BMW M2 X35i SUV Review: The 2002 tii Reimagined for Modern Times
The BMW X2 M35i is a wicked-fast small SUV that retains a measure of practicality — meaning room for four not-overweight people, and their clothing tightly packed in soft-sided luggage. The X2 M exists for the swooping, twisty roads of the Great Blue Mountains, and similar back roads across America and Canada. Even if it’s an SUV coupe, this vehicle is what BMW’s famous 2002 tii would be half a century later, allowing for changes in norms and for how well a good SUV can handle.
The X2 M is also a simple vehicle to understand: 0-60 in less than five seconds, 35 mpg at 65 mph, a punishing ride with the stock suspension, eight grand more than the X2 without the M parts. Other than blind spot detection being unavailable, the tech and driver assists are reasonably good. Nothing else significant is wrong.
Nobody needs this car, but if you can swing $50K-$55K, you’re in for a treat.
On the Road: Fast, Fun, Bouncy
This review applies to both the 2019 and 2020 models; the X2 M was introduced in the first half of 2019. The X2 M35i is a positive delight to drive. The engine is throaty and there’s a satisfying blip when it upshifts under heavy throttle. Almost no one argues with the comfort of BMW seats. The Magma Red leather upholstery makes up for decades of unimaginative beige-or-black BMW seating choices. Mine had power-adjustable side bolsters for the track and twisty side roads.
On recently paved interstates, the car was fabulously comfortable; in states that don’t pay attention to highway infrastructure (this means you, Pennsylvania), it was mile after mile of punishing jolts. My test car was well-optioned but lacked the adaptive suspension option ($500) that could only have softened the ride. The X2 M falls into the list of cars where you must bring your partner or spouse along on the test drive. The stiff ride is the price you pay for a rigid body and suspension that is responsive to the road. The brakes on my test car were grabby at low speed; other testers on other cars have mentioned the same issue. There are no complaints about high-speed braking.
The X2 M with the 2.0-liter turbo-four engine has what reviewers often call “barely noticeable turbo lag.” Translation: There’s noticeable turbo lag at low rpm if you want to get a quick start from a standing stop. It feels like the better part of a second. It’s not there if you’re tooling along in a lower gear at higher rpm because the turbo is already engaged. Zero-to-60 acceleration takes 6-7 seconds if you tromp the throttle. If you want the 4.7 seconds BMW cites in the specs, see Launch Control on page 129 of the manual: Get the engine warmed up (20 minutes), press the DSC button, move the driving style button to Sport, foot on the brake, other foot pushing all the way down on throttle, lift off the brake, and watch the car rocket off with no wheelspin. Microprocessors control the standing-still rpm and launch to ensure against over-revving the engine.
The snug, bolstered front seats prefer people of normal size. The second row has an adequate fit and the roof slopes less than in the bigger X4 and X6. Interestingly, passenger roominess is about the same among the X1, X2, and X3 except the X3 has 1-2 more inches headroom than the X2. The luggage area will hold enough soft-side luggage for four if no more than one is a clothes-horse. Especially if you remove the modesty cover and pile luggage to the ceiling.
There is very little road noise. The premium Harman Kardon audio is quite good. There’s one USB jack in the center stack, one in the console, and two in back. All but the front jack are the newer USB-C. The X2 M continues the BMW tradition of charging a yearly subscription for the right to use an Apple iPhone and not supporting Android phones. Switching between CarPlay and BMW infotainment can be clumsy; non-BMWs have similar issues. Telematics is integrated and Mayday calling services are free for 10 years.
It’s a BMW, so the X2 has the iDrive controller. The same setup that was annoying in the X7 works better in the X2 because your line of sight isn’t blocked by the X2 shifter and you can see the buttons surrounding the control wheel. It’s still hard to see some of the backlit dashboard buttons; the universal dimmer makes some parts too dark and others too bright. The optional head-up display can be adjusted independently.
At 172 inches long, the X2 is firmly in subcompact territory. It fits well in snug urban parking spaces and you’ll probably want the $200 parking assistant option. Adaptive cruise control is stop-and-go. Lane departure is standard but warning-0nly, not lane keep assist and not the lane-centering assist that is part of BMW’s semi-autonomous Active Driving Assistant Pro system. BMW does not offer blind-spot detection on this X2; it should. It does have the basic optical driver safety assists: forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and auto-braking separate from adaptive cruise control.
The X2 M is not a hybrid drive car but there is brake-energy regeneration to the battery, which powers the car’s electrically powered accessories. I averaged 32 mph in mostly highway driving, and for the span of 100 miles driven at 60-65 mph, I got 36 mpg.
What Exactly Is an X2 M35i?
BMW’s naming scheme is precise and sometimes wordy. Vehicles run from 1 Series to 8 Series for sedans (even numbers) and coupes (odd numbers), small to large. SUVs run from X1 to (so far) X7, with SUV couples getting the even numbers. M means a performance version (Motorsport). The two digits years ago signified how many liters displacement (in tenths); now it includes a rough multiplier for turbocharging, so 35 means the 2.0-liter turbo’s 302 hp is about what you’d expect from a 3.5-liter six with no turbo. i is for fuel injection, which all BMWs are, except diesels (no longer sold here) that end in d.
Meet the New 2002 tii: X2 M35i (Not the M2 Coupe)
I drove the X2 from New Jersey to Greenville-Spartanburg, SC, where BMW builds most of the world’s SUVs and where 1,300 BMW Car Club of America enthusiasts gathered last week for the club’s 50th annual Oktoberfest convention to celebrate their cars, drive in road rallies and at BMW’s Performance Center by day, and then drink Oktoberfest beer by night. Many of them have gravitated toward the brand’s roadsters, convertibles, and performance offerings. The same events happen with Corvette, Porsche, Mazda, and Mustang owners in different locales each year as well, and the members are enthusiastic brand-recommenders to friends and relatives. Automakers get good ROI supporting their events and showing off their latest to their fans (photo below).
In 1968, BMW landed on the map when Ziff-Davis’ Car and Driver magazine — the same company as publishes ExtremeTech today — reviewed the BMW 2002, which begat the 2002 tii. Headlined “Turn Your Hymnals to 2002,” the appreciation by Editor David E. Davis was a booster rocket for BMW visibility and sales on American shores. While companies are beginning to doubt the 2019 value of pay-to-play social media influencers, there is seldom doubt that an enthusiastic and impartial editor can be priceless in pointing out what to buy and what to avoid when the product but not the writer is for sale. Davis warned drivers of other sporty cars they were about to be blown in the weeds, and this was about the pre-tii 2002:
In the suburbs, Biff Everykid and Kevin Acne and Marvin Sweatsock will press their fathers to buy HO Firebirds with tachometers mounted out near the horizon somewhere and enough power to light the city of Seattle, totally indifferent to the fact that they could fit more friends into a BMW  in greater comfort and stop better and go around corners better and get about 29 times better gas mileage.
Mr. and Mrs. America will paste a “Support Your Local Police” sticker on the back bumper of their new T-Bird and run Old Glory up the radio antenna and never know that for about 2500 bucks less they could have gotten a car with more leg room, more head room, more luggage space, good brakes, decent tires, independent rear suspension, a glove box finished like the inside of an expensive overcoat and an ashtray that slides out like it was on the end of a butler’s arm—not to mention a lot of other good stuff they didn’t even know they could get on an automobile, like doors that fit and seats that don’t make you tired when you sit in them. So far as I’m concerned, to hell with all of ’em. If they’re content to remain in the automotive dark, let them.
The 2002 tii followed in 1971 and boosted the 2002’s horsepower from 114 hp to 130 using fuel injection over carburetors. Quaint numbers: The X2 M35i is good for 302 hp and 322 pound-feet of torque. Back then, sedans were pretty much all BMW sold, although there were touring versions, European terminology for hatchbacks and station wagons. The 2002/2002 tii was BMW’s clear best-seller then.
Now, the two best-selling models in the BMW lineup are the X3 and X5. X designates SUVs, which BMW calls sports activity vehicles (SAVs) and sports activity coupes (SACs). SUV/SAV/SAC sales climbed to 52 percent of the 311,014 BMW brand sales last year. All except the X1 have M (Motorsport) versions, although the X2 M is not considered quite as Motorsport-ish as the X3 to X6 M vehicles.
Some fanatical owners will argue long, hard, and loud that the M2 Coupe is the logical successor to the 2002 tii. For them, maybe so. At the same time, the X2 M35i will lap a racetrack competitively. It is only 4.5 inches taller than the 2002. The M2 Competition coupe does 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, the X2 M35i does it in 4.7 seconds. Unless you’re on a race track, that is more power than anybody needs for daily driving. There is no on-ramp in America where the M35i can’t reach 60 mph before you have to merge (0-60 takes the length of a football field), even get 10 mph beyond past the speed limit so you can merge ahead of the 18-wheeler that has a convoy of a dozen cars tailgating it in the right-hand lane and paralleling your car. [Sounds like you’re familiar with the New Jersey Turnpike. -Ed]
Here’s one last reason the X2 M beats the M2 Coupe for enthusiasts who drive long distances solo: The X2 M is a mini-motor home. Very mini. Limited amenities. But on long trips, a driver can pull into a safe rest area, drop down one of the two rear seatbacks, roll out a padded mat, and snooze for a couple of hours or overnight with feet in the cargo bed, head on the seatback. (Drivers under six feet will fit with their knees bent slightly.) The cargo cover and tinted side windows provide a measure of privacy. I’ve slept out a torrential rainstorm in the California desert (on high ground) in an Audi TT’s boot (also with folding rear seatbacks) and the Bimmer is spacious by contrast. The X2 M is quick enough, spacious enough, and versatile enough to be the new tii. That’s our take.
X2 Trim Lines
The BMW X1 and X2 are based on a front-drive platform shared with Mini. Factoid: BMW went forward with front-drive only after extensive consumer research and found potential customers already believed BMW was selling front-drive cars.
The X2 M35i, all-wheel-drive only, starts at $46,450 with freight; $8,100 more than the X2 xDrive28i (AWD), in turn $2,000 more than the X2 sDrive28i (front-drive). We’ll say no more about them.
On the X2 M35i, options include Premium Package (head-up display, navigation, heated front seats, $1,400); metallic paint, $595; 20-inch wheels with 245/40R20 performance run-flat tires, $600; leather upholstery, $1,450 plus a mandtory $500 for M sport seats; adaptive cruise control, $950; moonroof, $1,350; Qi wireless charging and Wi-Fi hotspot ($500; telematics and a cellular modem are standard); very good Harman Kardon audio, $875; dynamic damper control, $500; and roof rails, $250. With every options box checked, the price is $55,965.
There are configuration quirks. BMW’s build-your-own site indicates you can get heated seats and heated steering wheel but then you can’t have adaptive cruise control. You can, however, have ACC and heated seats, albeit with no heated steering wheel. If you want the auto-adjusting shocks, you must take the 19-inch wheels with 245/45/R19 all-season tires, probably the better choice for most drivers. You could do this and come out ahead: Get the X2 M with DDC and 19-inch wheels. Order a set of 20-inch alloys (BMW’s or a reputable third-party maker) and the same Pirelli P-Zero summer tires for $3,500-$4,000. Yes, they’re expensive. Sell your essentially new 19-inch wheels and tires to someone who destroyed theirs on a pothole or curb, for $1,000 to $1,250 apiece.
If you have 20-inch wheels and summer performance tires, you’ll need to add a set of winter tires and wheels, $1,600-$2,500, if you live where it gets below 40 degrees. Even if it doesn’t snow, the car loses grip.
Should You Buy?
Nobody needs this vehicle except maybe to cope with a change-of-life crisis (hitting 30, 40, or 50; getting divorced; or laid off with a fabulous buyout package). Or to have fun. It is an absolute hoot to drive. It has enough room for most drivers and passengers. The shape is the best-looking of BMW’s coupe-styled SUVs and doesn’t have the odd-to-some fastback roofline of the X4 and X6.
The X1 carries more cargo, the X3 a lot more. If you’re looking at a non-M X2, maybe you want the X1. Both X1 and X2 come in front- and all-wheel-drive versions but there is no X1 M version. The compact BMW X3 is 13 inches longer (186 inches) and $5,500 more. It’s a toss-up whether the X3 or X5 is BMW’s best SUV. Families of four, or couples who carry lots of gear but don’t want a big vehicle, will find the X3 better suited to their needs. There are M versions of the X3: $71,000 for the X3 M, $78,000 for the X3 M Competition, rated at 4.0 seconds 0-60 mph. Sooner or later, you’re talking serious money.
There is some competition: the Mercedes-Benz GLA, the Volvo XC40, the larger and costlier Porsche Macaan, and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Add the Lexus UX and borderline subcompact/compact Cadillac XT4, if ultimate handling matters less than cabin comfort.
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