Awkwardly filling the gap between the 2 Series coupe and 3 Series sedan.
BMW could teach a master class in segment building. The X6 is a prime example; a misshapen X5 conceived an entire class that now moves tens upon thousands of units per year. You can say the same of the X4 that came later, too. Given the raging success of those vehicles, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe – much like Thanos – was inevitable.
Rather than simply rejiggering the 2 Series coupe and tacking on two extra doors, though, the Gran Coupe (or, GC for short) gets a new front-wheel-drive modular platform based on the European 1 Series and Mini Clubman. From a cost standpoint, that makes the car both more economical and easier to engineer. But in order to see how that platform switch affects the 2 Series dynamically, we hit the stunning coastal roads of Portugal in a production-ready BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, a follow-up on our prototype drive in Germany last year.
The base BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe looks like an over-styled economy car. Designers went all out, they say, calling elements like the inverted dual kidney grilles, angry LED headlights, and frameless windows “provocative.” Sure. But attractive this car is not; it looks too frumpy in base form versus alternatives like the slinky Mercedes-Benz CLA and sharp Audi S3, both of which are better-looking out of the box.
But two things help the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe visually: optional M Performance parts and/or upgrading to the M235i model, as tested. The M235i's more-powerful engine means larger vents for additional cooling and a new mesh pattern in the grille, both housed in a standard matte bronze finish. Our car wears the blacked-out “Shadowline” treatment instead, which sheds bronze for shiny black plastic. We prefer it. Our tester also gets a carbon fiber aero package, which includes carbon fiber side skirts and an itty bitty carbon fiber wing, along with nicer, V-spoke 18-inch wheels. The M235i looks pretty mean with these upgrades – a far cry from its base sibling.
There's nothing provocative about the interior, though. If anything, the cabin is too innocuous. The 2 Series GC gets the same iDrive 7.0 infotainment setup as other modern BMWs, now with standard Apple CarPlay (no more annual subscription fees). Here it incorporates a 10.3-inch touchscreen and another 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster. There’s also a central control panel near the shifter, with a rotary controller, that allows quick access to the three drive modes: Sport, Comfort, and Eco Pro.
High-quality black leather and soft plastic cover pretty much every inch of the cabin. The 2 Series GC – at least, this version – feels as nicely finished as its larger 3 Series counterpart. Our only major complaint is that the steering wheel is too chunky. Otherwise, this 2 Series GC offers a nice place to sit over long distances.
Cruising > Carving
Rather than the sidewalk-sized roads of rural Germany from our prototype drive last July, we hit a gorgeous ribbon of pavement that connects Lisbon, Portugal to the country's central coast. But while the location changes, two of the 2 Series GC's defining characteristics stay the same: lots of grip and mostly flat cornering. Fancy electronics like an engine traction management system that includes active wheel braking (which limits interior slip by automatically applying light brake pressure) prove necessary as we pilot the spritely sedan up and down mountain roads with confidence. The sharp steering rack and rigid suspension are good, too, allowing the 2 Series GC to react with relative quickness.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter is pretty likable. With 306-horsepower and 332 pound-feet, it's BMW's most powerful four-cylinder to date, giving the compact sedan the ability to hit 60 mile-per-hour in 4.7 seconds. The 2 Series GC’s lone transmission is a quick-shifting, rev-hanging, ZF eight-speed automatic that's mayb a touch over-jerky, but keeps power through corners. In general, the 2 Series GC feels dynamic enough and quick enough for a car of its caliber, but more seat time and better roads reveal the 2 Series Gran Coupe's obvious flaws.
The front-wheel-drive platform gives off noticeable torque steer from a standstill and understeer when pushed. And switching to Comfort and Eco Pro leads to a jarring reduction in response time. The steering feels lighter and sloppier, and throttle tip-in becomes sluggish. But even at its best in Sport mode, the 2 Series GC is still numb. This car lacks the personality of its rear-drive 2 Series coupe and 3 Series sedan siblings; it doesn’t feel like a real BMW.
If anything, the 2 Series GC excels where it matters to the average consumer most: on the highway. While the suspension definitely feels harsh on pockmarked pavement, even with the adaptive setup, the dampers give the car a nice ride on smoother surfaces. The cabin is quiet, the steering rack is lightweight and connected, and the turbocharged 2.0-liter offers more than enough passing power at high speeds.
Split The Difference
But our biggest issue with the 2 Series Gran Coupe isn’t so much in the way it drives, but how much it costs. We’ll forgive less-than-stellar dynamics and sloppy steering in most entry-level sedans, but not on one that costs nearly $55,000 as tested. Even the base 228i xDrive model asks $38,495 in the States, and upgrading to the M235i before options costs $46,490.
For the average consumer, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe will be totally fine. It’s quiet and comfortable and capable of some (aloof) corner-carving in the right setting. The tech is good, too, and the cabin is relatively spacious with a backseat that’s decent even for passengers over six feet. But shelling out more than $55,000 for the “performance” model tested here makes no sense. If you want a sporty BMW sedan, buy a 3 Series.