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The internet is a good thing. (?) This perfectly sums up if it is. The sentence itself means it is and the question mark is like that asterisk on special offer advertisements. The question mark also helps justify a recent phenomenon regarding a new car. BMW 220d or the 2-series Gran Coupe was just introduced and the all too easy verdict is already there. It goes something like this: ‘A front-wheel-drive BMW is no BMW’. Drive it once and you’ll disagree… with force!
First, BMW is all about premium products be it cars or motorcycles and they have a plethora of those. From the ultra-luxurious 8-series to the crazy M4 and from the K1600GTL to the new M1000RR.
But times are changing and reaching more people matters too. The combined purchasing power of the upper-middle-class matters just as much as the ultra-rich, if not more. That’s why we witnessed the G310 twins are there and that’s why the 220d is there.
BMW is also being very humble about the 2-series Gran Coupe. They refer to it as kind of an entry-level BMW. An easy gateway to the world of ‘Efficient Dynamics’ and ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’. A means to introduce people to the brand that has been known for legends like the BMW 507 Roadster and then legend killers like the BMW M3 E46 CSL.
All the hue-and-cry in regards to the 2-Series Gran Coupe mostly boils down to a few key changes. Changes that veer away from tradition and the problem with tradition is that if you stick to it too hard and don’t adapt, it’s a prison.
Anyway, in case of the BMW 220d, it is all about the engine. Tradition says longitudinal engine with rear-wheel drive, 220d goes with a transverse engine with front-wheel-drive. Voila… you have a ‘coup’ on your hands… a Gran ‘Coup’.
What BMW has done with the 220d is not only good for the beautiful wordplay just demonstrated. It is very practical too. It saves weight. It saves space. And it stirs emotions, albeit mixed. And all of that shows when you look at the 2-series Gran Coupe.
The BMW 220d is a compact and nifty little number. Visuals have been polarizing too and it is agreeable that it may not be the prettiest BMW out there. But it is more than decent. The Misano Blue colour also helps the matters quite a bit. The quirky part here is that the car itself is polarized… about its identity.
The front of the car is busy. A tad too much probably. The grille is reasonably sized and looks good but the headlight is a bit too swept back. The chin has a lot going on too and the fog-lamps flanking the intakes on the bumper accentuate the car’s sporty intent.
It just looks a bit puffed up and the headlights do not help. But as a standalone feature, the BMW LED unit looks quite good. Move on to the side and perhaps the first thing you’ll spot is the M insignia. Good stuff. The roofline too justifies the Coupe part of the 2-series and 4 doors do justice to Gran.
Things almost get too linear in the side profile but that’s until the gates are opened. BMW 220d features frameless doors and you realize that this is something that you didn’t need until this car arrived. They look really cool and so does the BMW hologram projected under the doors and the M insignia on the door sill.
From the rear too, it is kind of a mixed bag. The taillights are cool and so are the dual exhausts but it just seems to be missing something. Something that’s hard to put your finger on.
Overall, the BMW 220d does not look bad but it could have been more proportionate and more thoughtful if it only knew what it really wanted to be. Regardless of our one’s opinion about the looks, the quality is typical BMW and it shows how they haven’t cheaped out on their cheapest, quote-unquote, Gran Coupe.
That statement had already gained some credence with the frameless doors and the BMW hologram projected on the floor when you open the car. But it gets a real shot in the arm as soon as you step inside the car. Oh, this is a BMW and a proper one at that. Almost immediately, all your apprehensions are taken care of and you are ready to start from scratch and really get to know the 2-Series Gran Coupe.
There is a reason why it feels like BMW is being too humble about this car. The interior of the car and the overall finish simply does not make it feel like an entry-level BMW. The price has been stripped but not the features. From a panoramic sunroof to the famed BMW Live Cockpit with iDrive, from wireless charging to the BMW Virtual assistant, the 2-Series Gran Coupe comes with almost all the bells and whistles.
*The photos of the interior that follow are from BMW Global and features the Left-hand-side driving setup.
Starting with the seats (front), comfy with a tinge of sportiness and electronic memory function coupled with just the right seating position easily make them one of the best in class. They even have manually extendable thigh support for even more comfort. In the rear though, the headroom is a slight issue which is predictable because of the sloping roofline. The contours in the roof try to help but only to a certain extent.
The rear seats get a 40/20/40 split and can be folded to further extend the 430 litres of boot space. The only issue here is that the opening of the boot is a tad narrow vertically… if that makes sense. The BMW 220d is compact and it feels so but the panoramic sunroof helps the matters psychologically.
The whole dash and surrounds are finished beautifully with a tasteful choice of materials and that is why the fact that this car does not seem lacking was emphasized. Adding more value to that statement is the illuminated trim which does not make its presence felt until it’s dark out but when it is… it looks beautiful.
The centre stage of the interior though is still occupied by BMW ConnectedDrive technologies. Extremely intuitive and very useful, the BMW Live Cockpit features a 12.3” digital instrument display and a 10.25” control display. The instrument display follows the newer BMWs and fortunately, we have now gotten used to the reverse tacho.
The part trick is the fact that control is not limited to the crisp touchscreen. Gesture control is also available in addition to the ‘Hey BMW’ thing aka Voice Command. The interior is also very practical with wireless charging, wireless Apple CarPlay, some well-placed USB (both Type-A and Type-C) and a very well placed 12V port in the boot. And with all that, you also have parking assistance with a rear-view camera and also, reversing assistance.
Overall, the insides of the car are really impressive and the driver’s seat (and the seating position) is something to be a fan of. That statement, when viewed in contrast with someone’s recent experience of driving a 740Li and an X6 M, bears even more weight.
Onwards to the part which inspired the sullen opening to this piece, performance. Before that, German engineering is world-renowned and something we have a lot of faith in. Add to that BMW’s sincerity in striving to back up their claim of Sheer Driving Pleasure and there were not a lot of doubts despite the drivetrain. If there was something, it was curiosity on how BMW was going to pull this one off.
The spoiler (not on the car but of this story) is that they did… for the most part. The engine is a 2.0-litre Twin-Turbo 4-cylinder diesel and 190 horses plus 400 Nm of torque is what it has on offer. It is the same mill that powers the diesel variant of the RWD 3-series. Theoretically, the FWD drivetrain is the downside and less weight is the upside. Practically… let’s see.
Men of culture when it comes to automobiles will know of a quote from a premier automotive personality. It highlights the importance of weight reduction more than outright power. And more often than not, it’s true. So with that and the peak torque arriving between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm, the 220d is a very punchy car.
The 2-series, after a healthy dose of wheelspin, offers brisk acceleration and it keeps going. The rush of it tapers down only around the top of the rev range but then, north of 5,000 rpm is a pretty lofty ceiling. Another commendable aspect of the engine is the refinement which it portrays all throughout the rev range. The only place where you can sense the diesel-ness of the engine prominently is at idle.
The impressive engine is very well supported by the 8-speed automatic which is a joy to go through but you can shift to manual and have some fun too with the pedals. All of this emphasizes that the 220d is not merely an entry-level exercise but a real BMW and with numbers like 0-100 km/h in 7.5s and a top speed of 233 km/h (claimed) it does not have to work too hard to prove that either.
If one is being honest and they know their FWD and RWD cars, they’ll know that the BMW 2-Series Gran Coupe does take a hit in terms of overall handling. But again, if those things are true, one also appreciates the lengths BMW has gone to almost nullify the effects of the drivetrain.
In the city, the 2-Series Gran Coupe is a joy to drive. Even on bad roads, the ride is comfy and the suspension pliant. That is a bit surprising considering the sporty outlook of the car but it is what it is. Even some mildly spirited driving is welcomed by the 220d and it does what you want it to do with much ease.
It is when you really start to push it that you realize that the ‘wrong’ set of wheels is being powered. But even then, the effect is much less pronounced than most of the other FWD cars. This magic is accomplished by something BMW calls the ARB system (actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation) which works in conjunction with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) to mitigate the understeer and to some extent, the torque steer which is native to FWD drivetrains.
Moving on, the BMW 220d may not be as engaging to drive on winding roads as some of the other BMWs but it is not too far off the mark. So the claimed fatal flaw of the BMW 2-Series Gran Coupe is nearly masked and the leftover is dealt with by the responsive and communicative steering which keeps you in the know of the limits of the 220d. That is… unexpected and most definitely… impressive.
Finally, coming back to the point of this piece. It is very easy to pass a verdict by looking at the brochure and those who do may sign off this car. And so will those who frequent racetracks, or those who drive like there’s no tomorrow or those who live under the false impression that street racing will make a comeback or that it’ll be cool.
But if you want a stellar car, with a stellar engine and stellar mannerisms regardless of where you take it… you want the 220d. If you want a BMW and save “some” bucks too… you want the 220d. Quote-unquote on some simply meant that it would have been nicer if we could save some more.
More details here.