Gone are the days when BMW’s ‘35i’ designation guaranteed you six cylinders, although in terms of performance, owners of the four-pot X2 M35i will have little cause for complaint.
Slotting the eight-speed automatic gearshift across into Sport mode and setting the ESC to Dynamic allows the driver to engage launch control, whereby the engine can be held at 2600rpm before the four-wheel-drive system fires the car consistently and cleanly off the line. Our best efforts resulted in a 0-60mph time of 5.0sec – quick but still 0.5sec adrift of the marginally less powerful but lighter and supremely accelerative Audi SQ2.
Still, the BMW does more to entertain, gargling enthusiastically (if somewhat synthetically) at lower engine speeds and working its way up the gearbox with clinically quick shifts delivered with a light but satisfying kick. Neither does this modified B48 engine feel suffocated as it approaches the 6700rpm redline – even if, ultimately, it’s no match for one of BMW’s famed straight sixes.
And yet the real appeal of this excellent engine lies in more mundane, everyday applications. Unlike with certain Volkswagen Group models of comparable performance, the middle gear ratios are well spaced and, combined with the balloon of torque that becomes fully inflated beneath your right foot from 1750rpm, the X2 M35i exhibits a mid-range turn of pace as brutal as it is unobtrusive. Accelerating from 30mph to 70mph in fourth gear, the BMW is more than a second quicker than the Audi and almost two seconds quicker than the Cupra Ateca.
Despite using a larger turbo than the standard B48 engine deploys in the 330i and 630i, among others, BMW’s most powerful 2.0-litre to date doesn’t suffer overly from lag, either, although naturally you’ll find a slight hesitation after throttle inputs. Combined with the excellent, silken manners of the gearbox when left to its own devices and in its softer mode, this driveline is supremely broad-batted. Meanwhile, braking performance is good initially, with a firm, meaty pedal feel, but it’s prone to fade with hard road use.