The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé has been a polarizing presence in the BMW lineup from the moment it was unveiled last October. Momentarily putting aside the fact that it rides atop BMW’s front-drive UKL2 platform, which also necessitates mounting of the engine transversely, it was the styling that really seemed to work against the car. Criticism arrived from all corners of the Internet and automotive media sphere, with comparisons drawn between the new Two and econoboxes that, unfortunately, share a drivetrain layout.
At the time, we noted that no one had yet driven the 2 Series Gran Coupé in any of its soon-to-be available forms, and expressed anticipation for wanting to know how the car behaved where and when it mattered. We also haven’t shied away from describing the new 2 GC as BMW’s entry-level sport sedan, because that’s what it is. Taking the place of the 3 Series, but at a price point at which it can compete with the counterparts from Audi and Mercedes-Benz, the new four-door 2 Series is clearly the continuation of the lineage initiated by the 2002. A single car that can do it all, from a grocery run to a canyon run—and everything in between. The 3 Series is still here to handle all that, but for more money, and with more refinement. The 2 GC has arrived to democratize things into a new, more affordable segment.
Although the new 2 Series GC is BMW’s first front-drive car, as we’ve called it before, the variants coming to the U.S., even the base-model 228i, will come standard with xDrive—at least for now. Nevertheless, with the UKL2 platform shared with MINI models and the X2, the bones of BMW’s current entry-level sport sedan are undoubtedly front-wheel drive. As far as design and styling are concerned, the new Two finds yet another point of contention here as well. We don’t need to remind you though, as opinions have been largely universal in that the lines don’t flow as well as they do on other current BMW models, to say the least.
Coming back to what really matters though—how it drives—we’re now able to finally shed some light on whether or not the new 228i or M235i (both with xDrive) are worthy of your consideration. This month’s edition of Roundel contains David Haueter’s review of the 228i, while a few others have also come out over the past month or so. There are also a handful of BMW 2 Series Gran Coupés available at dealerships, but they’ve only just started trickling in during the coronavirus pandemic, meaning few have actually had a chance to put one through its paces outside of the automotive press.
As we suspected, those of us who are able to look beyond BMW’s so-called sins, both in the grander scheme of things and in relation to the 2 GC, find it to be a practical all-around car that’s also an entertaining drive. Does that surprise you? It probably shouldn’t. Although a truly front-drive version has yet to be caned through a curvy road by a seasoned expert, the U.S.-spec 228i and M235i (again, both of which come standard with xDrive), don’t seem to have surrendered much in the way of the BMW driving experience that first seduced many of us.
We’ll let Haueter’s Roundel review speak for itself, as it’s more than worth the read on its own, but two opposite sides of the spectrum are available here and here. While Bryan Campbell’s review for Forbes claims drivers merely need to know where to look in terms of how to extract the BMW driving experience of old from the M235i, Macklin Hogan of Road & Track sums up his nine-day interaction with the 228i by saying it, “Doesn’t feel like a BMW.”
Both reviews have their valid points, including that, the expression by R&T that the constraints of the 2 GC’s segment likely translated to BMW feeling rather constrained with the car itself (because of the segment in which it competes), in contrast with something like the X6, which is unabashedly bizarre and completely unnecessary but nonetheless wonderfully enthralling in its own way. Both reviews also—and correctly—point out that the 2 Series goes against more than half a century of BMW identity and tradition, but Campbell’s take correctly zeroes in on the design-by-committee method nearly everything comes to be these days, while also saying the 2 GC can do what decades of BMWs have been so good at; defying physics on a good road.
How does the 2 Series Gran Coupé drive? Should you buy one? Only you can answer those questions—and the incredibly versatile G20 330i should be on your list—but under the right circumstances, it seems like the 2 Series Gran Coupé can deliver.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]