The all-new 2020 228i Gran Coupe is a four door “coupe” built on a front-drive platform.
The 2-series was first released in 2013 as the successor to the 1-series coupe. Both the 1 and 2 series are very crucial lineups keeping BMW enthusiasts happy as the 3-series grew bigger and softer. The 2-series held the torch for small lightweight rear wheel drive BMWs. Without these offerings, the enthusiast community would all be crying over the loss the signature BMW driving dynamics. Now, the new 2020 BMW 228i Gran Coupe has arrived, with some bold changes.
With the debut of this model, the enthusiast community may be losing the only remaining small, two door rear-drive coupe in BMW’s lineup. The all-new 2020 228i Gran Coupe is a four door “coupe” built on a front-drive platform with optional xDrive. Enthusiasts were already up in arms when the announcement was made, but this week we have the car to determine if there is a need for concern. Has BMW forgotten its roots and lost its way by moving away from the RWD platform?
Before we dive into the more technical aspect, let’s talk about the looks. Changing to a front wheel drive platform has allowed BMW to design a more user friendly vehicle with more space and usability. This sacrifices some freedom for designers to keep the car low and sleek like the outgoing 2-series (reviewed here). The profile is very different from what we expect from BMW coupes. Gone are the low slung and long nose, instead the new Gran Coupe has a shorter front end with more front bumper overhang and taller fenders. The basic shape resembles a more pedestrian compact sedan rather than a sports coupe.
However, BMW designers have done an excellent job in molding a sedan into a sleek Gran Coupe. In the front, the halo LED headlights are slightly angled from a more aggressive front and elongates the front end. The roofline is stretch and flows low into upward sweeping shoulder line. The L-shaped full LED taillights are placed high and stretched wide to create a wider visual stance. Our tester comes in the M sport trim with high gloss kidney grills and dark shadow finish for the rear diffuser. BMW was able to take a pedestrian platform and mold it into a sleek and athletic four-door.
Unlike the exterior, the interior is has a distinct BMW feel to it. It is a sporty and modern design with clean lines. The center console has a simple button layout without looking cluttered. The iDrive system is controlled with a rotary dial next to the shifter. A 10.25-inch infotainment screen is nicely integrated into the design instead of looking like an afterthought. Touchscreen capability enhances the great usability of the system. Ambient lighting, various grain materials and contrast seams all add to the premium feel of the interior.
Keeping the driver informed is a high resolution digital display cluster enhancing the advanced and modern vibe of the interior. The 228i Gran Coupe has excellent interior space thanks to its change in mechanical layout. The rear legroom nearly equals the bigger 3-series. The 430 liters of trunk space can be expanded with 40/20/40 split folding seats for excellent usability. The excellent cabin space upholstered with supple Dakota leather makes the 2-series a welcome place to soak up some miles or tear up some winding roads.
When the 2-series Gran Coupe was announced with a transverse mounted engine, there was a lot of noise and concerns about how this change would impact the handling characteristics. It is a very different feel from the traditional rear-drive layout, but still handles like a proper sports car as you would expect from any BMW product. BMW has showcased a lot of their chassis tuning magic in the new 228i. A mix of materials ensures weight is kept low and rigidity high with bracing in key areas to enhance chassis rigidity. Poise and dynamic capabilities are excellent and enhanced with the M-package that reduces ride height by 10mm.
Optional dynamic dampers also drivers to have the best of both worlds, and stopping power is helped by bigger brakes on the M-Package car as well. The all-wheel-drive system’s torque split is constantly varied depending on throttle and steering position, engine torque and speed for a maximum 50/50 split front and rear. BMW has deployed various systems such as ARB (Actuator wheel slip limitation system) and BMW performance control for yaw distribution to ensure the car lives up to the expectation of enthusiasts. The result is a balanced and high grip machine that rockets you through corners, though with a distinct front-drive feel.
The 228i is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 228 horsepower from 5,000 to 6,000RPM and 258 lb-ft. of torque from 1,450 to 4,500 rpm. The torque is put to the ground through an eight-speed sport automatic transmission and the xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive system. This powertrain is still capable of a 0 to 100 km/h time of 6.1 seconds. The steering mounted paddle-shifter adds to the drama with responsive and snappy shifts.
Despite being a performance oriented powertrain with all-wheel drive, efficiency is excellent with highway rating of 7.2L/100km, 10.2 L/100km city and a combined 8.8 L/100km. During our week of testing we observed a fuel consumption average of 10.3L/100km with mainly city driving and a lot of spirited sprints. The 228i Gran Coupe really is a great balance between performance and efficiency.
Being a BMW premium product, the 228i demands a premium price. It starts with a base price of $42,500, while our tester rings in at an as tested price of $53,395. There are two packages equipped on the tester, first being the Premium Excellence Package at a hefty $8,750. This package fully loads the car up with all the amenities and premium equipment, including a Harman/Kardon sound system, heads up display, adaptive LED headlights, perforated Dakota leather, M suspension, active cruise control, and much more.
The second package is the M Sport Plus Package with adds M sport brakes, 19-inch wheels and performance tires. The natural competition to the BMW 228i is the Mercedes Benz CLA 250 4MATIC (reviewed here). Both cars are very similar in performance and mechanical layout. Pricing is virtually identical as well, with the Mercedes having a starting price of $43,000 and similarly equipped at $52,950. A more detailed comparison of between the two cars can be found here.
The new 2020 BMW 228i Gran Coupe is an excellent vehicle which erases some of the concerns from the enthusiast in me. Its handling dynamics are excellent and the car is extremely capable. However I do find that losing the rear-drive dynamics is still a significant concern for the success of this vehicle. It leaves me to wonder what reason is there for me to choose the 228i at hefty price tag of $53,395. With the same amount of money, one can choose to buy a much higher performance Cadillac CT4-V with 325hp and 380 lb-ft of torque and same luxury interior. It’s a good car in a vacuum, but when the competition at this price point is seen, it becomes difficult to recommend the 228i.