By Shari Prymak
The BMW 2-Series represents the entry point to the BMW lineup. It is the brand’s smallest and least expensive model. The Gran Coupe is the latest variant, offering buyers a four-door option that’s based on the front-wheel drive architecture shared with Mini. Although a few BMW fans may gripe over the fact that the 2-Series Gran Coupe does not share the same rear-wheel drive platform as the 2-Series Coupe or other BMW models, it still mostly delivers on the BMW experience.
From a styling point of view, I can see what the critics are on about. Although it does come standard with BMW’s excellent xDrive all-wheel drive system, basing the 2-Series Gran Coupe around the Mini’s front-wheel drive architecture does result in a somewhat awkward design. The overall proportions are just un-BMW like and, to my eyes at least, the design is just not as stylish as other compact luxury sedans, including the larger BMW 3-Series. The M Sport treatment fitted to my 228i test car does help things a bit by adding sporty drizzlings such as an aggressive body kit, attractive wheel design, and large M Sport brakes.
The interior is the more impressive part with an overall look and feel that mimics that of the rest of the BMW lineup. The digital gauge display, touchscreen infotainment system, and switchgear are shared with the most expensive BMW models. The materials feel upscale and the finish is excellent with no obvious signs of cost cutting despite being an entry-level model. The iDrive infotainment system is well designed with excellent graphics and responsiveness. Easy to use buttons remain in place for commonly used features. The only significant drawback to the interior is cramped rear seating with narrow door openings that make entry and exit a bit of pain.
Despite the criticisms for its front drive-based chassis, the 228i GC offers a fairly convincing BMW driving experience. It has an eager playful feel, mostly thanks to a responsive drivetrain that offers plenty of performance. A standard 8-speed automatic transmission pairs to a 2.0L turbocharged engine producing 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The sound it makes is uninspiring, but that’s to be expected from a turbo 4-cylinder. Sport mode sharpens the throttle response while adding weight to the steering for a sportier feel. The M Sport suspension is a worthwhile upgrade for the better body control and cornering performance. Ride quality doesn’t really suffer either with this setup likely thanks to the use of regular tires instead of rock-hard runflats.
The 228i Gran Coupe has a starting MSRP of $42,500. Desirable options, however, quickly increase the price tag north of $50,000, at which point it begins entering 3-Series territory. A more powerful M235i GC is also available with a starting MSRP of $50,900. Rivals include the Mercedes A 220 Sedan, CLA 250 Coupe, Lexus IS 300, and Acura TLX. The 2-Series GC stacks up reasonable well against the alternatives, but it doesn’t offer quite as much style or value as the best in class. The Lexus and Acura have the most to offer at this price point, including a stronger reputation for reliability. For those set on a BMW, the small jump to the 330i Sedan will likely be worthwhile for the additional space, style, and a more authentic BMW experience.