After years of not having an answer to Mercedes-Benz and their popular new category of sub-executive saloon sized four-door coupe, the CLA Class, BMW have bided their time and waited to pounce once their 1 Series moved to a new (and controversial) front-drive FAAR platform.
This is the 2 Series Gran Coupe, not the ‘1’, and this dissonance only adds to the confusion due to the coupe (and M2) seemingly very happy to remain the RWD driver-focused instrument it always was. Meanwhile, since 2014, the 2 Series Gran Tourer and Active Tourer leapfrogged the rest of the BMW line-up, piggybacking the FWD architecture usually reserved for MINIs well before anything else from Munich got the chance.
Through this lens, the addition of a new swoopy saloon that is ostensibly a 1 Series with a boot rather than anything resembling a four-door 2 Series Coupe only serves to muddy the waters further. Still, one could argue that BMW needed a direct rival to the CLA-Class, a car that has only grown stronger on all fronts in its recent generational step.
At this point, it’s no secret that the CLA Class sells well mostly due to its looks and lifestyle appeal, with any improvements made by AMG to hone its dynamics being pleasant bonuses to the package, adding a layer of icing on what is already a well mannered car on the road, if not a pack leader. Looks, therefore, subjective and shallow as it may be, is an area in which BMW needed to match or exceed their Stuttgart rivals.
In this writer’s opinion, the C118 CLA Class possesses a far better resolved exterior compared to the new 2 Series Gran Coupe, which looks like they’ve grafted an X4’s rear end onto a 1 Series hatch. Ironically, in the China-only 1 Series Sedan, a much better design was put into production about 2 years ago, constructed upon very similar front-drive underpinnings.
That aside, the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s spec sheet reads nearly identical to that of the F40 1 Series, though without the larger 430-litre cargo space behind its rear 40/20/40 split seats. Variants announced at launch begin with the 218i followed by the 220d and the hot M235i.
At the bottom of powertrain totem is the B38 1.5-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder generating 103kW and 220Nm, accompanied by the sole turbodiesel the that utilises a B47 2.0-litre four-cylinder to extract a much punchier 140kW and 400Nm. Topping things off is a B48 2.0-litre turbo-petrol with 225kW and 450Nm, which the M235i also augments with xDrive for all-paw traction.
With the exception of the 218i (which uses a dual-clutch unit), all engines are mated to an 8-speed torque converter sourced from Aisin. In its most potent all-wheel drive form, the car needs just 4.9 seconds to accelerate to 100km/h from rest. Top speed is limited to a gentlemanly 250km/h.
BMW says that the 2 Series Gran Coupe was conceived to be more appealing to a younger audience - one that is ‘design-focused’ but who are also particular about driving dynamics. Like the 1 Series, the company is adamant about improving car’s handling and responsiveness in spite of its move away from a rear-wheel drive layout.
While all variants can theoretically be fitted with the M Sport package, it’s the range-topping M235i’s addition of Launch Control, tauter suspension, and a Torsen limited slip differential that stand any chance of elevating the experience behind the wheel. It’s also the only version to receive twin tailpipes and the three-dimensional mesh design within the now-engorged kidney grilles, if that’s your poison.
Inside, the overall layout and aesthetic is more or less a carbon copy of the F40 1 Series with which it already shares so much. The ergonomics, dashboard, trim, seats, and general packaging are a big improvements over their previous generation family of cars while retaining its uncomplicated motif.
The central touchscreen is clearly the focal point, sporting the newest iDrive control interface with BMW Operating System 7.0 software, spilling over to the fully digital instrument cluster also available in their more expensive cars such as the 3 Series and 5 Series. Depending on trim level selected, a smattering of satin finished chrome and piano black inserts litter the cabin and its leather/Alcantara surfaces.