What limited feel there is in the steering seems to evaporate when you want it most, and although the chassis is clearly agile (and not impervious to rotating gently on a trailing brake), there’s little joy or real involvement in the driving process. Configured with the M Sport Plus pack and all its ingredients, there might be a shade more handling balance and involvement about the car but, we’d wager, probably still not as much as a long-standing BMW enthusiast might expect.
On the Hill Route at Millbrook proving ground, the X2 M35i didn’t show quite the level of agility we’d expect of a hot hatch built to similar specifications, but its raised centre of gravity barely held it back in terms of cold, hard pace.
The limited-slip front differential helps the car to resist understeer effectively and lays the foundation for an enjoyable sense of balance through tighter corners, where the X2 M35i stays doggedly true to one’s desired line and tracks rapidly from entry to exit with little body roll.
That said, approach the limits of this chassis and the electronics – predominantly the ABS and ESP system – begin to become too dominant, which is perhaps an admission that the car isn’t entirely comfortable being wrung out. The steering is also relatively remote and, although accurate, is less responsive off centre than we’ve become used to on quick crossover hatchbacks.
Overall, M division’s effort never feels quite as fluid on track as we’d hoped but is impressive point to point.
COMFORT AND ISOLATION
While the X2 M35i is available with adaptive dampers if you also opt for smaller 19in rims, our test car’s 20in alloys meant it had to make do with the standard passive set-up. As such, the BMW’s ride quality is the same in Comfort mode as in Dynamic, which is to say that it’s never what you’d call genuinely comfortable.
On its lowered, stiffened M Sport suspension, it struggles to cope with the UK’s pockmarked roads. Lumpen, irregular surfaces cause its body to become animated and unsettled, while deeper ruts, holes and expansion joints make themselves felt with audible, forceful intrusions.
A level of ride aggression is to be expected in such a performance-oriented car, but interestingly the X2 seems to make more of a play of its ability to sniff out these surface imperfections than the Audi SQ2 did. The fact that it rides on those larger 20in alloys (the SQ2 had 19in wheels) – which are, in turn, shod in run-flat tyres – is likely to be a contributing factor.
Still, its cloth-upholstered seats do a far better job of holding you in place than the Audi’s chairs do. They’re impressively adjustable, too, and are capable of positioning you low down in the X2’s elevated cabin.
Refinement is by no means outstanding, though, with those larger alloys generating a pronounced amount of road roar. At a 70mph cruise, our sound gear recorded cabin noise at 70dB, which is some way off the SQ2’s 68dB effort.