BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe First Drive Review: A front-wheel drive thriller!
Based on a Mini platform, BMW's new 2 Series Gran Coupe is your entry into the world of German luxury. But can a front-wheel drive BMW deliver the Thrill of Driving?
The big three German premium carmakers have always been trying to extend their customer base by offering better products of entry level luxury. On that front, the latest car to arrive on our shores, is the all new 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe. This will be BMW’s most affordable car on the Indian market and a great stepping stone to those who’ve always aspired to own a Bimmer sedan, sitting comfortably below the 3 Series. But it’s very different from the 3 in many ways, chief among which is the architecture. We’ve all come to know and love BMW sedans for their longitudinally mounted engine and rear-wheel drive layout (four wheel drive in the case of some of their newer M cars), but the 2 Series Gran Coupe gets a transversely mounted engine and front-wheel drive drive setup, essentially a Mini platform, like on the X1. What using this platform does is make the car more affordable, spacious and to a certain extent practical too. Does all this take away from the driver focused experience that almost every BMW sedan has offered till date?
The 2 Series Gran Coupe is an all new model in the BMW lineup and the styling, among other things is what they hope will set it apart from most of it’s competitors, as it offers plenty of stylish resemblance to it’s bigger siblings the 4 and 8 Series Gran Coupes. It looks like good from any angle you look at it from. And thankfully, it doesn’t have the bling bling grill upfront as this car is designed for the more sophisticated European and American markets, rather than China. You do get BMWs latest design of the kidney grill, which is what dominates the front of this car. It gives the 2 Series Gran Coupe a nice aggressive stance. It also compliments the raked back headlight nicely which has nice double-barrel LED detailing, reminiscent of the Z4 sports car on BMW’s line up. The aggressive design language continues on the bumper, which is similar to that seen on recent BMWs like the 8 Series, giving it a very premium touch.
Things get interesting when you walk over to the side of the 2 Gran Coupe. The roofline is flowing, going with the Coupe in the name and it ends in a fastback like rear, sloping down sharply. It reminds you a little of the some of BMW’s GT cars like the 3 and 5-series GTs to be more precise. Frameless doors allow a lower roof and clean looking overall silhouette. Things at the rear however, are very new and very funky. The 2 Series Gran Coupe gets very modern and sporty looking rear end. It features a variation of BMW’s ‘L’-shaped LED taillights, which has now become a signature design element on all their latest cars. Dual tip exhausts go well with the busy design of the rear. Overall the design is pleasing and should appeal plenty to the younger audience it’s targeted at, a lot of whom will be first time BMW owners. It looks especially good in this Misano blue shade of our test car, which is exclusively available on the M sport variant, which also gets bigger 18 inch wheels, compared to 17’s on the lower Sportline variant.
This may the most affordable BMW on sale in India, but you’d never say that on getting into the cabin. It feels just as nicely put together and premium as any other car in BMWs India line up. Yes, it is narrower and a bit tighter than the 3, but like most BMWs, the driving position is just spot on, you feel one with the car, sitting nice and low. Seat comfort too is excellent, with plenty of adjustments to find just the right spot for you. The large front seats offer great side support and the cushioning strikes a nice balance between comfort and snugness, holding you in place nicely.
What makes the experience even better on the inside is that everything you touch is of high quality. There’s nothing to complaint about in terms of quality, since everything you look at and touch is of high quality — metal, fabric, leather and plastic. Right from leather-wrapped steering with its aluminium frame and thick rim feel great to hold. The aluminium paddles behind the wheel top notch and like they’ve been borrowed from more expensive models in the line up. BMW’s 10.25-inch digital instrument panel at the front is also on par with their more expensive models. The iDrive touchscreen is bright, high resolution and slick to use, with just the right shortcut keys having physical buttons on the centre console, making it super easy to navigate through the system. You do get all your usual bells and whistles, including wireless Apple car play connectivity and wireless charging. The features-and-safety list is extensive, as you would expect from any BMW The air-con vents and buttons that surround it are shared with the new 3 Series, which again tells you that BMW has cut no costs in construction of this cabin and quality levels are very good. So the 2 Series Gran Coupe is a proper BMW on the inside and out, even feels and functions like one, but the big question is, does it drive like one? Especially since it’s front wheel drive...
Engine and Performance
The 2 Series Gran Coupe is being offered in India with the tried and tested two litre diesel engine. It’s the same unit under the bonnet of the 320d and in the same state of tune, so has a fair amount of grunt. 187bhp to be precise and remember, this car is lighter, smaller car than the 3, which results in properly quick performance right off the block. 100kmph comes up in a claimed time of 7.5 seconds from a standstill with the aid of launch control. There’s plenty of torque steer you can feel when accelerating hard, but its all well controlled thanks to the Actuator Contiguous Slip Limitation system that comes on this front-wheel driven BMW and helps reduce wheel spin. Go past the three digit mark and there’s no let-up in performance either, you know only realise the speed once you hear the continuous gong which stays on past 120 km/hr. The claimed top speed is 235 km/hr, so there’s definitely plenty of performance on tap. The engine feels refined at low to medium revs, while it does go freely past 4,000 rpm, that’s when it reminds of it being an oil burner. Low-speed grumble is a lot more subdued, but where the real strength of this engine lies is the super punchy midrange, which gives you the perfect amount of drive, every time you flex your right foot. It does have a mighty 400Nm of torque on tap too, available from low down in the rev band. This should help in fuel efficiency, it also helps the power delivery be less spikey and more linear. Part of this could be down to the way the Euro 6 tuning norms dictate things, since combustion is smoother this way. BMW has even equipped the 2 Series Gran Coupe with a new and improved version of its 8-speed gearbox that’s smooth and quick. Irrespective of which mode you drive in, shift quality is absolutely top notch, both in terms of how quickly it shifts and its refinement. So, if it’s typical diesel performance you want, this engine-gearbox package is unlikely to disappoint you, offering a very strong package we’ve come to know and love from BMWs.
But the big difference in comes in the way it handles. To answer the question that’s probably been on your mind since you started reading this piece, no it’s no 3 Series when you show it a set of corners. But how can it be like the 3 or any other sedan from the BMW line up? No front-wheel-driven car can drive like a rear-wheel drive, not even the brilliant engineers at BMW who make arguably some of the most involving cars to drive can manage to pull off that feat. And, in that way, you need to get your mind around the fact that the 2 Series Gran Coupe is fundamentally different from other BMWs. But that’s not to say the 2 Series Gran Coupe is bad handler, far from it in fact. As long as you don’t drive it and expect it to react a rear wheel drive car to, this little BMW manages to keep a smile plastered on your face. There’s a very nice heft to the steering at low and medium speeds, without it feeling heavy at any point. This weighs up nicely with speed, giving you great feedback as to what the front wheels are up to. It’s confidence inspiring and very stable as you go through corners, something we’ve always loved about BMW cars in the past. Fortunately this hasn’t changed with the front wheel drive layout, it still feels nice and connected. It’s still a lot of fun and very BMW in the way it handles. Point it into a corner and it will follow precisely the line you intend to take. You won’t run into any sort of understeer (as long as you aren’t doing something ridiculously stupid on the road) for which the engineers at BMW must be commended.
But ultimately, putting the power down and steering the car is one of the the biggest limiting factor of the driving experience on a front wheel driven car. And though BMW have given it a great shot with the 2 Series Gran Coupe, I surely still missed the purity of steering feels that a rear wheel drive chassis gives you, especially when you drive harder. It can’t quite turn in as fluidly as a 3-series would, nor can it give you that little hint of the tail coming out as you exit the corner. In fact, as you power out of a sharper corner especially, the enormous amount of torque going to the front wheels at times overpowers the tyres, resulting in the traction control kicking in. But hunting for the ultimate driving experience would be missing the point of the stylish and even to an extent practical 2 Series Gran Coupe.
It even has ride quality which isn’t on the stiff side, unlike BMWs from the past. It would be easy to assume that since the 2 Series Gran Coupe is a compact car, BMW would have wanted to make it ride in a sporty sort of way. But the engineers have managed to make it as fun to drive as possible, while finding a nice balance between ride comfortable, being silent and nicely damped even over our poorly paved roads. The damping is great, settling down almost instantly even after hitting a bump on the road, making the ride very pliant over most road surfaces. This despite our test car in the M sport trim running on big 18-inch wheels and low profile tyres, which is good news for all its potential. One can only imagine that the Sportline trim running on 17’s with slightly taller tyres will be better.
Space and Practicality
Things are pretty good in the back seat as well, the 2 Series Gran Coupe isn’t as cramped, as might seem from the outside. The rear doors are a bit on the smaller side, which means getting in and out of the back seats requires some effort. But once you get yourself settled, there’s enough room at the back for two. Three, however, would be a tight squeeze. It isn’t as wide as a 3 Series, but rear legroom is sufficient, and headroom is good enough. You will hit your head on the roof at the back if you are taller than say six feet, but what nice is that the backrest recline is comfy and the rear seats are set higher than the the front, so visibility all round is pretty good, giving you a better sense of space. Under thigh support could have been better, which means it won’t be great over long journeys. In terms of equipment, you get two air conditioning vents, but there’s no separate climate control zone back here. You do, however, get two charging outlets. The boot is of decent size, with 430 litres of space. The seats can be folded to accommodate more luggage if necessary.
It’s safe to say that you’ll have enjoy driving the 2 Series Gran Coupe in almost any conditions and it does deliver a proper BMW driving experience. It works well on many levels, giving you the option on an entry level sedan in the BMW range, if you aren’t able to stretch your budget up to the 3 Series. It’s also great for first time buyers of the German luxury car maker, who will be getting a brilliantly engineered car with very contemporary looks. It delivers the driving experience only a BMW can offer (as long as you don’t expect it to drive like a rear wheel drive), with strong performance from the Diesel engine. Ride quality that is pretty sorted and practicality which is more than acceptable. Priced at ₹41 lakh (for the M Sport variant, the Sport line costs Rs 39.3 lakh) it sits on par with entry level variants of the 3 Series. That said, it does most things right, especially ensuring that you have a smile, ever time you get behind the wheel. And if that’s what you value more than the anything, the 2 Series Gran Coupe could just be the right BMW for you.