A front-wheel-drive BMW sedan? It's officially here.
The era of front-wheel-drive BMW sedans has officially begun. Meet the 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, an all-new model from the famed German automaker long known for engineering and rear-wheel-drive excellence. But why offer an FWD-based sedan? What's changed? For starters, rival Mercedes has had great success with its FWD-based CLA that's just entered its second generation. There's also the new Mercedes A sedan and Audi A3 sedan, so it's long overdue for BMW to enter this segment.
BMW promises that the 2 Series Gran Coupe delivers everyday usability and space combined with the spirited type of driving we expect from the company. Packed with plenty of connectivity and technology features customers demand these days, the 2 Series Gran Coupe also has a goal to lure in younger buyers with its attractive starting price. But can BMW still build the "Ultimate Driving Machine" without a RWD platform? Needless to say, the 2 Series Gran Coupe has a lot to prove.
If the 2 Series Gran Coupe's styling looks somewhat familiar then you're absolutely right. The vehicle is essentially the sedan version of the also new and overseas-only 1 Series hatchback. For North America, BMW has turned the hatch into a "low-slung, sporty four-door coupe" featuring frameless windows and a wide stance. The slightly angled full-LED headlights, which feature halo daytime running lights, give further attention to the signature kidney grille.
The vehicle's FWD identity is easily noticeable due to the large front overhang. Typically, BMWs, such as the 2 Series Coupe and 3 Series Sedan, have a short front overhang, long hood, and a short rear deck. Obviously this was not transferrable to an FWD platform, but BMW designers did their best to retain a sporty appearance. Perhaps the sedan's best angle is from the rear three-quarter where the roofline meets the shoulder line and flows into the trunk. L-shaped LED taillights are located above the exhaust. There's also an optional panoramic roof. Two trims will be offered, the 228i xDrive and M235 xDrive, each offering unique styling elements.
The overall interior design of the 2 Series Gran Coupe doesn't break any new ground, but neither is it offensive. It's modern BMW through and through. Drivers will be welcomed with an information display screen up to 10.25-inches in size mounted above the center console. There's also an optional full-color 9.2-inch head-up display. In general, this is a driver-focused layout further enhanced with the latest version of iDrive and BMW Live Cockpit with standard navigation, voice control, and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Not all control functions are handled on the touchscreen; some analog dials remain.
All 2 Series Gran Coupes come standard with power sport seats covered in a high-quality black fabric material while a number of leather upholstery colors are optional. Dakota leather, for example, is standard on the M235i xDrive. A sport steering wheel is also standard fare. Illuminated trim is found on both the 228i xDrive and M235i xDrive while ambient lighting can be optioned, though it's standard on the latter. BMW points out buyers can customize the interior lighting using six colors.
A BMW Stereo sound system with 10 speakers and a 205-watt amplifier comes at no extra cost, with the option to upgrade to the 464-watt Harman Kardon surround system with 16 speakers.
The 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is offered in two trims, 228i xDrive and M235i xDrive, each with a different engine. Both models come powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The base model has 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, upgraded to 301 hp and 332 lb-ft for the M235i xDrive. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Only all-wheel drive is available, hence the name "xDrive."
BMW claims 0-60 mph in the 228i is possible in 6 seconds with a top speed of 135 mph, though this increases to 151 mph with optional performance tires. The M235i, thanks to its engine equipped with a reinforced crankshaft, new pistons, connecting rods, a larger turbocharger, and modified fuel injectors, can sprint to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and 4.6 seconds with the optional M Performance Package. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.
Another interesting touch is the inclusion of some i3 technology by way of a near-actuator wheel slip limitation (ARB) system. What this system does is to control wheel slip and improve agility while helping to significantly reduce or eliminate understeer. Working together with a Torsen limited-slip differential, the ARB tech can split power 50:50 between the front and rear on the M235i.
BMW gave the 2 Series Gran Coupe plenty of standard safety features. These include Front Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Active Driving Assistant. The latter is particularly interesting in that it includes the Lane Change Warning system that indicates to the driver to guide the vehicle back onto the correct lane at speeds above 12 mph with a visual warning. If deemed necessary, the system will engage steering input. Additional system functions include route-ahead assistant, rear-collision warning and crossing traffic warning.
Standard Park Distance Control, also standard, features sensors at both front and rear ends that provide visual and acoustic signals to avoid collisions with obstacles on both sides and the rear of the car. A rearview camera, by law, is standard. Parking Assistance Package is optional though many will be compelled to pay extra for it because of its automated parking capabilities. You'll never have to parallel park again using mirrors and your brain.
BMW says official pricing for both the 2020 2 Series Gran Coupe models, the 228i xDrive and M235i xDrive, will be announced closer to launch. This will be happening quite soon because production is due to get underway in November 2019. There's no doubt the 2 Series Gran Coupe will be priced competitively against its main rivals, specifically the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and Audi A3 sedan, which are priced from $36,650 and $33,300, respectively. Another key competitor is the new Mercedes A-Class sedan, which is smaller than the CLA and priced more similarly to the Audi A3. All are built on front-wheel-drive platforms that can accommodate all-wheel drive.
We expect the 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe to be priced from around $33,500 for the 228i xDrive. A fully-loaded M235i xDrive could go for about $45,000.