its paces last year, and came away impressed. This is another reason why many enthusiasts overlook the growth of BMW’s X-model portfolio and its incredible sales results over the past few years. Whether or not you approve of their looks, and regardless if you actually need the added capacity, BMW’s X models have always been fun to drive. It dates back to the first-generation X5 which arrived over twenty years ago, and has only improved over time. The current X3 stands as a perfect testament; during our recent excursion in an M40i, the worst part about traversing perfectly twisted and exquisitely cambered mountain roads was our unsecured cargo sliding back and forth with every curve.
Does Bill Howard of ExtremeTech have a point? Is the X2 M35i a respectable modern reinterpretation of the 2002tii? We happen to think so, and before you rush to judgement, we recommend giving his article a read (in which he cites the original David E. Davis Car and Driver article) and perhaps hopping behind the wheel of an X2 M35i for a spirited drive.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]