Before purists cry foul, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that there are probably more qualified automotive engineers in Munich than all of potential BMW owners in India, so being the first front-wheel drive bimmer shouldn’t be offensive, just a new beginning.
Based on similar underpinnings as its country cousin, the Mini, the 2 Series Gran Coupe is different to the 2 Series Coupe which is RWD. Confused? Understandably so. But now that it’s here in India, we have to live with it and it’s not such a bad thing after all. Not the least in this M Sport guise and a delectable Misano Blue paint job that makes even this otherwise awkwardly proportioned fastback sedan look properly sporty.
A new day for Munich
All BMW Gran Coupes have a sloping roofline and the 2 Series isn’t any different, just a bit odd in its side profile. Thankfully, the 18in M Sport wheels help fill out the wheel arches and the dual exhaust pipes around the back, which are real, round off the sporty intentions. It’s the slim taillights that make it look more like a Korean imposter than anything else but BMW has ensured that from the front isn’t mistaken for anything else. While they’re still under control, the kidneys have definitely grown in size but manage to work well with the wedge-shaped LED headlights that have a cutaway barrel shape to individual elements, making it striking overall. The M Sport variant also gets a premium looking satin finish on the louvres and an aggressive front apron that looks the part of “M” badged car...so what if this is only a 220d! Frameless doors add to the style quotient and further aid in the believability factor of this being a “coupe” body style. For now, it’s only the made in India BS6-compliant 220d that breaks cover but BMW has promised a petrol variant very soon.
The good news is that this entry-level diesel engine has gotten so advanced, refined and responsive that you won’t be left wanting more power. 190bhp and 400Nm are strong figures but the 2 Series delivers them in a way that no other diesel in this segment does. Using twin turbochargers, it virtually eliminates any lag, loves to rev to its redline of 5000rpm and gives the 220d a very respectable figure of 7.5secs for the sprint to 100km/hr. Of course, the customary safety warning will remind you to slow down if you cross 80km/hr and will buzz continuously over 120km/hr, giving you existential crisis, especially on an open highway.
The cabin is appropriately modern and teched-up too. Angled towards the driver, the dashboard is beautifully built of soft materials, stitching, knurled bits and heavily bolstered sport seats that hug you more heartily that a mothers embrace! The front seats are also powered and the driver even gets memory function so you always get in the perfect driving position. The thick-rimmed steering with large paddle shifters further the feeling of taking things in your own hands, but even if you do decide to let it to the car, this 8-speed automatic transmission has been tweaked for more smoothness and in comfort mode, the gearshifts are impossible to tell. The large 10.25in infotainment screen is placed low on the dash, angled towards the driver and even raked back a little, maintaining a clear and unblocked view out of the windshield which works amazingly well for the overall ambience and setting the mood of the driver. It gets full touch control, basic gesture control for track changes, volume control etc and even the iDrive control dial on the centre console which gets its own touchpad if you feel like scribbling out phonebook entries or an address to navigate to. Keeping in line with the competition, a voice assistant that wakes up to ‘Hey BMW’ handles mundane tasks and an occasional catty remark if you ask it about fellow German brands. The iDrive dial still works well while you’re driving and don’t want to be bothered by aiming exactly on the touchpoints on the touchscreen but the options are all great and it’s pretty easy to use the system. What’s not so easy is the 10.25in digital instrument cluster, which quite honestly is a mess. The digital rev counter goes up the wrong way and the digital “needle” looks even smaller with album art from the media playback bleeding into the dial space. Absurd. The large central area of the display can only be configured to either show maps, route guidance or off, while every other major bit of information is placed in a tiny row right at the bottom of the display, again making me question the choices BMW made here. Definitely, in need of a re-think, there are better examples of a fully digital instrument cluster out there and just happen to be German as well!
There are, thankfully, plenty of other bits to like about the 2 Series technology and the brilliant ambient lighting has to be at the top of the list. Hidden behind perforated trim bits around the cabin, the patterned surfaces can be illuminated in six different colours and is a whole new take on ambient lighting that is as fresh as it is futuristic. A panoramic sunroof, wireless Apple CarPlay, reversing parking camera and sensors, USB-A in the front and twin USB-C ports at the rear, 10-speaker 205W audio all make you feel like you’re in a more expensive car. Its wireless charging implementation is strange though, hidden behind a plastic cowl, the charging mat itself is sharply angled and was choosy about what size phones it accepts down its hatch. While my iPhone 11 Pro just about made it, the OnePlus 8T with a case just wouldn’t fit. Pro tip: Always keep a charging cable in the car anyway and also, it’s better for the sound quality if you’re transmitting over wired CarPlay. The sound from the hi-fi system is clean and punchy, although the centre imaging is a bit weak and there aren’t any additional controls besides the usual EQ, balance and fader, it doesn’t make you want to upgrade to an aftermarket system either. What is a segment-first here is the acclaimed BMW tech, the reversing assistant, which is an automated steering input process wherein the 220d remembers the last 50mts of its trajectory and back up in exactly the same route, saving you the trouble of parking in a tight spot, in reverse.
Drive me, baby!
But after all, this is a BMW and even though it may be sending power to the wrong set of wheels, the engineers have done everything right in making this a driver’s car. Using a lot of tech inspired by the all-electric i3, the 220d uses ARB (actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation system) to help reign in the typical pitfalls of powerful front-wheel drive cars, like wheelspin, torque steer and early understeer. In actual driving conditions, if you’re at a traffic light with an open road ahead, you will hear the front tires squeal but its markedly more controlled than any other FWD car of similar power and more importantly, the steering responses aren’t corrupted at all. In fact, the directness and sharpness of te front end and the feedback you get from the steering wheel is what set the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe apart from any other car in this segment! It wants you to drive it faster, take more speed into corners and it does reward you with precise turn-in and explosive power that doesn’t feel spiky. The only real criticism I have about this drivetrain is how gruff and coarse it sounds when pushed given the dual exhaust pipes at the back! If you still want to push it, there’s Launch Control on offer as well for the occasional boy racer to surface. Its refinement levels are next-level though, with zero vibration or noise seeping into the cabin, making for a perfect small city runabout all day long. The 8-speed transmission is always quick to respond and the paddles are a joy to use in manual mode. Just wish the instrument cluster made the experience more visually engaging.
Ride quality on the big 18in M Sport wheels isn’t compromised either and the suspension is superbly tuned to soak up most imperfections without any nasty thuds filtering into the cabin and at the same time, keeping the ride flat and sporty. Only the biggest of ruts make you feel a little discomfort under your seat but otherwise, this is the poster boy for ride and handing in a compact, sporty sedan. You might miss the powerslides of a RWD sedan like the 3 Series but with all its tech, cabin panache and M Sport badges, the 220d makes a valiant effort to get as close to that experience as possible and succeeds! You just want to drive it fast, zip into empty spaces even during rush hour and it puts a smile on your face every time.
As expected, rear-seat space is a bit on the premium side, though not uncomfortable. Just don’t make the mistake of hiring a chauffeur to drive you around and you’ll be doing yourself a favour.
Going against the traditional grain of the brand, the 2 Series Gran Coupe breaks new ground in many ways. Its design is distinctively un-BMW like, its drivetrain is the opposite of what the brand professed about for decades and it fits in a niche within a niche. But get behind the wheel and even before driving it, you know it’s all just right. None of the BMW enthusiasm, precision or handling has been compromised and that is what makes the 220d Gran Coupe such a fun little car to drive. And I’m pretty sure to own too!