REVIEW | 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe hits the sweet spot
Sometimes it seems BMW tries to squeeze itself into too many car niches, but I think the new 2 Series Gran Coupe has nailed it as a concept.
It is the four-door version of the 2 Series coupe which until now was available with only two doors, and the extra passenger portals make the Gran Coupe a more practical car without taking anything away from its sportingly rakish lines. In fact, I think the four-door is the better looking car, with its added length giving it a more elegant, less chopped-off silhouette.
The Gran Coupe also has a decidedly bolder looking snout with a larger kidney grille — a design element that’s sweeping through the Bavarian firm like wildfire — although it’s still a lot smaller than the supersized grille on the controversial new 4 Series.
At first I thought this four-door 2 Series might even be a viable alternative to a 3 Series sedan in terms of family space, seeing as it’s only 11cm shorter. But once I sat my six-foot frame in the back seat, it turned out that while there’s semi-reasonable legroom, the low roof makes things a little tight. The 2 Series Gran Coupe makes a good family vehicle if the back seat is reserved for young teens rather than adults.
The interior lays on a mood-lit, leather-clad vibe that is pleasantly plush and modern, and little details like the air vent adjusters being made of real metal instead of plastic help raise the upmarket feel.
The range-topping M235i xDrive Gran Coupe has most of the niceties you’d expect in an executive ride, including navigation, keyless start, and an infotainment system that gives you a variety of choices on how to operate it: the time-honoured iDrive knob, by touchscreen, or by talking. On the latter choice, BMW’s voice recognition is getting better but it still sometimes acts as if you’re speaking Klingon with its “please repeat”.
As usual there’s a vast array of toys available for extra money, including a head-up display, active cruise control, wireless smartphone charger, and a fully-digital instrument cluster that changes in look depending on the car’s driving mode. Our test vehicle also had optional red-and-black dual tone leather, but if that’s too loud for your taste you can specify standard black seats.
At the price I would’ve expected electrically-adjustable front seats to come standard, but the manual adjusters are at least an improvement over the user-unfriendliness of BMW’s previous efforts.
Behind that large grille is a 2l petrol turbo engine with outputs of 225kW and 450Nm, making the M235i the most powerful Gran Coupe model and the only one with all-wheel drive to harness the horses — the weaker 218i and 220d models are both pulled by their front wheels.
The straight-line performance is entertainingly lively, as you’d expect of a car with a quoted 0-100km/h figure of 4.9 seconds and a 250km/h top speed. It’s a robust performer with strong midrange urge, and throttle inputs always elicit pleasantly lag-free responses.
It has an appealingly throaty voice in the Sport driving mode too, which also quickens the throttle and gearbox responses in ways that raise your adrenalin. The other two modes — Comfort and Eco Pro — dampen the car’s demeanour into a more civilised, commuting-friendly setting.
Those who believe front-wheel drive has no business in a BMW will appreciate the M235i’s xDrive system which sends up to half of the power to the rear when required.
It’s a balanced, neutral handling car that flits through bends without running into early understeer, and nor is it a tail-sliding handful when you lay the power down too early.
In Sports mode the steering has the typical BMW meatiness, and the overall driving sensations deliver on the brand’s long-held reputation of driving pleasure.
The car rides firm without feeling overly stiff, though personally I’d swap the test car’s optional low-profile 19-inch tyres for the standard 18-inchers, to reduce some jitteriness and make it more pothole-friendly.
BMW implemented an across-the-board price hike (rather cynically, if you ask me) in SA just as car sales resumed in the eased lockdown, so the R735,764 price of the M235i xDrive Gran Coupe when it was launched here just before lockdown has now risen to R795,864.
That still makes it very price-competitive against the rival Mercedes-AMG CLA 35, but more expensive than Audi’s S3.
Overall, this 2 Series hits the sweet spot with its coupe-like styling glamour and sedan-like practicality, and in M235i xDrive form it delivers an exciting drive to match. There’s little to criticise, except for the 60k price hike just three months after it was launched.
Type: Four-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Eight-speed Steptronic auto
Type: All-wheel drive
Top speed: 250km/h
0-100km/h: 4.9 seconds
Fuel Consumption: 7.6l/100km (claimed); 10.9l /100km (as tested)
ABS brakes, six airbags, stability control, electric windows, digital instrument panel, climate control, cruise control, keyless entry with push-button start, navigation, infotainment system with voice control, LED daytime running lights, automatic LED headlamps, 225/40 R18 tyres standard (optional 235/35 R19s fitted); M Sport brakes, M Sport suspension, M Aerodynamic kit, sports seats
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Service plan: Five years/100,000km
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Audi S3 quattro sedan, 228kW/400Nm — R734,189
Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4Matic, 225kW/400Nm — R931,640
BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe
Styling, performance, practicality
The recent price increase
A sports coupe for daily life
****Value For Money