2019 BMW X2 M35i First Drive: Go, Baby, Go

2019 BMW X2 M35i 12

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).

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 more, we’re sure you’ll want to stick to Comfort when you have passengers with you.

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