BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe: First Drive Review
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BMW’s new entry-level sedan promises a “true-blue” experience for the first time buyer. Is the baby Bimmer worth considering, or should you save more for the big boys?
Luxury cars don't have it easy. We build gigantic expectations growing up, dreaming of finally owning and experiencing them in person. Especially because till the time you have enough in the bank to get one, you’d probably be driving a pretty competent car already. And this makes the challenge of making an affordable luxury car even more taxing. Case in point: the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe.
The smallest BMW sedan is also the most affordable diesel in the lineup. And, it has the task of not just scratching your luxury car itch, but also living up to its BMW DNA. Quite a mammoth task. Is the baby Bimmer up for it?
The baby Bimmer is quite rightfully a baby. In terms of size, it is marginally shorter than the Honda City. However, other dimensions are comparable to the Honda Civic. That said, the 2 Gran Coupe belies its size well, and makes quite an impact. The aggressive forward stance and the sharp features borrowed from the 8 Series makes it quite a head turner.
You wouldn’t use terms like ‘budget’ or ‘affordable’ to describe the front. The design announces the arrival of a true BMW. Muscular creases flow downwards from the bonnet into the new protruding grille. Details in the sharp LED headlamps are impeccable — with double barrel LED daytime running lamps and the ‘BMW LED’ inscription. The bumper mimics the 8 Series with crisp creases and lots of vents, adding to the sharpness of the design.
It’s from the side that the 2 Gran Coupe’s small proportions are evident. The short length combined with the coupe-like roofline makes it look small. However, onlookers will be convinced this is a very expensive BMW. The M Sport variant gets a rather delicious set of 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 40 profile rubber. The icing on the cake is the M badge on the fender, which makes the front three quarters look properly sporty.
At the back too, the 2 Series Gran Coupe looks athletic. There is a sharp protrusion at the boot to fill for a spoiler and the rest is tastefully designed as well. Highlight here are the L-shaped tail lamps which are sleek, and look attention grabbing at night. It's again the details of these lights and things lie the dual exhaust tips which makes the 2 Series Gran Coupe feel like a much more expensive car, and not a corner-cut BMW.
This is where you’d usually start seeing corners being cut in an affordable luxury car. We looked and looked, but could not find that corner. And in fact, everywhere we looked, we turned out to be even more impressed. The dashboard layout is in sync with the latest iterations of BMWs. The doors too, both front and rear get frameless windows.
The cabin feels a bit narrow initially, especially with the sunroof shut. More so in the M Sport variant that gets a black roof liner. But the rest of the cabin more than make up for it with its quality. The Sport Seats here in the M Sport variant get adjustable bolstering as well, which helps most drivers get a snug fit. And the memory function not only records the seats, but also the ORVM placement for a one button adjustment for a couple of drivers.
The driver’s display is a 12.3 inch digital panel which has a lot of information available at a glance, You can toggle between various menus including a G-meter, audio tracks or the trip and fuel information — displayed on the right half of the screen. The other layouts are fixed and can be switched off for a more focused drive experience.
The quality of materials in the cabin is genuinely premium. Every surface you are supposed to touch feels rich. Bits such as the soft leather wrap on the steering, the tactile feedback of the steering-mounted controls and paddle shifters, smooth leather door pads and the door handles, all feel premium. The leather on the seats too feels like you are getting your money's worth. There are hard plastics lower down in the cabin, but you would hardly ever reach there with your hands. If we had to nitpick, we’d say the cap on the 12V socket felt rather budget.
Attention to detail is also spot on. Take the rubber padding for the wireless charger tray for instance, or the texture and tactile feedback of the dials on the centre console. The glovebox too opens with a controlled release and is lined with a soft cloth to add premiumness. And then, when the sun goes down, the patterns on the silver accents of the dashboard and the door pads light up in detail. The orange backlight compliments the other areas of the cabin as well, like the AC display between the vents, the backlights of the buttons and the light over the wireless charger tray.
Infotainment And Features
Infotainment experience is excellent with a 10.25 inch touchscreen display which also takes inputs from the dial in the centre console, and 6 pre-defined gesture controls which work really well. While it's easier to control the volume with the steering itself than to rotate the finger, the mute with V-shape of the fingers is quite handy.
The touchscreen has a bright and crisp display with menus and graphics laid out for an easy operation. Wireless Apple CarPlay is available with support coming for Android Auto in the near future. The 205W, 10-speaker sound system is more than enough to keep the audiophile in you happy.
Other features include a panorama glass sunroof, 40:20:40 split rear seat backrest, ambient lighting with six dimmable designs and dual zone climate control. But at this price point I cannot help but wish the 2 Series at least came with ventilated seats. a heads up display and front parking sensors and keyless entry if not a 360 degree camera.
The rear seats of the 2 Series Gran Coupe are practical. They have space to accommodate an average sized adult with just enough knee and leg room. The headroom is compromised with the coupe roofline. BMW has carved out a few extra milimetres of headroom by scooping out the headliner, but it’s far from ideal for taller occupants.
Seating three is not a wise option given the narrow width of the cabin and the large transmission tunnel. Plus, while the side passengers get scooped out backrests, the centre passenger will have to deal with the armrest as his backrest. The seat back too feels a bit too upright for all the rear passengers. Overall, the seats feel ideal for kids and early teeangers, while the parents take the front seats.
The 430-litre boot space offered in the 2 Series Gran Coupe is about the same as you get in smaller premium sedans. It is ample for a family’s luggage for a weekend trip but don't expect it to hold large items. The spare wheel, a space saver, sits below the boot floor and eats into quite a bit of space.
Safety features include the usual six airbags, Attentiveness Assistance, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Brake Assist, ARB technology (actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation system), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) including Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), and ISOFIX child seat mounting.
And then there is a fancy feature as well: the Reversing Assistant which keeps a record of the steering inputs of the last 50 metres, and repeats the same in reverse to get out of a tricky situation with ease.
Engine And performance
BMW is only offering the 2.0-litre diesel engine at the moment. A petrol engine will be added to the lineup later. This BMW 220 d paired with an 8-speed torque converter makes 190PS of power and a hefty 400Nm of torque. These are the most powerful figures in the segment for a diesel. The upcoming Mercedes A-Series limousine will feature a less powerful 1.5-litre diesel. It's quick too, with a claimed 0-100kmph sprint time of 7.5s and a top speed of 235kmph. But that's not what you notice first when you press the start button.
No, the first thing you notice is the refinement of the engine. The motor starts up with a bit of a buzz and then just settles down like a petrol. Outside the car, you will notice it is a diesel, but the cabin insulation means inside you barely hear or feel anything at ideal. Just enough feedback to know the engine is running, that’s all. It even revs freely and could be mistaken for a petrol by your passengers.
Slot it into D and the creep function feels just right. It's smooth and picks up pace calmly. This will be a boon in the bumper to bumper traffic. Going on the throttle then feels seamless as well. In fact, in comfort mode, the 2 Series Gran Coupe feels perfectly tame to take on city duties. Gear changes happen at around 1800-2000rpm and are fairly quick. Push it for overtakes however and the downshifts do take a moment. But after that, there is ample torque to complete the maneuver. In Eco Pro mode, the throttle response feels a little too dull and the downshifts feel lazier.
In the mood for some fun? Switch over to Sport and watch the revs rise, throttle become sharper and the steering becomes heavier. The brain of the 2 Series now lets the transmission cling on to the gear up to 3500rpm so you always have power on tap. Put the foot down and the car accelerates with a purpose. Overtakes are made easily and you have to keep an eye out as the 2 Series reaches triple digit speeds in no time. The engine redlines close to 5,000 rpm and the pull is strong until 4,000 -- and it won’t feel particularly stressed either. The downshifts in the Sport Mode feel a bit harsh, but the upshifts still feel snappy. The engine refinement, and especially the performance in the Sport mode does feel like a proper BMW.
Ride And Handling
One look at the 2 Series Gran Coupe M Sport and you’d feel it would break your back. The low stance, 18-inch wheels with low profile tyres and 225/40 R18 wheels make you think there's not much give to the suspension. But there’s a surprise in store. The ride quality is rather plush. The 2 Series goes over imperfect roads with a sense of comfort. With independent rear suspension, it's easy for the car to maintain composure while one of the wheels deals with a particular undulation. While you do feel the surface, it's well cushioned and won’t let the harshness bother passengers. And this happens very silently as well.
Go over a bump and the experience is not so silent. There is a reaffirming thud, reminding you of its German origins. The ride however still remains well cushioned. What you need to be very careful of are the tyres and rims. Low profile, sports car rubber in road cars could mean sidewall cuts. Ensuring you are running the right tyre pressures will be all the more important. Slow down for a pothole and the 2 Series will take it with a stride, and a thud. Another admirable quality of the sedan is its ability to protect its belly. The front lip does scrape the occasional parking lot, but the belly barely scraped on any of Pune’s ‘table-top’ speed breakers. Also, with its smaller dimensions, it's surprisingly easy to maneuver in crowded cities as well.
Unlike the 3 Series, the 2 here is a front wheel drive car. Hence, it's not going to be as sharp as its older cousin. But for a front wheel drive car, this does stand true to its BMW DNA. The steering wheel feels precise and it's easy to know what the wheels are doing. It even turns in sharply and manages to hold the line. The balance even lets you correct the line mid-corner, which is a big compliment to a front wheel drive sedan. We’d recommend swapping out the Bridgestone tyres, though — they shriek in protest quite early, and don’t really do justice to the 2’s cornering capabilities.
Starting from Rs 39.3 lakh for the Sport Line and Rs 41.4 lakh (ex-showroom) for the M Sport variant, the 2 Series is asking for more money than the Skoda Superb, which offers a lot more in every department, sans the luxury badge.
The price of the 2 Series is also close to the BMW X1, a potent luxury SUV. And if you open your wallet just a little more, you can have the 3 Series, a much larger sedan with more features and presence. Currently, the 2 Series enjoys being the only car in its class, as the Mercedes A-Series Limousine and the updated Audi A3 are yet to arrive.
With the 2 Gran Coupe, you’d have to live with a rather average rear seat, and let go of a few premium features. Compact dimensions overall mean it will look small parked next to a compact SUV. So if you equate price to size, the baby Bimmer might seem a bit underwhelming.
If you intend on hanging on to the car for long, it’s worth considering flexing your wallet a little more, and eyeing the 3 Series. If you are willing to trade some more features for ground clearance and an SUV body style, there’s the X1 to consider too.
But if the youngster in you wants to dip his toes in the luxury market, only to update to a larger, midsize luxury car in the near future - when the kids grow up - the 2 Series Gran Coupe makes a solid case for itself. And it does so by not cutting any corners in offering you the “luxury car” experience. The looks will get people envious, the cabin quality is excellent, and the ride suits Indian roads (and tastes) too. To top it off the engine refinement and performance live up to BMW standards. It will feel like a properly expensive luxury car, especially to the first time lux-car buyer.