2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe first drive review: Hero or heretic?

Victoria D. Doty

Like any good subculture, the automotive earth is rife with lovers who obsess and quibble more than the smallest aspects. We vehicle buffs can complain and whine with the very best of ’em, splitting hairs of hairs. As these types of, it is really tempting to believe the burbling fervor […]

Like any good subculture, the automotive earth is rife with lovers who obsess and quibble more than the smallest aspects. We vehicle buffs can complain and whine with the very best of ’em, splitting hairs of hairs. As these types of, it is really tempting to believe the burbling fervor close to the 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is another tempest in a teapot. Just after all, it is really just a vehicle, and men and women are only talking about which wheels get electric power to the floor. Basically, in the circumstance of this 2020 BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe, it is really even more pedantic than that — they are talking about which wheels get most of the electric power and when. Shed nevertheless? Permit me to reveal.

For most of its historical past, BMW has cultivated a cult-like devotion between driving lovers as a result of an enviable string of effectiveness-oriented versions. Cars these types of as the three Series and its bigger-effectiveness M3 offshoot have come to be icons by providing many years of enviable dynamics with engaging interfaces that have held driving pleasure at the coronary heart of their mission. 

In recent yrs, that grand custom has appear underneath hearth. BMW has followed industry currents, its model lineup ever more trending toward activity utility motor vehicles and smothering quite a few of its models’ tactile charms underneath an at any time-thickening blanket of luxurious, safety and effectiveness options, prioritizing comfort, safety and ecological obligation at the expensive of sharpness. Given regulatory and societal pressures, additionally the product sales payoff, it is really tricky to blame the corporation for that.

Even so, the vehicle seen below, the 2 Series Gran Coupe, is remaining viewed as a innovative — and controversial — pivot place for the manufacturer. This is the vehicular instant the corporation transitions one particular of its sedans from a rear-wheel-drive-based mostly architecture to a front-wheel-drive one particular. (Certainly, BMW did this earlier with the X1, but that is an SUV — sedans, coupes and hatches are nonetheless nearer to this brand’s emotional heart.)

In a way, BMW North America seems to be hedging its bets, acknowledging the sensitivity of this instant. Right here in the US and Canada, BMW will to begin with only offer this new 2 Series Gran Coupe with xDrive all-wheel drive, even though the majority of the time, the process will favor driving the front wheels, periodically disconnecting the driveshaft to the rear wheels when extra traction is just not called for, as is normal in constant-condition freeway cruising.

BMW will promote this four-doorway along with the rear-drive 2 Series Coupe and Convertible versions.


The problem is, is this FWD/RWD offer anything crucial only to the silly and overscrupulous, or does this adjust fundamentally impact what this vehicle is and how it feels? I headed to the winding, mountainous streets of Portugal to get a handful of wheel and obtain out. 

(Side take note: Just before I go any further, it is really really worth mentioning I do not typically get scrunchy-faced more than these types of items, and I rely front-, rear- and all-wheel-drive cars and trucks in my personalized steady.)

Which-wheel drive?

So, how did we get below? Properly, a handful of yrs back, the German automaker established the UKL2 system, a flexible architecture that has long gone on to underpin quite a few modest BMW family versions, together with the X1 crossover, the Mini Countryman as well as the not-for-North-America 1 Series. In distinction to the rear-wheel-drive-based mostly 2 Series Coupe and Convertible, versions that somewhat confusingly will nonetheless be sold along with this one particular, the UKL2 chassis of this Gran Coupe permits better cabin packaging, more cargo area and decreased fees, all hallmarks of a FWD format. That suggests this Gran Coupe should also match up nicely against rivals like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Course and CLA-Course, all of which share the same sort of architecture and driveline.

In the circumstance of this range-topping M235i xDrive, its 2.-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine’s 301 horsepower and 332 pound-toes of torque evaluate favorably with the Audi S3 (288 hp, 280 lb-ft) and substantially out-torques the Mercedes-AMG A35 and CLA35, both equally of which offer 302 hp and 295 lb-ft. An 8-pace computerized with paddle shifters is conventional, as is a Torsen limited-slip differential and launch command, the latter of which assists enable a manufacturing facility-approximated -to-60-mph time of 4.6 seconds, en route to an electronically limited prime pace of a hundred and fifty five mph. Inspite of its torque gain, the M235i’s effectiveness figures are fundamentally identical to these of its German rivals, with a tenth of a next separating all gamers to 60 mph and identically ruled prime speeds.

By the splashy headline effectiveness figures, then, the M235i xDrive and its rivals are a useless warmth. Choosing in between them is probable to appear down to rate — $forty five,500 additionally shipping and delivery — or to values that are more subjective and a lot less information-pushed: Styling, options, driving feel and manufacturer picture.

The M235i has an aggressively unsubtle visage. What do you imagine?


Divisive seems to be

Styling is probable to be a component below. Audi’s S3 has crisp, standard sedan bodywork that is getting old well, albeit even though drawing comparatively handful of eyeballs. Mercedes’ lozenge-like four-doorways veer in the direction of the more slipstream and voguish — they are interest getters. This 2 Series? It arguably splits the variance. As its Gran Coupe designator indicates, BMW has attempted to imbue this vehicle with sleeker bodywork, utilizing frameless doorways to enable enable a decreased roofline, as well as more steeply raked front and rear glass to give the vehicle a coupe-like feel. 

In the metal, even though, this design and style is significantly a lot less elegantly proportioned than BMW’s other Gran Coupe versions, all of which get pleasure from a particular extended-legged, sharply personalized presence. Blame the 2GC’s abbreviated 178.5-inch all round size and its one hundred and five.1-inch wheelbase, but most of all, blame this car’s quick sprint-to-axle ratio — the distance from the base of the windshield to the front wheels — for its a lot less sleek, more common seems to be.

Speaking of a lot less sleek, the 2 Series’ new deal with is probable to break up opinions. BMW has steadily been morphing its trademark twin-kidney grill into anything both equally wider and shorter all round, and in this circumstance, the ensuing aesthetic is more showy and overdone than refined. Among that and the (mercifully purposeful) oversized air intakes bookending the front bumper, the emphasis seems to be on the pugnacious and eye-catching rather of the handsome and enduring. That explained, the M235i seems to be properly planted on its 18-inch double-spoke M alloys and 225/forty Pirelli P-Zero tires, inch-larger sized rubber than the more modest 228i xDrive Gran Coupe that we have nevertheless to exam in manufacturing variety. (19-inch units are optional with both all-period operate-flat or effectiveness non-operate-flats.)

The cabin is out there with a broad wide variety of tech options, together with a entirely electronic gauge cluster and WiFi.


Cabin tech

If the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s exterior is divisive, its interior should deliver factions together. Its furnishings and general aesthetic will be acquainted to any individual who has been in a present day BMW passenger vehicle, and that is a good factor. Even my Alpine White tester’s standard black cabin seems to be handsome and well structured, matching its purposeful, driver-oriented aura with ample creature comforts to maintain just about any individual content. For the more effectiveness-oriented M235i, interior fitments contain a grippy M Sport steering wheel (BMW has sometimes made wheels also thick in diameter, but not below), metal pedal pads and optional electric power-articulated M Sport seats ($750).

In terms of cabin tech, even though lesser 2GCs appear fitted with a BMW Live Cockpit setup functioning iDrive 6 as a result of an 8.8-inch display, my tester has the BMW Live Cockpit Professional, which goes a step further by replacing the car’s analog gauges with a ten.25-inch in-cluster display functioning iDrive 7. The well-structured process includes created-in navigation and Apple CarPlay, with BMW mercifully scrapping its approach to charge an annual membership rate for the latter right after the initial calendar year. In a lot less-excellent news, Android Auto integration remains a “coming shortly” attraction.

My exam vehicle is also fitted with BMW’s Gesture Handle, tech that lets you to wave your hand again and forth or twirl your finger in the air to execute select infotainment functions, together with dismissing a phone simply call or cranking up the volume on the $875 sixteen-speaker, 464-watt Harman Kardon audio process. Regrettably, even though this $190 get together trick may possibly impress in the quick phrase, I have located it is really probable to annoy more than the extended haul owing to serial unintended activation. If you have a tendency to talk with your hands, you could want to give this alternative the center finger.

Available tech options that are more universally appreciated contain a entire-shade, multifunction, nine.2-inch head-up display as well as a wi-fi charging and Wi-Fi hotspot bundle ($500).

It truly is really worth noting that rear-seat packaging, even though nonetheless on the limited aspect, is significantly better than that of the 2GC’s Mercedes rivals. Ingress and egress is considerably tough owing to the quick rear doorways, but both equally access and place are significantly better than in the 2 Series Coupe.

The M235i can unquestionably tackle well, and there is a good deal of electric power, there is just not substantially driver engagement.


Drive time

Portugal has extended been a preferred new-model launch spot for European automakers on account of its temperate weather conditions, twisty streets and general affordability. I have been fortuitous ample to drive on the streets outside of the country’s cash metropolis of Lisbon quite a few occasions, and it is really usually a treat. For this exam day, BMW eschewed any monitor time, rather concentrating on the area’s exceptional public street community, stringing together a route that provided numerous limited, winding sections that threaded together picturesque little towns. I have pushed more demanding routes in the area, but this route was well decided on to spotlight the M235i’s modest dimensions and completely ready electric power and grip coming out of limited corners.

In its go to electric powered electric power steering and hefty mix of operate-flat tires, BMW has struggled more than most upscale automakers to deliver good steering feel, and this new 2GC regrettably reads from that same script. Steering is rapid, accurate and pleasingly weighted, but ultimately numb. On the additionally aspect, experience high quality in my exam vehicle outfitted with driver-selectable Dynamic Damper Handle ($500) is well judged, and street noise isolation is equally well managed on the region’s sleek but sometimes coarse-grained streets. Braking feel is firm and conveniently modulated.

When flogging the M235i on a tough street, the all round impression is of self-assurance matched with skill, but not ample emotion. A good part of that is probable attributable to this car’s FWD-based mostly underpinnings — the differential can’t send more than 50{394cb916d3e8c50723a7ff83328825b5c7d74cb046532de54bc18278d633572f} of the engine’s electric power rearward, so if you might be hoping to use the throttle to steer the vehicle, well, rough noogies. As it is, this model reminds a little bit of the Volkswagen Golfing R, an AWD vehicle that presents astonishing sophistication, functionality and pace, nevertheless is ultimately a activity compact unwilling to allow its hair down.

iDrive is actually quite good these times. Edition 6. comes conventional, with v7. out there as aspect of an alternative pack together with a entire electronic cluster.


It truly is also early to decide whether or not this 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe will be branded as a heretic or a hero by new-vehicle potential buyers. I suspect it’s going to slide somewhere in in between, irking a handful of self-anointed purists even though failing to ignite ample passion one particular way or the other between the majority.

If you have been searching for a modest, entry-level BMW but have to have more passenger and cargo versatility than the two-doorway BMW 2 Series Coupe and Convertible offer, the Gran Coupe could very well have your quantity. On the other hand, even though very capable, even in prime-spec M235i variety, the 2GC struggles to be as satisfying to drive tricky as the slower, less expensive 230i Coupe, or even the larger sized three Series sedan, a model that is both equally larger sized and a lot less expensive.

For now, BMW officers insist the corporation remains dedicated to rear-drive 2 Series versions as well as these new types, but with declining sedan product sales, I wouldn’t bet on this equitable stasis lasting for extended. The Gran Coupe’s more sensible four-doorway condition and more recent tech will almost certainly make it an easier promote to more potential buyers, even if it is just not as fun to drive.

The 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe arrives in US dealers in March.


Editors’ take note: Travel fees linked to this tale had been included by the producer, which is common in the car industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s workers are our personal and we do not acknowledge paid out editorial content.

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