There's a big difference between a BMW customer and a BMW fanatic. The latter will likely immediately discount the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe as a false Bimmer. Why is that? Well, unlike the 2 Series Coupe, the Gran Coupe is only available with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot and an xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Worse still, it's built on a front-wheel-drive platform. Before you even sit in the car, you know that it won't handle like BMWs of old. Nevertheless, it's a good alternative to the likes of the competition from Mercedes-Benz CLA and Audi S3, particularly in M235i guise, where it produces up to 301 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. But is a competitive engine enough to convince the old guard that the new way isn't so bad? Or was the AWD Bimmer built simply to provide another option to those not enamored by Merc and Audi? We drove an M235i Gran Coupe for five days to find out.
The 2021 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe benefits from a host of updates for the 2021 model year. These include the long-awaited arrival of Android Auto as standard, along with SiriusXM satellite radio. Also standard for the new model year is the Connected Package Pro suite of upgrades that includes real-time traffic information, while other changes for all new models include the addition of Live Cockpit Professional with its dual 10.25-inch screens. The automatic gearbox on the 228i has been swapped for a less sporty transmission that provides slightly slower shifts.
|228i Gran Coupe||
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
|228i xDrive Gran Coupe||
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
|M235i xDrive Gran Coupe||
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
The exterior of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is arguably the second greatest issue that BMW fanatics will have with the car after its powertrain, although it does look better in person than in images. Take away the badges, and from certain angles, this could well be a Kia, a Ford, or one of any number of small sedans. Nevertheless, there are some distinguishing features. You still get the twin kidney grilles and LED headlights with "halo" daytime running lights. The rear also gets LED lighting, but it looks a lot like that of a squashed 8 Series GC. It's not like BMW doesn't know how to make attractive cars, but the overall effect of this car's design is one that implies disinterest on the part of the designers. Still, at least the M235i with its standard M Sport package has some sporty accents, including a subtle trunk spoiler, that help it look a little less bland than the soulless profile. Vents in the rear bumper and an exhaust tip on either end of a faux diffuser try to make the car a little more aggressive too. As standard, the 2 Series GC comes with 17-inch wheels on the 228i model while the M235i gets 18s, but you can have 19-inch wheels if you're willing to spend a little extra and sacrifice some comfort.
The dimensions of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe are not all that pleasing visually, but on paper, they're in line with what you'd expect of a car in this segment. The length of the sedan measures 178.5 inches from end to end while the width has a figure of 70.9 inches. The wheelbase has a measurement of 105.1 inches, and height is 55.9 inches on either model. Curb weight for the 228i starts at 3,534 pounds, while the M235i weighs in at 3,605 lbs.
The 228i comes in a choice of two colors as standard: Alpine White and Jet Black. If you'd like to spend extra, Melbourne Red, Mineral White, Mineral Grey, Seaside Blue, Misano Blue, and Snapper Rocks Blue are among your choices of metallic finishes, although the latter two require the M Sport kit too. Also available and our recommendation is Black Sapphire, at $550. Should you want a really fancy color, Storm Bay is available for $1,200. On the M235i, only Alpine White is offered as standard, and Mineral White is not available either, but you do get some Cerium Gray accents on the mirror caps and front fascia to help it stand out. This model also comes with dark blue M sport brake calipers as standard.
While the regular 2 Series Coupe of the old design makes things interesting with an available 3.0-liter six-cylinder, the hottest version of the 2 Series Gran Coupe - the M235i - is powered by the same engine as its lesser sibling, albeit with more power. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 301 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and an xDrive AWD system that is FWD-biased. It allows the M235i to achieve the sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds with top speed arriving at 155 mph. These are impressive figures, but the setup means that there's no chance of sliding the car around corners - at least not in the way that's fun. With no more than 50 percent of the power going to the rear wheels, understeer is far more common than you'd expect from a BMW, and getting the rear to kick out is near impossible. This means the AWD system is doing its job properly, but there's not much joy in the experience. But what about the less powerful 228i? It gets the same engine and can do 0-60 mph in a respectable six seconds flat, with the top speed limited to 130 mph. Fit summer tires and you can eventually get to 151 mph.
The base model 228i's 2.0-liter four-banger turbo generates 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It is an AWD vehicle that gets an eight-speed auto much like its M-tuned brother, but the gearbox in this car is not the 'Sport' transmission, so gear changes are a little less sharp. Nevertheless, the shifts are still smooth and aren't delayed enough to frustrate you. Acceleration is brisk and overtaking isn't too much of a chore, but you can feel that something is missing.
That's why you should rather opt for the M235i, with its 301 hp and 331 lb-ft of twist providing some real performance. This model is far more responsive and eager to get going. Plant your foot as the lights go green and there's a slight delay - whether you've engaged launch control or not, whether stability management is on or disabled. Still, once it leaves the line, it catapults you ahead in a way that is so smooth that it actually feels slow. The car is almost too refined for its own good in this respect, failing to shove you back in your seat the way an Audi S3's launch does. Still, overtaking is easy and the gearbox responds to commands from your right foot or the paddles very quickly. That said, the shifts are a little rough at the higher end of the rev range, with the M235i exhibiting a fondness for momentary torque steer as you bang the next gear home. The jerk in the steering can be unnerving at first, but it's a welcome bit of feedback in an otherwise uninspiring performance machine that feels the need to pump synthesized engine notes through the sound system.
Ultimately, the power plant is good and the short ratios of the 'box help with strong acceleration, but the lack of noise from the engine at low speeds makes the car a bit dull while the harsh sounds you hear at the top of the rev range discourage you from fully exploiting the motor's potential. Standing outside the car, the tone of the exhaust isn't too bad though, which makes us wonder why BMW couldn't be bothered to tune a decent exhaust system that satisfies occupants instead of faking a pleasing engine note.
Okay, so the engine is capable although a bit dull, but what about the drive itself? If it's wearing a BMW badge, and especially one accompanied by an M designation, the car should drive brilliantly, right? You'd think so, but despite plenty of M Sport goodies on the M235i (brakes, suspension, and a retuned steering setup), the 2 Series Gran Coupe is little more than an appliance. For a Bimmer, that's a scathing review. I've been a BMW fan since before I could spell anything else, so I desperately wanted this to be a great drive. Unfortunately, there's absolutely nothing about the way this car feels that indicates its Bavarian origins.
The steering is light, sharp, and accurate, but it is totally devoid of feel. The one time that any sort of vibration or sensation was felt was when launching the car uphill, in the rain, with everything off - and the wheel hop was felt through my seat, not my hands. This means that you have no idea what the front wheels are doing when you're driving spiritedly through some winding corners. The only indication that you're doing a considerable speed is the sudden realization that the front tires are washing wide. The rear end refuses to kick out even slightly, no matter how hard you mash the throttle, so the Torsen mechanical differential is clearly not tuned to encourage hooliganism. However, it fails to tighten your driving line too. Maybe lift-off oversteer can help you neaten things up? Nope - the M235i still prefers to understeer.
Furthermore, the complexity of the front suspension inhibits how much angle you can get from the steering and you run into lock sooner than you'd expect. Thus, executing a U-turn isn't done as tightly as one would like, and tight, low-speed turns require a bit more forethought than should be necessary. Unfortunately, we've had more fun in a Mercedes CLA. At least the suspension is acceptably firm rather than stiff, and the brakes are excellent with plenty of feel and tons of capability.
The USA's premier fuel economy rating agency, the EPA, has provided a review for both variants of the 2 Series Gran Coupe. Unsurprisingly, the 228i gets the better of the two reviews, with official figures of 23/33/27 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With a 13.2-gallon gas tank, you should be able to achieve around 356.4 miles of range with mixed driving. Despite considerably more power, the M235i is only slightly behind in the gas mileage stakes, with figures of 23/32/26 mpg. Thanks to an Eco Pro mode with dulled throttle response and visual aids to lower your consumption, achieving and exceeding these figures in the real world is entirely plausible.
The interior of the 2 Series Gran Coupe is pleasingly modern, with a pair of 10.25-inch screens dominating your view ahead without restricting it, and a frameless rearview mirror adding a touch of style. There's a surprising amount of space in here, despite the sloping roofline impeding rear headroom a little, and the controls all feel solid and pleasing. Dual-zone climate control is standard and the seats are comfy and supportive, especially in the M235i where you can get buckets that hold you in place without squeezing your ribs. You do have to spend extra to unlock this cabin's full potential though, and we have some gripes with the ergonomics of the steering wheel's buttons that are just a touch too low for your thumbs to reach them if you're holding the wheel correctly. Nevertheless, the overall feel of everything else is great, and there are very few panels that are finished in ugly plastic.
You get five seats in the 2 Series GC, but although BMW claims that you get almost as much space in here as in a 3 Series, fitting three adults side by side in the second row is not something you do on long trips. Still, as a six-footer, my head only touched the roof when sitting bolt upright, and there's a decent amount of legroom even when sitting behind someone of similar stature. In front, both occupants get ten-way power-adjustable seats as standard, with M Sport seats available for maximum support. These seats are great on short journeys but only good on longer ones. Getting in and out is also easy, but again, those in the rear seat are done in by that roofline that requires some stooping. All-round visibility is good too, but the rear window is too small and too aggressively raked for you to see where the trunk ends. Fortunately, a standard rearview camera makes this issue a moot point when parking.
As standard, the 228i comes with SensaTec faux leather upholstery in your choice of either Black or an Oyster/Black combination. You can upgrade to perforated Dakota leather in Magma Red, Mocha, Oyster, or Black, but these options carry a $1,450 surcharge and the upgraded upholstery requires the addition of the $1,650 Convenience package too. In the M235i, you get these leather choices at no charge. Our test car came with Magma Red leather, but in reality, this color is closer to orange than scarlet. The M235i also features M tricolor pinstripes on the seatbelts; a nice touch that hints at its sporting intentions. In terms of trim accents, the days of monotonous, monochromatic materials are gone, and the 2 Series CG boasts illuminated trim panels (not to be confused with the available ambient lighting system) in four designs: Brooklyn, Boston, Berlin, and Nizza. Our car came with Illuminated Boston trims that made it look like actual threads of fabric were lit up. Multiple colors are selectable for this backlighting - Bronze, White, Green, Blue, and Lilac - but our favorite setting was the OG color associated with Bimmers: Orange.
Usually, a four-door coupe features a liftback hatch that makes loading very easy, but the smallest of BMW's Gran Coupes makes use of a traditional trunk lid. Fortunately, the opening is low and wide and maintains BMW's reputation of a larger trunk than you'd expect. The official measurement is oddly precise at 15.19 cubic feet - considerably more than its direct competitors - but what you really need to know is that you can fit two large suitcases in there if you place them correctly. If you need more cargo volume, the rear seats fold manually in a 40/20/40 split.
In the cabin, you get two cupholders up front, some decently-sized door pockets with recesses for bottles, a reasonable glovebox, and a deep center armrest bin. You also get a spot for your phone ahead of the front cupholders while the back of the center rear seat folds down to reveal more storage space and another pair of cupholders.
As standard, you get an impressive list of features that include auto stop/start, power-folding heated wing mirrors, dynamic cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a hands-free trunk release, ten-way power front seats, blind-spot monitoring, remote keyless entry with push-button start, LED headlights with auto high beams, lane departure warning, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, a 10.25-inch configurable driver info display, and rain-sensing wipers. Available features include a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, Comfort Access keyless entry, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, and heated front seats. You can also get adaptive LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, dynamic dampers, wireless charging, and remote start. The M235i gets the aforementioned Comfort Access feature as standard, along with multicolor configurable ambient lighting and launch control.
BMW's infotainment systems have been brilliant for years now, and the latest iDrive 7.0 system is no different. Paired with a 10.25-inch touchscreen display, the system relies on multiple inputs that include the rotary controller in the center console and voice control. Thanks to Apple CarPlay and, at long last, Android Auto too, connecting your phone is easy. We know that these systems work well, but we chose to test the OEM smartphone connectivity system with our iPhone and found that Bluetooth calls were crisp and clear and changing tracks was quick. Navigating the interface is extremely easy and we were impressed with the tactile feel of the physical buttons too. Our tester had the optional 16-speaker Harman Kardon LOGIC7 sound system and the adjustable equalizer allowed us to easily tailor outputs to any genre of music, from Luciano Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma to G-Eazy's I Mean It. If you can't be bothered with that, the standard settings are decent too, and presets are easily switchable. Standard features include a ten-speaker audio system, two USB ports, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and navigation with real-time traffic updates. The nav integrates beautifully with the available head-up display that makes it easy to find your way without taking your eyes off the road. Besides the available audio upgrade, you can also spec wireless charging and gesture control.
Since BMW is only just finding its feet with this model, you may have some concerns about reliability. Fortunately, the 2021 model has thus far been free of any issues and its mechanically identical twin from 2020 has also been totally carefree.
If you still have reservations, the 2 Series GC comes with a basic and a powertrain warranty for the first four years/50,000 miles. You also get complimentary roadside assistance for the same period, as well as three years of scheduled maintenance at no charge.
Thus far, the NHTSA has not completed a review of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe in a crash, but the IIHS gave the 2020 its best possible overall evaluation of Good across six tests and awarded crash prevention measures with favorable results.
As standard, the 2021 2 Series GC features a suite of eight airbags that include dual frontal and side-impact, side curtain, and knee airbags. You also get the obligatory rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors, and rain-sensing wipers. Optional safety add-ons include a head-up display, adaptive LED headlights, and adaptive cruise control. The usual traction and stability management programs are also fitted on all models.
This is a complex question. Is it a good car? Yes. Is it a good BMW? No. It's good because it feels solid, it has striking (if controversial) looks, and it's competitively priced when compared with its direct rivals. It's got loads of attractive features, is pretty light on gas, and provides strong acceleration. However, if you've experienced a "proper" BMW - one with drive to the rear, a straight-six in front, and a manual gearbox in the middle - then the M235i Gran Coupe (and, by extension, the 228i) will be anything but invigorating. The steering is totally numb, the engine is absolutely soulless, and the handling leaves much to be desired. The fact that - as with most other contemporary offerings from various manufacturers - you can't have a manual gearbox only compounds the issues raised here. Nevertheless, we have to commend the 2 GC for its composed ride quality, attractive cabin, generous trunk, and respectable straight-line performance. What this means is that die-hard driving enthusiasts will despise this car, but those who view a car as little more than a status symbol or a tool for transportation will surely love it. We never thought the day would come when we'd say this, but if you take pleasure in driving, better buy the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35.
The base model in the lineup for the US is the 228i xDrive Gran Coupe and it comes with a base price of $37,700 before a $995 destination charge. The range-topping M235i xDrive Gran Coupe is a little pricier, starting at an MSRP of $45,500 before options. Fully loaded with accessories and conveniences, the online configurator's most expensive BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe price works out to $55,645. By comparison, the new Audi S3 will start at $43,000 while Mercedes-AMG's CLA 35 is almost 48 grand.
The range for 2021 consists of two configurations, both with the xDrive designation that denotes an AWD drivetrain: 228i and M235i. Both models are powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-four and make use of an eight-speed automatic transmission, although in the 228i, this unit is less snappy.
The 228-hp 228i is fitted with 17-inch wheels as standard and boasts LED headlights with auto high beams, power-folding and heated wing mirrors, a hands-free trunk release, push-button ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, dynamic cruise control, and ten-way power-adjustable front seats. SensaTec imitation leather adorns the seats and door panels while convenience specs include auto stop/start, front and rear parking sensors, and a 10.25-inch configurable driver info display. This is complemented by a newly standard touchscreen infotainment display of matching size. Key features here include a ten-speaker sound system, Apple CarPlay, and, for the first time, Android Auto.
The M235i is very similar to the 228i but boasts a quicker transmission, along with upgraded brakes, stiffer suspension, and a retuned steering system. Naturally, it produces more power too, with 301 horses under the hood. In addition, it features a launch control function, a Torsen mechanical limited-slip differential, 18-inch wheels, Dakota leather upholstery, configurable multicolor ambient lighting, and keyless entry. Cerium Gray highlights and unique styling accents courtesy of a standard M Sport body kit help it stand out.
The Driving Assistance Package is a new offering for 2021, although its features were previously offered as part of other packages. It costs $950 and adds an automatic parking aid and adaptive cruise control. The Premium Package is also worth considering with its heated front seats and steering wheel, head-up display, and adaptive LED headlights. However, you have to fork out $2,750 for these options on the top trim and $4,550 on the 228i (this is because you also need to spec the $1,650 Convenience package - standard on the M235i - to unlock the above features). Standalone options include remote engine start for 300 bucks, a panoramic sunroof for $1,350, wireless smartphone charging at $500, and gesture control for $190. The attractive M Sport seats cost $750, while the 228i can be enhanced with the Dynamic Handling package for $4,950. This adds numerous M Sport enhancements from the body kit to the brakes and steering wheel. You also get 18-inch wheels, adaptive dampers, gloss black Extended Shadowline exterior trim, and a subtle trunk spoiler. Essentially, it becomes a poverty-spec M235i.
This is a subjective question. The lukewarm (although inoffensive) performance of the 228i deters us from that model. Still, as a runaround with a premium badge, we can't fault it. Nevertheless, for those who enjoy their driving to some degree, it's the M235i that we'd opt for. It's far more affordable than its direct rivals while still providing a fun driving experience, and it looks the part, thanks to its various M Sport upgrades. We wouldn't go too crazy with the options, but we think the Driving Assistance package offers great value, thanks to its useful everyday features of a parking aid and adaptive cruise control. We'd advise against the optional 19-inch wheels as these add a harshness to the ride that is only exacerbated by run-flat tires. Further than that, we'd be happy to keep the options to a minimum, but we may be tempted by wireless charging and the practical head-up display.
The 2021 Audi A3 has not yet been launched domestically, but its hotter brother, the S3, is here with a very similar setup to the M235i. It comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot that produces more power and more torque than the Bimmer: 305 hp and 295 lb-ft of twist. It also comes with a dual-clutch automatic transmission and a front-biased AWD system, but despite its better-performing engine, the 0-60 mph sprint is dispatched a tenth slower than in the M235i with a time of 4.8 seconds. Top speed is the same at 155 mph. In terms of infotainment, you get a slightly smaller 10.1-inch touch display but the plus side is the standard inclusion of a Bang & Olufsen sound system. The mesmerizing 12.3-inch virtual cockpit (digital driver display) outshines the BMW's for sheer size, but both are excellent. We'll have to wait to drive the new S3 before passing judgment, but if you're not in a hurry to buy, it could be well worth the wait.
The CLA Class has a similar setup to its other German rivals in terms of its powertrain, although the base model is a little less powerful than the base 228i. It generates 221 hp and the same torque figure as the Bimmer with 258 lb-ft. However, while both the abovementioned Audi and the two BMW offerings feature AWD as standard, the base CLA 250 is FWD with AWD available for an additional $2,000. Its trunk is also slightly smaller at 11.6 cubes, but the layout of the stunning interior will be enough to make up for that in most buyers' minds. Two seven-inch displays sit aside each other atop the dash, creating a panoramic effect that is simply spectacular. Unfortunately, two 10.25-inch screens like those you get in the Bimmer will make a bigger dent in your checkbook and the standard audio system with its eight speakers isn't quite as impressive as what you get in the 2 Series. Still, as we said earlier, the pricier Merc is worth a test drive if you enjoy being behind the wheel, as the new platform on which it's built is a revelation compared to the old one.