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There’s quite a hubbub among Bimmer fans surrounding the 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe. No, it’s not about whether the new gateway model is a coupe or sedan — it’s clearly the latter. Instead, it’s causing some folks to choke on their schnitzel due to its front-wheel-drive architecture. While the X1 and X2 compact SUVs seem to get passes for utilizing front-drive foundations, a BMW sedan that isn’t rear-wheel-drive-based crosses the line in many enthusiasts’ minds.
- Potent base engine
- Eager handler
- Spacious trunk
- Stiffer ride quality
- Disappointing engine note
- Can get pricey fast
I’m not about to go down a foxhole debating whether this latest model waters down the legacy built by the many generations of BMW sport sedans that came before it. I’ll leave that to the message boards and the comments section, but I do wonder if all the bellyaching is warranted, since the 2 Series Gran Coupe is only available with all-wheel drive in the US. If people are willing to give the 2 Series Gran coupe a fair shake, they may come away pleasantly surprised by its respectable dose of styling, utility and fun-to-drive character, even in base 228i form.
Subtle BMW style
Visually, the 2 Series flaunts respectable proportions, it’s just not as hunkered down as its larger 4 Series and 8 Series Gran Coupe brethren. An optional M Sport package sprinkles in a more aggressive front bumper, contrasting black trim, side sills, rear spoiler, rear diffuser and 18-inch, double-spoke M wheels that add a touch more visual aggression.
The 2GC doesn’t make a huge style statement. It’s subtle but sporty, wearing the German firm’s trademark kidney grille, uncluttered sheetmetal and a clean rear fascia. Those in search of more panache will probably like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class or swoopy CLA-Class, or the recently revealed 2021 Audi A3’s sleeker and more sophisticated look. Based solely on outer appearances, the 2 Series comes in behind both the new Audi and Benz in my book.
Slide inside the smallest Gran Coupe and it’s unmistakably a BMW. The layout and switchgear are familiar, mirroring other current Bimmer models. Most impressively there are no clear indications of cost cutting in the materials department, which is impressive for a sedan that starts at a manageable $37,500. Major swaths of the dash and door panels are soft to the touch, the armrests are padded and stitched, and the front seats offer generous support keeping riders comfy for long hauls.
Back-seat space is also serviceable with enough leg- and shoulder-room for a couple of adults to enjoy — after they duck their heads to get in. Rolling with three kids across the rear will be OK, but a trio of adults will be uncomfortable. For moving nonhuman cargo, the 228i’s got 15.1 cubic feet of space in its trunk, handily outgunning the current A3’s 10 cubic feet and CLA’s 11.6 cubic feet.
Heaps of tech
When it comes to technology, there’s no shortage within the 228i Gran Coupe. For infotainment, my tester rocks BMW’s iDrive 7 system with a 10.25-inch center touchscreen, 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster and center console controller surrounded by shortcut buttons. Screen imagery is crisp and iDrive’s menu structure is easy work through to control navigation, a 10-speaker audio system, satellite radio and Bluetooth.capabilities are also packaged in, but Android Auto remains a missing-in-action feature — for now, at least.
Charging ports also aren’t an issue in the 2 Series, with a pair of USB outlets within arm’s length for front and rear passengers. A wireless charging pad is an optional tech feature, as is a Wi-Fi hotspot, 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound setup and gesture controls, for anyone who likes to twirl their fingers to adjust volume or wave their hand to accept and reject calls.
Standard safety technology on the 228i includes the Active Drive Assistant group of features including forward-collision warning with automatic braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, speed limit information, auto high-beams, parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert. An available head-up display is also equipped on my test car, but adaptive cruise control is missing. If you want the smart cruise tech, it can be lumped in for $1,200.
As much as I would like to be wheeling around in the hotter M235i Gran Coupe, with 301 horsepower on tap, the 228i’s not-as-muscular 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 still offers plenty of punch. This base engine churns out 228 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque, neither of which disappoints. BMW claims a believable 0-to-60-mph time of 6 seconds and the forced-induced mill has peak torque on offer between 1,450 and 4,500 rpm. The 228i is no slouch off the line and excitedly pulls throughout the rev range. It’s just a shame BMW hasn’t been able to make its turbo-four engines sound better — they’re always flat and uninspiring.
An eight-speed automatic transmission routes power to all four wheels. Shifts are well-timed and completed in near instant fashion, but they aren’t quite as rapid as the ZF-sourced ‘box BMW uses in its rear-drive cars, which is probably the best automatic gearbox out there. The drivetrain pairing returns an EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway. During a week of mixed driving, I observed 27 mpg matching the EPA combined rating.
Attacking corners in the Gran Coupe reveals impressive dynamic capabilities, aided by the M Sport package’s stiffer springs, adaptive dampers, front anti-roll bar and slightly lower ride height. Crank the lightly weighted steering wheel in any direction and the front wheels obey immediately. In Sport mode, the dampers keep the car nearly flat through turns, with lots of grip from the 18-inch Bridgestone Turanza LS100 tires and strong brakes confidently bleed off speed.
Will it understeer? Of course, but the M Sport chassis along with slick proactive traction control tuning helps the 228i feel more athletic than a comparable A3 or CLA.
The Gran Coupe’s M Sport handling upgrades, however, do come with a ride quality penalty. Small bumps and ruts still get smoothed out, but larger road imperfections are felt in the cabin. That’s not to say that the ride is jarring, because it isn’t. It’s just noticeably firm, and might be stiffer than some folks will be willing to live with just for some slightly better reflexes.
How I’d spec it
The 2020 BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe pictured here is generously equipped with big ticket items such as the M Sport package ($4,000) and premium package ($3,050). Plus there’s the upgraded paint job ($1,200) and snazzy Mocha leather interior ($1,450) pushing the bottom-line number to $48,195 including $995 for destination.
My ideal Gran Coupe wouldn’t differ too much from the test car. Sign me up for the sharper handling and looks that come with the M Sport package because I’ll live with the ride quality compromise. I’ll also take the premium package for its tech upgrades such as iDrive 7 and digital gauge cluster, heated seats and steering wheel, as well as the Storm Bay Metallic paint. All in, my 228i punches in at $46,745. Not cheap, but very nicely equipped.
When it comes to gateway German luxury sedans, the $37,500 228i xDrive Gran Coupe is priced competitively. We don’t know exact pricing on the new Audi A3 yet, but a 2020 S-Line model with all-wheel-drive begins at $36,500, and it won’t be a shock if the new one comes in close to that. The Mercedes CLA250 4Matic starts at $38,650, while its more conventionally shaped A220 counterpart comes in at $32,800.
I’ve already said that if it was a beauty contest, my money would go to Audi or Mercedes. But for people who put a premium on handling and driving engagement, the 2 Series Gran Coupe sits at the top of the heap and is worth a hard look. Unless you’re one of the BMW purists. In that case, quit whining and get a 3 Series.
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