Review: 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Is Coming for You, CLA and A3
Buyers who say, “I just want the cheap BMW” are about to get a huge upgrade. When the 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe goes on sale in the first half of 2020, buyers who crave a luxury badge but eschew crossovers like the X1 and small coupes like the current 2 Series will find a car that better meets their automotive needs. The front-drive-based 2 Series Gran Coupe introduces tons of new buyers to the BMW brand, and we’ve already driven it in prototype form.
First off, we know what you’re thinking: No, BMW will not offer the pretty blue and purple camouflage as an option on the production car. What a shame. Under that colorful wrap, the 2020 2 Series Gran Coupe’s got some style. Especially from the side and rear-side views; it’s a good look for a car that will likely start below $40,000. If you’re trying to figure out what’s under that camo in back, imagine incredibly long X6-like taillights stretching underneath that pronounced trunklid lip (this is a sedan, not a hatch), with the license plate area pushed down. The hood is a bit too high and the dual-opening grille is too large for a sleek look up front, but no one will confuse your car for a Toyota or Chevy.
We had limited time in two all-wheel-drive prototypes, a 2020 228i xDrive Gran Coupe and a 2020 M235i xDrive Gran Coupe (AWD is standard on U.S. models). Even after 60 minutes, it wasn’t tough to tell the two models apart, and not just from the 228i’s less powerful engine (expect around 230 hp, and around 302 hp for the M235i). The 228i feels powerful enough in most driving situations, but the body roll and lighter overall feel distinguish the 228i from the more planted M235i. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; some enthusiasts prefer a bit of roll as they drive down a winding road.
Where I definitely prefer our M235i Gran Coupe prototype is its heavier and quicker-ratio steering. BMW tells us the 228i with a sport package will feel more like the M235i. No 228i Gran Coupe will accelerate like an M235i, however, or sound like one: The latter model should accelerate to 60 mph in just under 5.0 seconds and will have a louder exhaust in the U.S. than it will in Europe. When we spend more time with the 2020 2 Series Gran Coupe in the U.S., we’ll pay attention to the eight-speed automatic’s behavior, as we caught it sleeping in the 228i a couple times during some aggressive driving.
Although we didn’t have a chance to test the engineers’ claim that the M235i can drift a little (“we made sure [it can]”), we can tell you the all-wheel-drive system sends up to 50 percent of its torque to the rear and defaults to the front most of the time. The biggest challenge the engineering team faced, we’re told, was reducing understeer and making the car feel like a real BMW.
What defines “real BMW” is different for everyone. If it’s a premium interior, the 228i Gran Coupe and M235i Gran Coupe should earn a passing grade. We spent some time with the mechanically related 1 Series hatch and—while keeping in mind where the 1 and 2 Series fit into the BMW universe—appreciated some of the details. As for the 2 Series Gran Coupe, once you open the frameless door and step inside, you’ll find surprisingly good rear visibility. For a small car, it provides a decent amount of rear-seat legroom (cars with sport seats carve out some space for your knees). With that sloping roofline, you’ll have to watch your head, but BMW had your back (er, head); the engineering team said it fought for every millimeter of headroom back there.
Wherever you’re sitting, know that this car was designed with Americans’ interests in mind, as the U.S. is expected to be the model’s single largest market. More time behind the wheel of finished cars will give us a fuller impression of the 2 Series Gran Coupe, but our brief, early exposure to sport-trim prototypes reveals a car that should please realistic buyers seeking a true Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA/A-Class competitor from BMW.
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