What is it?
BMW's Latest Entry-Level 2 Series Gran Coupe Is Anything But Cut-Rate
The Mercedes A-Class Should Be Worried
The 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, despite the name, is a four-door sedan that will compete against other entry-level luxury sedans from Germany. When it goes on sale in March 2020, there will be two models available that are primarily distinguished by engines.
The 2020 BMW 228i xDrive will start around $38,000 and features a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. As BMW's xDrive moniker indicates, all-wheel drive is standard here. Also standard is an eight-speed automatic transmission. The M235i xDrive has a more powerful version of that engine (302 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque) plus some additional performance upgrades. We expect it to start around $48,000.
In regard to size, the Gran Coupe is 6.8 inches longer than the two-door 2 Series and 4.2 inches shorter than the 3 Series.
We won't see the 2 Series Gran Coupe without the camouflage until the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. But even disguised, the Gran Coupe's fastback-like sloping rear roofline is unmistakable. There aren't a lot of details on feature content yet, but we expect BMW to equip the Gran Coupe in a fashion similar to its X2 compact crossover SUV. That also means foward collision mitigation and lane departure warning will likely be standard.
Why does it matter?
Prior to the 2 Series Gran Coupe, BMW didn't have a sedan that represented direct competition to entry-level models from Audi (the A3) and Mercedes-Benz (the A-Class). That meant you were out of luck if you went to a BMW dealership and found the 3 Series not quite to your liking or within your budget. BMW's regular 2 Series is a two-door coupe or convertible only.
What does it compete with?
The main competitors for the 2020 BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe are the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Likewise, the higher-performing M235i xDrive will be the Audi S3 and forthcoming Mercedes-AMG A35.
On the surface, pricing favors the Mercedes and the Audi by a few thousand dollars, but we'll have to wait for the official list of standard features and options to make a final judgment.
How does it drive?
We've had the opportunity to drive some camouflaged preproduction 2 Series Gran Coupe models. Our initial impression is that the base 228i xDrive has enough power for the vast majority of drivers. The same holds true for braking and handling. There's a distinct underlying athleticism to the Gran Coupe that instills confidence.
You can effortlessly get the 228i up to highway speeds without having to pin the pedal to the carpet. The sedan's small footprint makes it easy to maneuver in tight spaces and well-suited to narrow, twisting country roads. The well-tuned suspension navigates the curves without any drama, yet it's compliant enough to absorb road imperfections for a comfortable and composed ride.
For drivers with sporting inclinations, the M235i should be a perfect match. Besides getting a more powerful engine, the M235i also receives a unique differential, additional subframe and strut bracing, and a sport suspension that rides 10 millimeters lower.
The result is a much livelier driving experience that encourages you to drive with more spirit. We're immediately taken by the noticeably louder and burlier engine and exhaust noises (some of which are synthesized through the car speakers). In Sport modes, the shifts become quicker and more aggressive, and the adaptive suspension dampers firm up to reduce body roll even more.
Improvements to stability control and the manner in which the engine reacts to losses in traction, along with the sport differential, give the M235i a distinct performance advantage over the 228i and the Mercedes and Audi rivals. Making transitions between right and left bends in the road is far more engaging and entertaining. And the M235i allows a slight amount of yaw to make you feel more in charge. In some ways, this new Gran Coupe M235i feels like BMWs from the days of yore, before computers dampened the driving hero mystique.
At the same time, those computers are a welcome addition if you happen to get a little overconfident entering a curve, as they'll intervene to help keep you on the pavement. At least in the Sport driving mode, those nannies give you more latitude to have fun.
What's the interior like?
There are no surprises when it comes to the Gran Coupe's interior. If you've been in any current BMW, this cabin will look and feel much like the interiors of its more expensive stablemates. The horizontal dash layout and use of above-average materials are right in line with our expectations, not just for the price, but for the BMW brand. Plus, the latest version of BMW's iDrive infotainment system is included, as is the ability to utilize Apple CarPlay without a cable. A less obvious change is translucent trim that allows ambient lighting to emit a subtle glow at night.
One of the more significant differences between the two-door 2 Series and this Gran Coupe sedan is rear-seat space. First off, the Gran Coupe has spaces for three rear passengers instead of two. There's plenty of adult-size legroom in the rear outboard spots, and headroom is adequate for passengers who are about 5 feet 9 inches or shorter. The seat cushion is mounted a little low, which reduces thigh support, but it still provides more comfort and space than rivals.
How practical is it?
Despite the fastback profile, the 2 Series Gran Coupe sports a conventional trunk instead of a big hatch. That said, the trunk capacity of 15.9 cubic feet is large for the class, with another 2.5 cubic feet of storage underneath the floor. There is enough interior storage for your personal items, too. Combined with the accommodating rear seats, the Gran Coupe is more practical than either the Mercedes A-Class or the Audi A3.
Don't think of the 2 Series Gran Coupe as a cut-rate BMW. It has all of the performance, technology and interior refinement we've come to expect from the brand. In many ways, it has the more compact dimensions of the 3 Series before the 3 Series kept getting larger. That should appeal to drivers of a certain age.