2015 BMW M235i: Smart Shifter Improves Driving Experience
August 26, 2015
Our 2015 BMW M235i has a great shifter. You'll find this design in most new BMWs, but a recent drive in our long-termer provided a good reminder of why I like it: It improves the driving experience without needless reinvention.
Though different, the operation is more of an evolution of current shifter designs. The shift pattern is familiar: up for reverse, down for drive, move left for Sport, and press the P for park. There's no stepped path you have to navigate it through; just push a direction.
While you have to thumb a button on the side to go from park to a gear, you don't need to do so when going from drive to reverse or vice versa. This helps make three-point turns or parking in a tight spot easy to navigate.
I like being able to quickly slide it over to Sport in one motion. Doing so makes the transmission drop a few gears, which helps for slowing down on the freeway when you don't want to contribute to traffic by applying the brakes.
From here, you can enter manual mode by pushing forward for downshifts or pulling back for upshifts. I'll save text on why this is the superior way to do it, because you should be using the paddles on the steering wheel when you want to go fast.
What's better, the shifter feels great. The mechanism may be artificial, but it seems BMW put special care in the tactile feedback. It also doesn't hurt that the 8-speed automatic it controls reacts superbly to your inputs.
Then there's our long-term Acura TLX.
My complaint with this design isn't the functionality. I agree with Ed that this design works fine after you get used to it. I simply can't find an advantage to this design to the driver. It doesn't free up space or improve the driving experience. There's no advantage of learning it that I can see.
The more I drive the TLX, the more I wonder why it doesn't have a simple, PRND column shifter.
Carlos Lago, Road Test Editor @ 6,332 miles