BMW M235i faces off with the MB CLA45 AMG and Subaru WRX STI

by Bernie McGroarty on March 31, 2014, 10:10 am
m235i

BMW has made it in to another Motor Trend comparison, this one being for 300 plus horsepower turbocharged cars, geared toward the enthusiast. This time, it was BMW's M235i that got called upon to show its stuff. The other two cars in the comparison were the 2014 Mercedes Benz CLA45 AMG and the 2015 Subaru WRX STI (Launch Edition).

Obviously there are some differences between these cars, take power for example, the CLA45 puts out a staggering 355 horses from its 2.0 liter engine and utilizes a front biased all-wheel-drive system. The BMW sits in the middle of the three, producing 320 horsepower funneled to the rear wheels. Subaru's STI checks in with the least power of the group at 305, being sent to all four wheels. This wasn't the usual, connect all sorts of measuring devices to the cars and go with the data test, it was how the car actually made them feel. Which really got the heart racing and which was the most fun to drive?

Check out some key points from the comparison:

CLA45

Plain and simple, straight-line speed is the CLA45's signature move. It's classic AMG. However, it's this uncanny, technologically drenched athleticism that makes the front-drive-biased Benz the least emotive -- and least comfortable, thanks to an extra-firm suspension -- on a winding road.

M235i

It's sporty, not mesmerizing. You'll have to option it for glitz. The M's lack of internal fanfare is offset by its clean, handsome physique.

Comprehending the M's character took little effort when hustling among the canyons: a few degrees tilt of the thick helm, a stab of the attentive throttle, one snappy downshift from the eight-speed automatic. Everything's tuned for dynamism. You feel it. You hear it.

The M235i meticulously sliced through the bends, with variable steering that served up an ideal weightiness, albeit with little tactility. "This is a solid-driving car."

Among its two rivals, the M235i was a mid-packer, equaling the STI's and CLA's skidpad performances and barely edging out the STI in acceleration. Its 60-0 braking was the group's best at 103 feet.

"I think it has the worst ride of this group," said Lieberman. "It's sprung softer than the STI and AMG, but it just doesn't eat up bumps as well. Too many secondary motions."

The M235i is two notches above the CLA45 AMG when fun is factored in, mostly for its sublime balance and smooth moves. It's a superb rear-drive coupe that boosts your heart rate and puts a grin under your nose -- just not as hastily as a $38,000 Subaru with gold shoes.


WRX STI

I unbuckled happy, chortling even, for I'd just been flogging a sedan that offers more amenities, equal performance, and, most important, more fun than its pricier German rivals. And, oh, yeah, it has that glorious wing bolted to its trunk. For all this, the WRX STI is our number-one fabricator of fun.

In the end:

3rd: Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG
2nd: BMW M235i
1st: Subaru WRX STI

Check out the full comparison from Motor Trend here!


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33 responses to BMW M235i faces off with the MB CLA45 AMG and Subaru WRX STI

av98 commented:
April 1, 2014, 2:53 am

Sigh, why do they have these comparos against cars with LSDs. Not a fair comparison.


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Mullins commented:
April 1, 2014, 11:07 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by av98 View Post
Sigh, why do they have these comparos against cars with LSDs. Not a fair comparison.


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What I hear you saying is, "Why didn't this car come with the LSD to begin with?", and that sir is a damn fine question.
Highmodulus commented:
April 8, 2014, 1:04 pm

Money is why.
mvallido commented:
April 9, 2014, 6:22 am

If my production week gets move back again, I'm buying a Subaru. NOT!
Highmodulus commented:
April 9, 2014, 7:37 am

Have you driven an 2015 STI? They are very good, and have a lot of the attributes which BMW drivers used to value. Fantastic hydraulic steering, light weight, superb handling, and rev happy performance. Yes, the wing is a bit juvenile, but is functional aero (and easy to replace, should you wish). And you can still work on (and modify) them yourself. And the extra $15k buys lots of M school and track time. And sadly, the STI which hold its value much better (look at used STI values, its insane).

Of course the interior on the M235i (and the ride quality) is nicer. The M235i is prettier, alot prettier. And for DD only duties is probably a nicer car to live with. And the iDrive is a major plus over the stock Subaru systems.
craigr commented:
April 14, 2014, 4:50 pm

Tell your friends you just got a Subaru or a BMW? What is the response? Yes I am a BMW fanboy since 1966. So my views are a bit biassed.

My 2 cents

cr
MythosDreamlab commented:
April 14, 2014, 6:54 pm

The Car Mag's are in business to sell Magazines, NOT Cars.

I recall reading a comparison years ago, when the 330 beat the G35 (Infiniti) in almost every category, and because it cost less they awarded G35 First Place and the 330 Second Place, it was sad, because what they were really saying was that: if money was no object, pay a little more and get the better car...
hyperzulu commented:
April 14, 2014, 10:58 pm

I read this before and still can't figure out what amenities the sti has over the German cars. Maybe that word means something else in car mag speak. I'm fine with the bimmer not compromising refinement for sportiness and coming in 2nd. If I wanted the best of both worlds, I'd get an M and call it a day.
miko_10 commented:
April 15, 2014, 6:45 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by craigr View Post
Tell your friends you just got a Subaru or a BMW? What is the response? Yes I am a BMW fanboy since 1966. So my views are a bit biassed.

My 2 cents

cr
Give it a few years, where BMW is headed it won't be long before they become just another luxury brand lost in the pack instead of being way ahead of it. The slogan for "ultimate driving machine" is up for grabs.
wedatcana commented:
April 15, 2014, 7:36 pm

The STI is an amazing car. Lets face it. Does it matter if it won or lost? Not to me - what matters most, is that it will force all others to get better. I love competition. It eventually causes others to get better or fail. The consumer wins.
hyperzulu commented:
April 15, 2014, 7:47 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by wedatcana View Post
The STI is an amazing car. Lets face it. Does it matter if it won or lost? Not to me - what matters most, is that it will force all others to get better. I love competition. It eventually causes others to get better or fail. The consumer wins.
IF these cars all competed against each other, which they don't, as far as BMW and Audi are concerned. The S3 competes directly with the M235i. The STi is not cross shopped by the market BMW and Audi are targeting for their cars.
wedatcana commented:
April 15, 2014, 10:00 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by hyperzulu View Post
IF these cars all competed against each other, which they don't, as far as BMW and Audi are concerned. The S3 competes directly with the M235i. The STi is not cross shopped by the market BMW and Audi are targeting for their cars.
I don't see the S3 often in the US. Is it available in stores?

I don't know of any data on what cars someone cross shops the M235i with. I can't find that information or sources on that objectively.

Nevertheless, the STI is a really nice car - when you drive it, it is amazing. Surely doesn't have the snob appeal of the BMW. But the snob appeal doesn't weigh into car performance i presume. It is just a great performance product.

The M235i is also nice. I don't think they compete, but the comparo test tells us that all 3 choices are good. Who drives at these speeds anyway in the US. Maybe the performance is irrelevant, and the idea of BMW as a luxury car may be the distinguishing mark.
hyperzulu commented:
April 15, 2014, 10:14 pm

I can pretty much agree with you there. But I don't think the 2 series benefits from being bested around a track by the STi. As for target markets, I've seen older graphs that show this segment of BMW attracts the young executive types, as well as an older generation in their 50s. The latter is far from comfortable in an STi to give it much attention, and the former is attracted to the sporty executive nature of the German cars, that Subies don't have.
335i Driver commented:
April 16, 2014, 8:24 am

As others said, seems like a strange comparison. How many people are going to cross shop the subaru with a BMW & MB? Seems like they should be comparing the sti to the lancer evo and the S3 should have been in this comparison instead of the sti.
Chris90 commented:
April 16, 2014, 10:13 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by craigr View Post
Tell your friends you just got a Subaru or a BMW? What is the response? Yes I am a BMW fanboy since 1966. So my views are a bit biassed.

My 2 cents

cr
BMW: "Oh, so you're a rich prick?"

Subaru: "Are you gay, man?"
stormslayer commented:
April 16, 2014, 10:58 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by hyperzulu View Post
IF these cars all competed against each other, which they don't, as far as BMW and Audi are concerned. The S3 competes directly with the M235i. The STi is not cross shopped by the market BMW and Audi are targeting for their cars.
I love people who make blanket statements without even pretending to look for data. So here's one observation: My last four cars have been a z4m, 335d, sti, and sti. I cross shop.

And based on some data (see http://www.iwsti.com/forums/gr-gener...es-manual.html and other threads), the average STi owner is a male 25-45 who makes over 100k annually. SO yes, it is a bit different (bmw owners are older and somewhat richer), but it's not that different. It's also pretty clear from spending 5 minutes at a bmw dealer that there's two very different crowds: the crowd that's buying b/c of the status of the bmw, and the (smaller) crowd that wants performance.

I looked at the m235i and the new sti. After a lot of thought, I'm buying the new sti. May return to bmw in the future though depending on what each manufacturer makes next.
hyperzulu commented:
April 16, 2014, 11:58 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by stormslayer View Post
I love people who make blanket statements without even pretending to look for data. So here's one observation: My last four cars have been a z4m, 335d, sti, and sti. I cross shop.

And based on some data (see http://www.iwsti.com/forums/gr-gener...es-manual.html and other threads), the average STi owner is a male 25-45 who makes over 100k annually. SO yes, it is a bit different (bmw owners are older and somewhat richer), but it's not that different. It's also pretty clear from spending 5 minutes at a bmw dealer that there's two very different crowds: the crowd that's buying b/c of the status of the bmw, and the (smaller) crowd that wants performance.

I looked at the m235i and the new sti. After a lot of thought, I'm buying the new sti. May return to bmw in the future though depending on what each manufacturer makes next.
Love you too. I'm not going to bother to look for the data, but it was compiled by another member here who is an actuary, this was several years ago. I understand SOME people might look at these two cars, but I don't think BMW is going to be concerned enough to go after the STi and try to beat its performance with the M235i.
stormslayer commented:
April 17, 2014, 12:18 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by hyperzulu View Post
Love you too. I'm not going to bother to look for the data, but it was compiled by another member here who is an actuary, this was several years ago. I understand SOME people might look at these two cars, but I don't think BMW is going to be concerned enough to go after the STi and try to beat its performance with the M235i.

Call me crazy, but given the m235i is going to run about 12k more, why shouldn't it beat the STi's performance? If all it's got going for it is a nicer interior, I'll just buy an audi a6 or lexus and be done with it.
hyperzulu commented:
April 17, 2014, 12:26 am

I would still take an e92 M3 over a new Mustang even though the Mustang is faster. The price difference there is even more significant, last I checked. I have never driven an A6 so I don't know if it is any fun to drive, but the Lexuses I have driven are nowhere near as fun as my bimmer. I think the 2 strikes a good balance. And German cars are expensive. Value is not part of the German recipe. So dollars to dollars, it isn't ever going to weigh in BMW's favor. No argument there.
stormslayer commented:
April 17, 2014, 12:45 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by hyperzulu View Post
I would still take an e92 M3 over a new Mustang even though the Mustang is faster. The price difference there is even more significant, last I checked. I have never driven an A6 so I don't know if it is any fun to drive, but the Lexuses I have driven are nowhere near as fun as my bimmer. I think the 2 strikes a good balance. And German cars are expensive. Value is not part of the German recipe. So dollars to dollars, it isn't ever going to weigh in BMW's favor. No argument there.
Ok, that makes a lot of sense given your prefs.
av98 commented:
April 17, 2014, 6:01 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by stormslayer View Post
It's also pretty clear from spending 5 minutes at a bmw dealer that there's two very different crowds: the crowd that's buying b/c of the status of the bmw, and the (smaller) crowd that wants performance.

Lol, this reminds me of my F30 test drive. My SA was so relieved I was a knowledgable buyer towards the performance aspect of the car and he complained about most test drives revolving about why there was no rear view camera or parking sensor in this trim vs a Lexus they test drove.

Also my co-worker bought an E90 which she proudly proclaimed. When I asked her which trim and if it had a sport package, I was met with a blank stare and a repeated it's a BMW I do 't know response. So we looked at it and I had to explain the quick and simple ways to see how to tell; turned out to be a base 328i CPO. So no sport seats or tri-spoke steering wheel but hey it's a Bimmer


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av98 commented:
April 17, 2014, 6:03 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by av98 View Post
Lol, this reminds me of my F30 test drive. My SA was so relieved I was a knowledgable buyer towards the performance aspect of the car and he complained about most test drives revolving about why there was no rear view camera or parking sensor in this trim vs a Lexus they test drove.

Also my co-worker bought an E90 which she proudly proclaimed. When I asked her which trim and if it had a sport package, I was met with a blank stare and a repeated it's a BMW I do 't know response. So we looked at it and I had to explain the quick and simple ways to see how to tell; turned out to be a base 328i CPO. So no sport seats or tri-spoke steering wheel but hey it's a Bimmer
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I had her drive my E46 ZHP and she was blown away by the then stock suspension, braking and acceleration difference.


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335i Driver commented:
April 17, 2014, 8:36 am

If numbers are the only thing you care about then get the suby, or evo, or mustang or camaro.

Those of us that buy BMW's care about a lot more than a few numbers. I've yet to drive any Japanese or American car that comes close to German cars in refinement. Even a Lexus and Infiniti felt cheap and unrefined compared to my BMW. The refinement and driving experience is worth an extra $12k to me. Has nothing to do with status.

If you don't care about refinement get the suby and by your clothes at Target and save a few bucks.
Chris90 commented:
April 17, 2014, 10:18 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by stormslayer View Post
I love people who make blanket statements without even pretending to look for data. So here's one observation: My last four cars have been a z4m, 335d, sti, and sti. I cross shop.

And based on some data (see http://www.iwsti.com/forums/gr-gener...es-manual.html and other threads), the average STi owner is a male 25-45 who makes over 100k annually.
This is Subaru marketing's 'target' buyer, it in no ways means actual buyers make that much money. Considering single individuals making over $100k/year are 6% of the population, and males 25-45 much lower than that, consider that figure nothing but marketing hype.

Same goes for BMW's target market and whatever ridiculous salary number that is.
Chris90 commented:
April 17, 2014, 10:27 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by 335i Driver View Post
If numbers are the only thing you care about then get the suby, or evo, or mustang or camaro.

Those of us that buy BMW's care about a lot more than a few numbers. I've yet to drive any Japanese or American car that comes close to German cars in refinement. Even a Lexus and Infiniti felt cheap and unrefined compared to my BMW. The refinement and driving experience is worth an extra $12k to me. Has nothing to do with status.

If you don't care about refinement get the suby and by your clothes at Target and save a few bucks.
BMWs used to be fun as well as refined.

Anyway, the original article is more about the advancement Subaru has made with the new STI, which for the first time is a great handler. The interior has also made a big improvement, going from awful to acceptable. It even has steering feel now.

On the other hand, the STI only beats the M235i cause (a) the optional LSD isn't out yet, and (b) it was a tight technical course, not a high speed course that would benefit the 2 series.

On the street, the M235i's gobs of torque would make it a lot faster than the STI, since to get the STI's impressive 0-60 time you have to sidestep the clutch at 5000 rpm, and who's gonna do that very often?
stormslayer commented:
April 17, 2014, 12:10 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by 335i Driver View Post
If numbers are the only thing you care about then get the suby, or evo, or mustang or camaro.

Those of us that buy BMW's care about a lot more than a few numbers. I've yet to drive any Japanese or American car that comes close to German cars in refinement. Even a Lexus and Infiniti felt cheap and unrefined compared to my BMW. The refinement and driving experience is worth an extra $12k to me. Has nothing to do with status.

If you don't care about refinement get the suby and by your clothes at Target and save a few bucks.
This would be the first type of bmw owner I mentioned above.

MythosDreamlab commented:
April 17, 2014, 2:04 pm

Since both of the Cars well exceed the speed limits in my general area (Southern California), buying based on speed is not something in my criteria, nor is owning a car based on a Car Magazine rating it as "best".

Imagine this scenario: You are parked at the Beach standing near your M235i and a guy in an STI parks next to you and pulls out the Magazine and tries to point out the results, do you:
a) Read the magazine and congratulate him on saving $12k and having the fastest car
or
b) Laugh and ask him if he would care to race you to the fast food joint down the street that has two tacos for a buck...
stormslayer commented:
April 17, 2014, 2:08 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by MythosDreamlab View Post
Since both of the Cars well exceed the speed limits in my general area (Southern California), buying based on speed is not something in my criteria, nor is owning a car based on a Car Magazine rating it as "best".

Imagine this scenario: You are parked at the Beach standing near your M235i and a guy in an STI parks next to you and pulls out the Magazine and tries to point out the results, do you:
a) Read the magazine and congratulate him on saving $12k and having the fastest car
or
b) Laugh and ask him if he would care to race you to the fast food joint down the street that has two tacos for a buck...
I think the bmw is faster in a straight line, so as long as it's not raining and there's no curves on the way to the taco truck, the bmw would win.

Otherwise, I have no idea what you're trying to say here. You bought your bmw b/c you thought it would help your street cred? Or to demonstrate that you can afford the lease? Or because you really like ze Germans? Or because you want to show you aren't using viagra?
wedatcana commented:
April 17, 2014, 2:14 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by MythosDreamlab View Post
Since both of the Cars well exceed the speed limits in my general area (Southern California), buying based on speed is not something in my criteria, nor is owning a car based on a Car Magazine rating it as "best".

Imagine this scenario: You are parked at the Beach standing near your M235i and a guy in an STI parks next to you and pulls out the Magazine and tries to point out the results, do you:
a) Read the magazine and congratulate him on saving $12k and having the fastest car
or
b) Laugh and ask him if he would care to race you to the fast food joint down the street that has two tacos for a buck...
Don't really understand the parts a and b.
I agree with the rest of the quote - that i don't buy a car based on car mags or speed.
But i don't see how demeaning an owner of a subaru is of any value to the discussion. I am glad for any car that raises the bar, and the subaru achieves something interesting. Seems like quite the fun drive, and I bet I would love to toss it around. I can respect the car, though i wouldn't buy it as my first choice. I would rather own the subaru than a lot of other cars out there. But i wouldn't race to the fast food joint in it.
MythosDreamlab commented:
April 17, 2014, 2:15 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by stormslayer View Post
I think the bmw is faster in a straight line, so as long as it's not raining and there's no curves on the way to the taco truck, the bmw would win.

Otherwise, I have no idea what you're trying to say here. You bought your bmw b/c you thought it would help your street cred? Or to demonstrate that you can afford the lease? Or because you really like ze Germans? Or because you want to show you aren't using viagra?
I apologize, sometimes my logic is at a different level..

So as to help you with it's true meaning and not have to rely on pointless guesses; what I was trying to say is:
1. I buy the Car I want based on build quality and reputation - not top speed.
2. In my scenario, the M235i guy does NOT participate in the race, he lets the STI guy zoom off to the cheap taco place while he goes into a nice restaurant.
stormslayer commented:
April 17, 2014, 2:17 pm

And keep in mind, we're comparing the m235i and the STi. If you want a pretty car with a nice interior, you wouldn't consider the m235i (much less the STi). The 4 series is a ton better looking and more comfortable in every respect. And if you want a truly gorgeous car and can afford it, the Jaguar F-type is epic.

BMW put a zillion m badges on the m235i b/c they're trying to appeal to a certain niche. I think it's a really good car. If the new STi hadn't gotten a ton better for this year, I would have bought it.
stormslayer commented:
April 17, 2014, 2:22 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by MythosDreamlab View Post
I apologize, sometimes my logic is at a different level..

So as to help you with it's true meaning and not have to rely on pointless guesses; what I was trying to say is:
1. I buy the Car I want based on build quality and reputation - not top speed.
2. In my scenario, the M235i guy does NOT participate in the race, he lets the STI guy zoom off to the cheap taco place while he goes into a nice restaurant.
Then you wouldn't buy the m235i -- it's too small, looks like a toad, and there's nicer looking bmw's with nicer interiors.

As far as the rest goes, there's a reason bmw owners have a reputation for being tools. What car you drive has little to do with where you eat or aesthetics generally, unless you're trying too hard. If it's really about the car, go drive both and get back to me. Otherwise, the bmw badge isn't really large enough to hide one's shortcomings.

Also: no one really starts a sentence with "so as".
Chris90 commented:
April 17, 2014, 4:25 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by MythosDreamlab View Post
I apologize, sometimes my logic is at a different level..

So as to help you with it's true meaning and not have to rely on pointless guesses; what I was trying to say is:
1. I buy the Car I want based on build quality and reputation - not top speed.
2. In my scenario, the M235i guy does NOT participate in the race, he lets the STI guy zoom off to the cheap taco place while he goes into a nice restaurant.
So you're saying STI drivers like to drive, and BMW drivers like to park and eat?

I guess it explains the light steering and wide sport seats.