Used test: BMW M235i vs Ford Mustang
A used BMW M235i is an excellent buy for its six-cylinder sophistication, but can the V8 brawn of a pre-owned Ford Mustang beat it?...
BMW 2 Series coupé M235i
List price when new £35,075
Price today £21,000
Available from 2014-present
It may be down on power and cylinders, but the M235i is rapid and great to drive
Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 GT
List price when new £33,995
Price today £29,500
Available from 2015-present
Ford’s most iconic car has finally made it over to our shores, but can it beat the best from Germany?
British buyers have been missing out on Ford’s famous pony car for years. It took Ford close to 50 years before it finally brought the car over to the UK, thanks in part to the ‘One Ford’ global sales strategy. This is perhaps why we have a choice between a more economical, turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder petrol or the one we’ve got here, a full-fat 5.0-litre V8. Not surprisingly given its low price when new, the V8 has been the biggest seller so far, offering buyers 410bhp and rear-wheel drive for relatively little money.
However, it’s not as if we haven’t had any high-performance coupés in the UK, and one of the best is the BMW M235i. At first glance, it seems like the car will be outgunned since it’s down on power. Fortunately, the M235i is much smaller and lighter than the Mustang, meaning it still offers similar performance. But which of these two makes the best used car buy? It’s V8 American brawn versus lightweight European sophistication.
What are they like to drive?
Very different. The Mustang’s V8 has the lazy, unstressed feel of an old-school American muscle car and it’s strong enough to easily get the car rolling in second gear. The Mustang never feels slow, but its most prodigious shove comes when you rev the engine past 4000rpm, at which point it pumps out a V8 growl.
The M235i’s turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit can’t match the power and torque of the Mustang, but the car is so much lighter that it doesn’t need to. When you put your foot down there’s a momentary delay as acceleration picks up, but the engine pulls well from 1300rpm. It sounds very different, but the higher-pitched, racier note is almost just as compelling.
Both cars are closely matched in a 0-60mph sprint and in-gear acceleration in the first four gears. However, the M235i pulls harder from low revs in its top gears, making high-speed overtakes easier and more relaxing.
The M235i has the slicker gearchange, too – although the Mustang’s is not unpleasant – and the stubby, short-throw gearlever feels great in your hand.
Neither car’s steering offers much traditional feedback, and although both have buttons to vary the assistance, the M235i’s is more consistent. It's also quicker, so it helps to make the M235i feel much more agile along winding country lanes.
Despite it being no wider than a Mondeo, you’re always more conscious of the Mustang’s size on narrow roads – a feeling that can hinder progress. When the road opens up, the Stang offers plenty of thrills, although it isn’t as easy to drive on the limit as its rival. Its taut suspension doesn’t deal with mid-corner bumps as well as the more composed and better-balanced M235i, although it does at least keep body roll in check. If the road is wet, you also need to be particularly careful when accelerating out of corners, because the Mustang tends to call its stability control into action quite early, making the car feel nervous.
Our M235i had optional adaptive dampers fitted and they sharpen the handling and improve the ride by allowing you to stiffen or slacken the suspension at the touch of a button. Select the stiffer Sport setting and there’s not much to choose between the two cars – both are firm and a little unsettled on patchy surfaces. However, when you switch the M235i to Comfort, it softens and becomes less tiresome on bumpy roads. The Mustang is the quieter at speed, though, with less wind noise and, surprisingly, less road noise.