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The new BMW M235i driving through Las Vegas.

It’s getting to be more and more of a challenge keeping up with the expanding line-up at BMW, but at least there’s a logic to the maker’s madness as it rolls out a modified nomenclature strategy that is far easier to follow than some of its competitors’ alphanumeric offerings.

The worldwide launch of the new 2-Series coupe comes as BMW shifts to even numbers for its 2-door models, whether coupes or convertibles, with sedans sticking with odd numbers.  The new 2-Series was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show, which also staged the world debuts of the M3 and M4 models and the 4 Series Convertible.

With the 2-Series BMW hopes to tap the interest of the Millennial generation, a cohort of young buyers who have so far been less than friendly to automobiles, many waiting much longer than in decades past to even get their driver’s licenses. The hope is that sporty and relatively affordable models like the new M235i might finally start drawing them into showrooms.

The 2-Series will be offered with a wide range of engines, including two options in the U.S.

With 20% of BMW’s worldwide sales, the U.S. is the second-largest market after China and has always been a strong source of demand for the M models, while 40% of its convertibles are sold here.

Last year, sales of the BMW brand on the North American market increased by 10% to more than 309,000 units – but the maker is well aware that without tapping those Millennials it will struggle to maintain momentum in the years ahead.

(How low can they go as luxury makers heat up the entry-lux market? Click Here to find out.)

While we don’t quite qualify for Millennial status, we were pleased to get a chance to check out the 2014 BMW M235i on the handling course and high speed oval of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. During a three-week program, the Germans offered drives for international automotive and lifestyle journalists as well as the American automotive media.

“Why are we in Las Vegas?” asked BMW Board Member Ian Robertson. “Because it is a new city, dynamic, vibrant and it offers entertainment and great weather.”

(Automakers muscle up for the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. Click Here for a closer look.)

The 2-Series is 2.8 inches longer and 1.3 inches wider than its predecessor, the 1-Series. It has a 1.2 inch longer wheelbase and offers a little more legroom for rear passengers, while the trunk has grown by 0.7 cubic feet to 13.9 cf.

The new M235i features a 326-hp TwinPower engine.

The 2 Series is the first BMW that will get the new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gas engine which makes 184 horsepower. It will be available from the market launch, while the 240-hp BMW 228i will land here in the summer. That engine produces 255 lb-ft of torque.

The M235i get a 3.0-liter six-cylinder that turns out a more impressive 320 hp and 332 pound feet of torque using M performance TwinPower technology.

The M235i was the first model available for test drives at the speedway. It was equipped with the optional 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The other versions of the 2-Series get a 6-speed manual as standard fare.

(For more on all the new BMW models debuting at the 2014 North American International Auto Show, Click Here.)

Although we had a very short stint on the handling course, the M235i showed its sporty character with a firm stance and agile handling. It reacts quickly and precisely to steering input and does not get into oversteer too soon.

With the optional limited slip differential the steering gets an even more direct character.

On public roads the M235i’s suspension proved to be firm, but not uncomfortable, providing a nice, sporty drive.

With its slick design and well executed cabin, the new 2-Series can be well on the way to surpass the success of the original 1-Series, of which more than 150,000 units have been sold since it reached worldwide markets in 2007. Twenty five percent of those were sold in the US.

The new BMW 2-Series will reach worldwide markets on March 1st. Prices have yet to be announced.

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