With all the recent yammering over BMW’s design-decline into self-parody, I had to head over to the automaker’s website to see what an M4 goes for these days. But instead, I immediately got distracted spec’ing out a non-M 2 Series. Now I want one.
In today’s era of used Honda Civics selling for $50,000, I say with confidence: a well-kept, manual-transmission rear-drive 2020 BMW 230i Coupe is going to be coveted 20 years from today.
It’s no asphalt-assaulting M monster... which is actually good because this means the car’s not going to be punishingly stiff and noisy. It is, however, a conceptual callback to BMWs of the early ’90s that enthusiasts can’t get enough of. This is as close as you can get to a 1991 BMW 325is in the automaker’s current catalog, which makes it appealing to me, as a fan of both classic sport luxury cars and modern automotive safety features.
A sparsely optioned 2020 230i has a simple interface with two big round main gauges, rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission, manual hand brake, and tidy proportions.
The 2.0-liter TwinPower engine’s modest by modern BMW standards but when you look at the specs objectively: 248 horsepower/258 lb-ft of torque, turbo, variable valve control, there’s a lot of good shit in there!
The car’s curb weight’s a little higher than you might like at just under 3,400 pounds, (an E30 was more like 2,500 pounds) but that’s pretty slim compared to many current model-year cars. For context, a 2020 Supra weighs about the same, except this BMW actually has a usable back seat.
BMW claims a 0 to 60-mph time of 5.5 seconds with the manual transmission option, which seems just fine to me. That’s, like, stock FD RX-7 territory. It sure felt fast in 1995, at least.
Did I mention that the lack of carbon fiber decorations and the letter “M” makes the vehicle look quite friendly and pleasant?
For $37,590, about $20,000 less than an M2 Competition, I spec’d this 230i coupe in the lovely Melbourne Red Metallic ($500 premium), picked the seats with red stitching (no-cost option), added a Coral Red piece of trim to the dash to tie in with the paint (also a free option), stuck with the base 17-inch wheels, selected the three-pedal transmission, which didn’t cost me anything either, and splurged for heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and a moonroof.
Without expecting to, I’d pretty much built a car right out of my dream journal. Modern, but modest. Convenient, but minimal frills. Just a nice, sporty, daily drivable car with great fuel economy and plenty of tire sidewall that I could shift myself.
I think this is a lot of car for the coin, even though I’m too much of a tightwad to take the plunge and get a car loan myself. Still, I can’t deny that I’m tempted. Especially since simple, fun, modern cars are only getting harder to find with the optimal quantity of pedals and drive wheels.