BMW enthusiasts say the German brand has lost its way as the Ultimate Driving Machine, but one model seems to make them eat their words; the BMW 2 Series. Now in its second generation, the 2022 BMW 2 Series continues the legacy started by the 1 Series Coupe back in 2008. Though it's among the most affordable and humble BMW models in the range, it best encapsulates the spirit of the E46 M3 era that many enthusiasts say has fallen by the wayside in recent years.
The second-generation 2 Series arrives as a coupe-only model with two engine options, although a convertible will arrive at a later date. A base 230i model offers a 255-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder sending power to the rear wheels, while the M240i steps it up with a turbocharged inline-six delivering 382 hp to all corners. Much to enthusiast's chagrin, no manual transmission is offered, only an eight-speed automatic, while alternatives like the Ford Mustang give you both. Despite this fact, a brief stint in the M240i showed us that the 2 Series still carries on the E46 legacy. If you want BMW's best at an affordable price, look no further than the new 2 Series.
The G42 BMW 2 Series Coupe is all-new for 2022. Unlike the 2 Series Gran Coupe, this 2 Series is not based on BMW/Mini's front-wheel-drive platform. The coupe soldiers forth as the gods of performance intended, with a turbocharged engine in the front, a driver in the middle, and the power going to the rear wheels (mostly). The base model is equipped with a turbocharged four-pot, while the M Performance model gets an inline-six.
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Our time in the 2022 2 Series was limited to the more powerful M240i xDrive model, but we hope to spend some time in the 230i at a later date. Based on our experience driving the M240i around some picturesque roads near The Thermal Club in Palm Springs, BMW has once again distilled its "Ultimate Driving Machine" essence into its tiniest coupe. While many larger, more powerful M cars feel detached from the driver, the 2 Series takes us back to the simpler times of the E46 M3; except this car is far quicker. Steering hasn't been BMW's strong suit in recent years, but the M240i turns with immediacy while offering more feedback than we've felt in other M Performance cars. In Sport Plus mode, the variable steering feedback gets significantly heavier, causing us to have deja vu from the last M2 Competition we test drove. This is high praise, as BMW's pseudo-M models do not always live up to the greatness set by the fully-fledged M products.
Around town, BMW tuned the M240i's adaptive M suspension to be firm but forgiving, meaning this car is more livable than an M2 Competition. It's stiffer than a 4 Series or 8 Series Coupe, but that's to be expected at this price. We'd say the Audi A3/S3 are the more comfortable and less engaging daily drivers, but BMW has the Mercedes CLA-Class pegged on suspension tuning. Though we didn't have a chance to sample the 230i, we expect it to offer a more compliant ride than the sportier M240i.
When it's time to accelerate, the M240i calls upon one of BMW's greatest creations in the past decade, the B58 inline-six. This 3.0-liter turbocharged engine is found in a variety of BMW models (and the Toyota Supra), but this particular tune is among the best we've sampled. Turbo lag is minimal, and we love hearing the cracks and pops from the exhaust. Thanks to xDrive grip, the 2 Series rockets off the line with zero drama, and continues to pull hard into triple-digit speeds. Thanks to that cool Sprint Mode, it's nearly impossible to catch the transmission off guard for some quick acceleration. Some enthusiasts might scoff that the M240i only comes with AWD rather than tire-shredding RWD, but the system is biased towards the rear and allows for some exciting tail-happy action. The 230i is less exciting in terms of raw speed, but its RWD layout and nearly 50:50 weight distribution should make it a darling for autocross enthusiasts.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
The 2 Series has been among our favorite BMW models since it was first introduced, and this 2022 update has us equally pleased. As the BMW brand continues its shift towards electrification and self-driving luxury cars, the humble 2 Series stands as one of the last bastions for driving pleasure in the lineup. The entry-level 230i offers rear-wheel-drive thrills and coupe styling at an affordable base price, while the M240i manages to undercut its less practical sports car rivals like its Z4 sibling and Toyota Supra cousin. And it does so while offering a rear seat. If we were cross-shopping the Z4 and Supra, we might look right past both for the 2 Series.
As for BMW's main German rivals, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, both are non-threats. Neither Audi nor Mercedes offers an entry-level sports coupe (the TT isn't quite at this level), only front-wheel-drive-based sedans and four-door coupes. Audi and Mercedes may have BMW beat in this category, since the 2 Series Gran Coupe is rather uninspiring, but the 2 Series Coupe proves BMW still believes driving enthusiasts on a budget deserve a fun option. If you're seeking a fun, rear-biased luxury sports coupe with unique styling, a premium interior, and great engines, the 2022 BMW 2 Series exists in a class of one.
Audi moved the A3 Sedan in a more luxurious, environmentally friendly direction with the all-new model. The engine output has been reduced to just over 200 hp, but you get a mild-hybrid assistance system and impressive fuel economy figures. The S3 gives you more performance, but it lacks the drama of a BMW six-cylinder and the rear-biased antics. The Audi's four doors make it more practical, but the Bimmer has a bigger trunk.
These two models have moved in two very different directions, and we no longer consider them direct rivals. That makes answering the question posed in this comparison easier than ever. If you want a comfortable, modern, frugal sedan with good looks, get the Audi. If you're in the market for an engaging drive and will happily sacrifice the practicality that comes with having four doors, get the BMW.
For the price of the M240i, you can get into a 430i with AWD. It's equipped with the same engine as the 230i, however. Still, 255 hp and 295 lb-ft is plenty, and the additional grip of the AWD system gets it from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. The one you want is the 440i, however. Buying a BMW coupe with a six-cylinder engine is a must, but then you'll have to fork over an additional $10,000. The 4 Series also comes with that contentious grille attached to the front. If you are looking at a coupe, there's a good chance practicality is not at the top of your wish list. In that case, you should go for the 2 Series because it's the right size. With cars getting bigger, the 2 Series suddenly feels like all the coupe you could possibly want.
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