What is it?
It’s fast and rear-wheel-drive and it offers a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. It’s also reasonably small, which makes it easy to place on a narrow road or thread through busy traffic, yet there’s room for four inside and even a decent boot. You can pick up an early example for as little as £20,000. On top of all of that, it’s fairly attractive, albeit in a derivative sort of way.
The reality, however, doesn’t quite live it up to the promise. The M235i is generally a very good car, but it has some major flaws. For one thing, there’s no standard-fit limited-slip differential, which almost undermines the whole point of a powerful, well-balanced sports coupé with rear-wheel drive.
More significantly, though, the M235i is so woefully under-damped that on bumpy roads, or even roads that don’t happen to be as smooth as a kitchen worktop, it boings and bounces and skips away like a slapped kangaroo, sometimes giving the impression the rear axle is going to leap clean off the road and embed itself into the nearest tree.
With its B2 conversion, Buckinghamshire-based tuning company Birds reckons it has realised the car’s potential. The company has been modifying BMWs for decades, but for its M235i conversion, it employed former racing driver James Weaver and experienced chassis engineer Pete Weston for the first time to tune the upgraded Bilstein suspension. The B-Series Sports Suspension kit (£1554.23, including installation and warranty, but not VAT) is built to their specifications exclusively for Birds. There’s even a label on the damper unit to show as much.
Birds has also increased power from the turbocharged six-cylinder engine to 385bhp with an engine management upgrade (£2248.91), as well as fitting a Quaife limited-slip differential (£1694.25). The full B2 conversion – which also includes four Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres and spacers for the front axle – costs £7,238, including VAT.
Additionally, Birds also offers uprated anti-roll bars, reducing the car’s tendency to understeer at the limit, a short-shift kit and clutch pedal weight adjustment for manual cars, and heavily upgraded Alcon brakes.