BMW has always been known as a car company with only rear-wheel-drive and, more recently, all-wheel-drive vehicles. But BMW seems to have finally given in and introduced their newest model – the 2020 BMW 228i Gran Coupe – with a front-wheel-drive biased powertrain. So the question is, is this still an “Ultimate Driving Machine”?
Engine – Before we get to how the power gets delivered to the ground, let’s talk a bit about the gem under the hood. The base engine is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. For a base engine, this one is really good. Throttle response is immediate in Sport+ mode with peak torque surging in at just 1,450 rpms. Peak power is reached once the rpm needle hits 5,000. Although the 228i Gran Coupe tips the scales at a little over 1,600 kg, 0-100 km/h gets done with in just 6.1 seconds. A very respectable time for what is the least expensive BMW in their fleet right now. If you’re wanting for more power though, there is a 235i Gran Coupe with 301 hp & 332 lb-ft of torque. This is the same engine that is found in the Mini JCW Countryman, and I had a great time with that little crossover.
The 2020 BMW 228i Gran Coupe is rated for 7.2 L/100km (32.6 mpg) on a highway and 10.2 L/100km (23.1 mpg) in a city. Unfortunately premium fuel is recommended. In the real world, I managed to achieve 9.3 L/100km (25.3 mpg) over a roughly 400 km drive cycle while I had the car.
Transmission – The only transmission available with the 228i Gran Coupe is an 8-speed automatic. The only option you have is whether you want steering wheel mounted paddles or not. In everyday driving, the transmission is barely noticeable as shifts between gears is buttery smooth. Best of all because it’s a traditional automatic, it is smooth to set off from a stop unlike the dual-clutch transmission in the CLA 250.
Braking – This particular BMW 228i came fitted with the optional M-Sport Plus Package which included 19-inch wheels and M-Sport 4-piston brake calipers on the front axle. These brakes provide a firm brake pedal feel and while they can feel a bit overly grabby when cold, the brake modulation does become easier as the discs warm up after a few repeated uses. Automatic emergency braking is standard on the 2020 BMW 228i Gran Coupe.
Handling – The 2-series coupe & convertible are rear-wheel-drive based vehicles. This new 228i Gran Coupe has a front-wheel-drive biased powertrain that is shared with the BMW X1, X2, and Mini Countryman. Although with this 2-series you can’t go powersliding, it is still a fun car to drive around corners. The steering is very communicative and quick to driver inputs. The 228i also benefits from ARB (Actuator-related wheel slip limiter) which uses the brakes to mimic a mechanical limited slip differential. The result is a neutral feeling when driving around corners without much in the way of understeer. The M235i Gran Coupe though does receive a real limited slip differential. But even with this “fake” limited slip programming, the 228i with xDrive is a joy to drive around twisty roads.
Ride Comfort – Like many BMW models, the 228i Gran Coupe has a firmer ride than the competitors in this class. Dynamic dampers are available but this press vehicle did not have that option fitted to it. Instead, this car came equipped with the M-Sport suspension which is a bit stiffer than the standard suspension and lowers the car by 10 mm. Despite the stiffer shocks, the ride of the 228i Gran Coupe is bearable even through pothole riddled city cores. If you are looking for something more comfortable, go for the Mercedes CLA 250.
Interior Space – The front seats have plenty of adjustments for people of different heights. However, the roofline is a bit lower than that of the CLA 250 which means that the CLA has a bit more headroom than the BMW. In the back, the BMW 228i offers a bit more legroom than the CLA however, in cars like this one, that’s not much to cheer about. Overall head room and leg room in the back seat is tight even for normal sized adults, never-mind someone like myself at 6’4”. Trunk space is relatively generous at 430 L (15.2 cu-ft) with the 40/20/40 rear seats up. My only complaint of the trunk is the opening which is small due to the rear window extending so far back.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The most abundant noise in the cabin of the 2020 BMW 228i Gran Coupe is tire noise from the 19-inch M-sport wheels & tire combination. It’s not deafening but you do notice it on a highway. Other than that, the interior is a quiet place to be in with no rattles or squeaks from the interior trim.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – In its base $42,500 CAD ($37,700 USD) form, the 2020 BMW 228i Gran Coupe comes with a panoramic sunroof, heated and power front seats, front & rear parking sensors, automatic climate control, LED headlights, lane departure warning, and blind spot sensors. Of course this being a BMW vehicle, the price significantly increases as the options list grows. A fully loaded 2-series Gran Coupe can cost you upwards of $54,500 CAD ($50,100 USD).
Honestly, the only package you need to get with the 2-series Gran Coupe is the Premium Essential package for $2,750 CAD.
Interior Design – The 2020 BMW 228i Gran Coupe takes its styling cues from pretty much all other BMW vehicles. The center portion of the dashboard is slightly canted towards the driver with physical buttons for the radio & climate controls. This particular demo vehicle also had the virtual cockpit option fitted to it which is a 10.25-inch screen that replaces the standard analog gauges. Overall though, the interior is more function over form. The Mercedes CLA 250 has a nicer looking interior design.
Exterior Design – The 2-series Gran Coupe has a very “butch” exterior design. I’m not sure if this is on purpose or if the styling team had no choice due to the crossover SUV platform that the 228i Gran Coupe rides on. I personally don’t mind how it looks from the front. The kidney grilles are well proportioned in size compared to the rest of the car, not unlike the new BMW M3 & M4. It’s the back where the Gran Coupe looks a bit odd for me. The taillights I like but the trunk lid is a bit too tall in my opinion.
In the end, is the 2020 BMW 228i Gran Coupe still a proper BMW and is it worth your consideration? Although it is not a rear-wheel-drive biased model, it still drives really well, even in base 228i guise. As for recommending one, I would but only with the Premium Essential package. You don’t really need any of the other packages with the 228i Gran Coupe. This is a good stepping point for those looking to get into the sporty luxury car segment without breaking the bank… if you don’t go overboard with the options list.
Thank you to BMW Canada for providing the vehicle. www.BMW.ca