The new BMW M2 is little beast of a machine. It’s everything we love about a good car, only it’s a package mere mortals can actually use and afford. But you shouldn’t buy one, because this M235i costs the same and will eat its lunch.
We’ve told you about Dinan before. They’re that little California company who take stock BMWs from pretty good to ridiculously great, all while matching your manufacturer warranty. Here’s what happens when they get their mitts on BMW’s smallest and funnest coupe.
Stock, the M235i is an outstanding car. It’s small, it’s no slouch at 330 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque, and it’s a hoot to drive.
To make it even more of a hoot, Dinan upgraded the turbocharger and dual core intercooler, swap for a beefy carbon fiber intake, and add their cat-back exhaust system. Then there’s the magic box. That lovely little DinanTronics ECU and its Stage 4 software. That’s the magic little pill.
Swallow that little pill and your M235i suddenly makes 445 horsepower and 450 foot-pounds of torque. Yes, seriously.
They don’t stop with the power bump, however. Anyone who’s decently fast knows that power is only useful if you have the brakes and handling to match (I’m looking at you, C63 S AMG.)
They’ve added a set of adjustable tubular sway bars, swapped for lowering springs, and give the factory shocks a progressive bump stop upgrade which works with both the standard and electronic shocks.
Dinan’s adjustable camber plates mean you can set your ideal turn in response whether driving street or track, and their Monoball kit swaps the rubber bushings for ball joints and aluminum housings that allow for far more precision.
The biggest difference between this Dinan M235i and the Dinan M4 I drove last year is that the M4 takes speed seriously, while the M235i makes speed fun.
The M235i, while not actually that much smaller, feels and drives smaller thanks to the less intense suspension setup and narrower rubber. You feel your surroundings more, feel the road more, and are more affected by the ride.
Also, the tires like to slide more. Like, a lot more.
The best thing about the kit is by far the Stage 4 tune of the new ECU. The new turbo spins up insanely fast, which helps to make the precision of the fueling nothing short of surgical.
The funny thing about being the bike guy is that speed in a cage feels, well, easy. When you condition yourself to make the most finite of inputs and learn to slide a bit on something that can spit you from it, doing it in a car seems more like a game than real life.
I don’t mean to trivialize it, and crashing a car sucks, but spinning a car off the side of a road and being flung from a superbike are two very different things.
I met up with a friend who’s had a quick car or two and spent a lot of time at the track moments after picking up the cute little white thing. It was 7 p.m. on a weeknight in Hollywood, and everything good was a few miles and a few hours too far away, but I knew a short little splice of road that ran parallel to Sunset that might let me enjoy a corner or two.
I swear, I had every intention of behaving. But then I heard the turbos spin up. Having a friend or pretty girl in the car actually makes me calm down a bit, but those damn turbos. They just won’t allow it.
Two minutes later I was backing it in to bumpy sweepers, contemplating whether it was skills luck, or that lovely little ECU that made using these little slides to turn so damn easy. I was immediately taken back to that Formula 3 driving school, using late and heavy braking to initiate the slide before getting on the power to complete the drift. Only this time, I wasn’t in some little open wheel car with light switches for gas and break pedals. If only my instructors could see me now.
Unlike the M4, this car is far from perfect. The suspension upgrades or not nearly the overhaul it’s big brother received, and there’s considerably more body roll. It’s manageable, and much better than stock. But it’s a big part of why the Dinan M235i doesn’t take speed as seriously as it could.
The other bummer is the ZF 8-speed gearbox, which doesn’t shift nearly as quickly as the M4's DCT. (The latter can be had as an option on the M2, but not here.) Don’t get me wrong, it’s good. And for most of you who’d buy this car to have something fast but not necessarily do anything with it, it’s fine. But that didn’t keep me from screaming at it when it wasn’t the split second I wanted it, and it would definitely throw a wrench in taking yourself seriously on the track.
After a run or two, we decided the night either needed to end now on purpose, or it would likely end with a ticket on accident. As I dropped my buddy off, his remarks stuck with me.
“I was going to ask you if I could drive, but after seeing you do it I’d have been bummed on my lack of ability to make this car move like that,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone drive like you do.”
I guess this is what happens when you drive a fast car like a motorcycle.
The new M2 starts at $52,695 and makes 365 horsepower. The Dinan M235i is $53,947, makes 445 horsepower, and gets a pretty aesthetic package, and it still comes with a four year/50,000 mile warranty and can be serviced at any BMW or Dinan dealer in the country.
Then again, I wonder what a Dinan M2 will look like.