Thumb the starter button and the M35i parps into life, leaving you in no doubt that there’s something potent under the bonnet. Left in Comfort mode, you’ll find it’s a little more vocal than a regular BMW X2 without being too intrusive. Flick to Sport mode and a flap opens in the left-hand exhaust tip to give a bit more volume and there’s even a few pops and bangs to satisfy your inner hooligan. Whichever mode you’re in, any ‘natural’ engine and exhaust noise is augmented (not very convincingly) by the stereo’s speakers.
Performance is predictably rapid, with 0-62mph taking just 4.9sec (if you have launch control engaged). Although the rapid shifts of the gearbox help, it’s the incredible traction the limited-slip diff and four-wheel drive system have that really fire it away from the line. Even with 302bhp, wheelspin is a rare and fleeting intrusion in the dry.
But despite BMW’s M Performance division’s tweakery, this is an effective rather than effervescent engine. Sure, it‘ll pootle around happily with the engine spinning well below 2000rpm and has a broad, muscular midrange, but it isn’t an engine that relishes being revved to the redline. Still, that’s a criticism that we’d also level at the Audi SQ2 and Cupra Ateca.
The biggest problem you’ll have exploiting the M35i’s power, though, is with the automatic gearbox. There’s a considerable delay when you put your foot down, which halts progress, especially when trying to gain some pace from the mid range. When it finally kicks in, there’s a sudden lurch of power that throws you forward in your seat. This is equally as frustrating when pulling on to city roundabouts or accelerating for a motorway overtake.
Putting the gearbox into Sport mode helps considerably, although the needle on the fuel gauge won’t thank you for it. Using the manual gearchange paddles on the steering wheel also take away a lot of the delay, although the transition between gears isn’t particularly smooth.
Show the M35i a series of corners, and there’s very little body lean, grip levels are high and no struggle for traction in the dry, even when exiting the tightest of bends. That combination makes it easy to cover ground rapidly with very little effort. The trouble is that it just isn’t much fun, not helped by lifeless steering that feels as if the front wheels are mired in treacle and a handling balance that can be described as stable but not particularly playful. And, despite having a limited slip-diff, you don’t feel the front of the car being pulled towards the apex of a bend when you get on the power. The cheaper Cupra Ateca is undoubtedly more fun.
Impressively, the Ateca manages to be comfier, too. Even in Comfort mode, the X2 fidgets even on smooth surfaces and thuds over urban imperfections. With all M35i cars getting giant 20in wheels and knowing how firm X2s are on regular M Sport suspension, we’d advise calling your chiropractor now if you’re placing an order.