BMW is promising the upcoming 2 Series Gran Coupé to serve as an elegant and engaging gateway into the premium compact segment, by way of its democratization of the aerodynamic four-door coupe design concept. Initially reserved for significantly more expensive, premium vehicle classes, Mercedes-Benz has found great success with its entry-level CLA-Class, a more affordable followup to the CLS, which ushered in the four-door coupe segment all the way back in 2005 with its first generation.
One could say that BMW is following in the footsteps of Mercedes-Benz and Audi at this point, the latter having introduced their own A3 and its derivatives to form a new bottom segment the same year as the CLA, back in 2014. If this is the case, and BMW is truly late to the game in the new compact luxury segment, then the 2 Series Gran Coupe better be something special, with pricing and performance that are aimed at stealing back market share in a segment that was previously dominated by the 3 Series, before everything grew too large and too expensive.
Before diving into the specifics of how the 2 Series Gan Coupe could be a solid response to entry-level front-drive models from Mercedes and Audi, it should be noted that the same year the A3 and CLA-Class were introduced in the U.S., BMW began selling a competitively priced, downmarket version of the sixth-gen 3 Series called the 320i. Leaving performance models like the CLA 45 AMG and Audi S3 out of the equation (they completely change the pricing advantage of buying an entry-level compact luxury model anyway), the 320i, with a traditional rear-drive setup and manual transmission availability, was a viable alternative to the aforementioned competing models. However, with low horsepower and a very spartan, featureless interior for a modern car, they sold in low numbers, with corporate buyers seemingly having been responsible for taking the bulk of deliveries.
The current state of the auto market market and competing models aside, you should still expect to see BMW 2 Series Gran Coupes everywhere once they go on sale. Affordable, entry-level luxury offerings still come with the same enticing allure as their more expensive and capable stablemates, even if the quality and features aren’t always there. A large portion of the consumer class will find that the value proposition of an entry-level, front-drive BMW comes out in their favor, and it won’t be long before the 2 Series Gran Coupe fills the vacancy created by an ever-growing model lineup.
We’ve already engaged in a lengthy speculative discussion about a potential M Performance version—check out the bumpers, brakes, and Y-spoke wheels on the camouflaged test mule in the photos—of the 2 Series Gran Coupe, with many hard details coming from the rest-of-world (ROW) market third-gen BMW 1 Series hatchback, which shares a platform with the 2 Series Gran Coupe. That same underlying architecture is already on the road beneath other BMW models, like the X1 and X2, and although the initial UKL1 platform was exclusively MINI, UKL2 is used by both brands.
A 302-horsepower version of BMW’s current B48 modular four-cylinder is the engine we’re really curious about, although the base model power plant may also be of interest when considering a bare-bones budget built, something we will explore as more developments become available. The question on our minds is whether or not this the B48B20 of the X2 M35i and M135i xDrive, which develops 302 horsepower from 5,000 to 6,250 rpm and 332 pound-feet of torque from 1,750 to 4,500, will be enough to take on the competition. While the numbers are impressive on their own, and even more so when you consider the size and footprint of the car they’ll be motivating, Mercedes and Audi have seriously raised the bar on how much horsepower they’re willing to stuff into their smallest models.
Right now, the CLA 45 AMG is powered by a Mercedes-AMG 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that develops an absolutely staggering 375 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 350 pound-feet of torque on tap from 2,250 to 5,000. If that’s not enough for you, the upcoming followup generation will likely be using the Mercedes-AMG M139 engine, currently the world’s most powerful four-cylinder with 416 horsepower peaking at 6,750 rpm and 369 pound-feet of torque available from 5,000 to 5,250 in its most potent version.
Leaving the RS3 out of this discussion because it uses a specialized five-cylinder engine, the Audi S3 makes do with 288 horsepower from 5,500 to 6,200 rpm, and 280 pound-feet of torque from 1,800 to 5,500. While the current 375 horsepower CLA 45 AMG can sprint to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds according to Mercedes, the S3 has a factory zero-to-60 time of 4.6 seconds. Not considering unknowns like weight, a potential M235i Gran Coupe would slot right in between these models, with real-world performance would likely end up better than the numbers suggest. And, this is barring any further developments of the modular B48 engine, which likely has further potential for tuning to either match or overtake the heavily boosted M139 from Mercedes.
As far as base models are concerned, the current Audi A3 uses two versions of the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, one with 184 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque for front-drive, and another with 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet for Quattro all-wheel drive. This setup replaces the previous lineup which used a 1.8-liter turbocharged four in place of the lower-output 2.0. The Mercedes CLA 250 makes 208 hoseepower and 259 pound-feet of torque, while the cheapest-of-the-cheap Mercedes-Benz A-Class A220 makes do with 188 horsepower and 221 pound-feet.
If BMW brings the 2 Series Gran Coupe here with the 30i version of the B48, which makes 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, it’s an easy match to take on the counterparts. Something more affordable might use the 25i version, with 221 horsepower and 229 pound-feet, while there’s also a lower output 20i with 181 horsepower and 215 pound-feet.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]