Initially available exclusively with xDrive all-wheel-drive, the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé can now be had in front-wheel-drive form in the U.S. It’s the first time a traditional BMW model—such as a sedan, with four doors—has been sold here with front-wheel-drive, and it’s a change that’s indicative of what’s on the horizon. The X1, which rides atop the same UKL2 platform as the 2 Series Gran Coupé, has long been available in base-model, front-drive form, but that model is an SAV, while the 2 Series GC is the closest thing BMW sells which resembles an entry-level sport sedan. It used to be the 3 Series, and before that it was the 2002. Now it’s the 2 Series GC, and the most affordable one starts at $35,700—with front-wheel-drive.
That starting MSRP separates the 2 Series GC from the $35,400 X1 by $300, meaning the new Two isn’t the most affordable current BMW, but it’s certainly close. The 2 Series initially coming only in xDrive form isn’t necessarily a surprise, as the full spectrum of model variants of any BMW typically takes some time to hit the market. In the case of the new M3 and M4, xDrive will be joining the mix next summer, the opposite of how BMW introduced the 2 Series GC. Instead of the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, which is primarily used in rear-wheel-drive applications and in nearly the entire BMW lineup, the 2 Series GC, whether equipped with xDrive or not, uses an Aisin eight-speed torque converter automatic. Rather interestingly, BMW sells European market models like the 218i with either a six-speed manual, or a seven-speed dual clutch.
Whether or not you’re a fan of its looks, sales figures from BMW North America may indicate that the new, more affordable four-door has been cannibalizing sales of the 3 Series, which has grown to the size of a previous 5 Series (or 7 Series, depending on how far back you choose to look) and now starts at well over $40,000. For a brand like BMW, it’s unlikely to be a problem, as the automaker is merely following in the footsteps of Audi and Mercedes-Benz, both of which introduced new, smaller, and more economical entry-level sedans, in the form of the A3 and CLA, and more recently the A-Class, to the U.S. market in the years prior. Given how the perennial four-door offerings from all of these brands like the 3 Series, A4, and C-Class have grown both in terms of footprint and price, staying competitive with smaller offerings that have already proven themselves in Europe—in the case of Audi and Mercedes—is only practical.
If you need xDrive, whether to help mitigate torque steer, which it may be questionable at actually helping do so in the M235i Gran Coupé, or because you live somewhere that experiences an actual winter, it will add $2,000 to the base price, with the 228i xDrive starting at $37,700. At this time, we’re still waiting to see the first reviews of the North American-spec front-wheel-drive 228i, and it goes without saying that the price differential is important in its market segment. Whether or not the first front-wheel-drive BMW sport sedan will be worth driving, buying, and owning, however, remains to be seen.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]