The 2020 BMW M235i Gran Coupe has fake engine noise pumped into the cabin. Pretty much every new BMW does at this point. Customers want a loud, sweet sounding engine at full throttle and a silent cabin on the highway. Those goals run counter to each other, so therefore, we get BMW Active Sound.
In years past, there’s been no way to manually take control over the level and kind of sound coming into the cabin. Enthusiasts were left to deal with the fake engine noise, or find a way around it. That’s changing, because BMW has hidden away a setting that lets you change the level of engine noise fakery you hear on the interior. Multiple menus deep is a setting labeled “Engine Sound.” From here you can select Reduced, Balanced, Sporty or Depending on Driving Mode.
BMW needed one more setting labeled “Off” that completely turns off the Active Sound system, but Reduced is pretty close. In this mode, the car sounds much more natural, and you can hear the real exhaust better. The M235i Gran Coupe makes do with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 301 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. That actual exhaust system is halfway decent, too. You can get a taste of it towards the end of the video at the top of this post. It pops and crackles in a similar manner to BMW's much larger engines, and is frankly much louder than we thought it might be. However, some of that noise is drowned out by a drone-like deep bass when you change the noise to the Sporty setting. The noise level is significantly different from the driver’s seat — our mics don’t convey the noise level differences as much as our ears picked up on it. Still, it’s noticeable if you listen closely.
Balanced mode is in no man’s land, straddling the line between Sporty and Reduced. There’s a little extra buzz coming into the cabin, but it’s still enough to make us switch back to Reduced for any circumstance. If the noise that’s piped in when in Sporty mode was better, we might like it more. But as it stands, the sound is generally just an obnoxious monotone on throttle and on the overrun, too.
Even if the tuning might be a bit off, we’re thrilled to see this new setting from BMW. Being able to change the amount of fake noise coming into the cabin is something we’ve been wanting for a long time. And thanks to a fairly aggressive natural soundtrack from this 2.0-liter turbo, we can turn off the fakery and still enjoy a decent sounding car.