2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Jul 24, 2020

Introduction - Find the best BMW deals!

New for the 2020 model year, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe isn’t like other 2 Series models, and it isn’t a coupe. Rather, this is a rakishly penned small 4-door sedan, and that means it does not follow in the footsteps of the larger 4 Series Gran Coupe, which is actually a 5-door hatchback.

Confused? That’s understandable. Let’s set the stage.

Until now, the BMW 2 Series lineup included a rear-drive 2-door coupe and a rear-drive 2-door convertible. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system was an option, and an M2 variant proved to deliver traditional BMW driving feel and M performance at a bargain price.

The 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe shares a front-drive platform with the BMW X1 and X2 crossover SUVs. It comes in 228i xDrive and M235i xDrive flavors, and the standard AWD feeds up to 50% of the power to the car’s rear wheels. A mechanical locking limited-slip front differential also helps to hide the Gran Coupe’s front-drive origins.

Competitors include the Acura ILX, Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. Technically, given the BMW’s starting price of $37,500, alternatives also include the Cadillac CT4 and Genesis G70

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe M235i White Front View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a 2 Series Gran Coupe M235i equipped with a Premium Package, remote engine start, 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, and M Sport front seats. The price came to $50,795, including the $995 destination charge.

What Owners Say… - Find the best BMW deals!

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2020 2 Series Gran Coupe, it is helpful to understand who buys this small premium car, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 69% of BMW 2 Series coupe owners are male (vs. 52% for the segment), and the median age of a 2 Series owner is 59 years (vs. 49). 

Owners say their favorite things about the 2 Series are (in descending order) the powertrain, driving feel, exterior styling, setting up and starting, and a feeling of safety. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank highest in comparison to the small premium car segment:

  • Power of engine/motor
  • Smoothness of engine/motor
  • Sound of engine/motor
  • Vehicle feel when started up
  • Brake performance

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the 2 Series are (in descending order) the interior design, infotainment system, driving comfort, fuel economy, and getting in and out of the vehicle. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank lowest in comparison to the small premium car segment:

  • Getting in and out of second-row
  • Rear seat comfort
  • Exterior styling
  • Vehicle protection
  • Fuel economy/driving range

In the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the 2 Series ranked 4th out of 4 small premium cars.

What Our Expert Says… - Find the best BMW deals!

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own perceptions about how the 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

Styling is a subjective matter, which is why so many people say: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” With that in mind, if you’re a fan of modern BMW design themes, you’ll find the 2 Series Gran Coupe appealing. For what it’s worth, it does look better in person.

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe M235i White Rear View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Proportionally, BMW does a great job of masking the front-drive vehicle architecture through use of a blunt nose, reasonably short front overhang, and placement of the cabin further back for a more generous dashboard-to-axle ratio. 

If there’s a misstep here, it’s with the traditional BMW Hofmeister kink where the rear window glass meets the rear roof pillar. There isn’t one, and it seems a deliberate omission.

Interior

In terms of materials and technological sophistication, the M235i’s interior meets modern expectations for a luxury-badged car. But, as has always been true of BMWs, the overall design is more purposeful than showy. After all, they aren’t called “ultimate lounging machines.”

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Magma Red interior and Dashboard view

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Nevertheless, geometric forms and polished metallic accents abound, adding a technical feel to this automobile. Though bright and bold, the test car’s Magma Red leather is entirely appropriate for this kind of a car, adding plenty of visual personality to the interior. One neat trick is how BMW embeds ambient lighting into the car’s dashboard and door panel trim.

Choose the Premium Package, and the 2 Series Gran Coupe gets dual 12.3-inch displays for the digital instrumentation and upgraded infotainment system. A mix of traditional and unusual controls is arrayed on the dashboard, center console, steering wheel, stalks, and door panels.

Storage space is adequate, but no more. There is a place to put your smartphone and morning cup of coffee, but everything else needs to go into the door panel bins, the center console bin, or the glove compartment.

Getting In and Out

Because the 2 Series Gran Coupe is a small, low-slung car with a low roofline, getting into and out of it is harder than with most vehicles. The optional M Sport seats, with larger side and bottom bolsters, don’t help in this regard. Fortunately, 10-way power adjustment is standard equipment, allowing the driver and front passenger to raise them for easier entry and exit.

Accessing the rear seat is even harder due to the car’s sloping roofline and general lack of interior space. Low head clearance and cramped foot and legroom make it genuinely difficult for adults to get in and get out. Kids should have no trouble.

Unlike the larger 4 Series Gran Coupe, the 2 Series Gran Coupe is a 4-door sedan rather than a 5-door hatchback. Therefore, it lacks the bigger model’s impressive utility. However, the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s trunk accommodates 15.1 cubic feet of cargo thanks, in part, to a handy storage area beneath the load floor.

Setting Up and Starting

Once you’re settled in, it’s easy to find a comfortable seating and steering wheel position. The test car’s optional M Sport seats even have adjustable thigh support extensions.

To set up the different features, you’ll use the iDrive infotainment screen and the steering wheel buttons that control the data panels within the instrumentation. Neither is simple for the uninitiated, but with a process of trial and error, you can figure it out without cracking open the owner’s manual. One thing BMW does well is to make it easy to select, save, and delete radio station pre-sets.

What can be difficult following initial set-up is remembering how to perform a function later on. Often, you must re-learn through the same trial-and-error process. Also, if you intend to use any of the physical controls without looking away from the road, you’ll need to memorize their location because there are few topographical references for your fingertips to follow. 

Push the engine start button on the center console, and the M235i’s performance-tuned turbocharged 4-cylinder rumbles to life with an unexpectedly throaty note.

Infotainment System

In standard specification, the 2 Series Gran Coupe has analog instrumentation and iDrive 6 infotainment technology with an 8.8-inch touchscreen display. Get the Premium Package, and the car comes with twin 10.25-inch display screens including BMW Live Cockpit Professional digital instrumentation and iDrive 7 with navigation and BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant natural voice recognition technology.

Equipped with the upgraded technology, the test car offered numerous ways to interact with the systems. In particular, the voice recognition system is excellent, interpreting and responding to natural language questions and commands just like a modern smartphone does. 

No doubt, iDrive 7 is the best version of BMW’s infotainment technology yet. Nevertheless, iDrive remains complex with deep menu structures, and it can be challenging to use until you’re acclimated to its operation. Once you’re used to it, though, it becomes second nature.

The Premium Package also equips the car with a head-up display, which remains faintly visible while the driver is wearing polarized sunglasses. Additional tech-related upgrades absent from the test vehicle include Gesture Control for the stereo, wireless smartphone charging, and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

BMW also offers a Harman Kardon premium sound system for the 2 Series Gran Coupe. The test vehicle did not have this upgrade and based on the sound quality from the standard 10-speaker stereo, it needs it.

Keeping You Safe

BMW equips the 2 Series Gran Coupe with Active Driving Assistant technologies, which include forward collision warning, daytime pedestrian detection, low-speed automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with active assistance, blind-spot warning with active lane return assistance, rear cross-traffic warning, and a speed limit information system. Adaptive cruise control is an option and was not present on the test car.

A few observations bear mention. First, the active lane return assistance system takes sharp rather than gentle corrective action when it determines you are going to drift well out of your lane. It can also get confused when two lanes merge to become one. 

Second, the cruise control includes a speed limitation function (LIM) based on data within the speed limit information system. After exiting a freeway construction zone with a 55-mph limit, it did not immediately return to the standard 65-mph speed, presumably due to a lack of a new 65-mph speed sign.

Third, among the many functions you can program through iDrive, there is a speed warning feature. When I set the car up, I left this on. Later, while whipping down a mountainside on perfectly smooth pavement, this system activated with a flashing red light and an in-cabin siren as though nuclear war had descended upon sleepy little Ojai, California.

That setting got turned off in a hurry.

Powertrain

BMW equips the M235i with a tuned version of the 228i xDrive’s turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. It makes a whopping 301 horsepower between 5,000 rpm and 6,250 rpm, and 331 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,750 rpm to 4,500 rpm. Activate Launch Control and full torque is unleashed during acceleration.

An 8-speed sport automatic feeds the power to all four wheels through xDrive, which continually adjusts distribution based on numerous factors. Up to half the engine’s power can flow to the car’s rear wheels, and BMW quotes an acceleration time of 4.6 seconds with the Overboost function activated. Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport driving modes are available.

Breathing through an exclusive exhaust system that minimizes back-pressure, the M235i makes all of the expected sport compact car noises whether you want it to or not. Expectedly, there is no shortage of power, and the added grip from xDrive makes squirting the car out of corners especially rewarding.

If there’s a disappointment here, aside from the somewhat juvenile exhaust note, the paddle shifters don’t deliver the engaging, decisive shifts that encourage their use. That’s just as well, because the transmission is excellent in automatic mode.

Fuel Economy

According to the EPA, the M235i Gran Coupe should get 26 mpg in combined driving. During testing, the car returned 25.4 mpg on the evaluation loop. That figure meets expectations.

Driving Comfort

Equipped with somewhat confining M Sport front seats, the 2 Series Gran Coupe feels snug but not uncomfortably so. The driver’s seat faces a perfectly-sized steering wheel wrapped in smooth leather, and the chair proved comfortable and supportive during a 3-hour drive. 

Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are optional, included in the Premium Package or as a separate option. Ventilated front seats are unavailable. 

Some climate controls have a polished metal surface, making them hard to see and use. Weather conditions during testing did not pose a serious challenge to the heating or air conditioning systems.

Driving Feel

Like any good German-engineered vehicle, the 2 Series Gran Coupe feels rock solid and capably assured at seemingly any speed. With a firm ride, terrific steering, powerful brakes, and brilliant grip in corners, this is a fun car to drive fast. Better yet, the performance is accessible on public roads, so you don’t need a weekend track day to really experience what the M235i has to offer.

In exchange for this dynamic goodness, though, you’re going to endure plenty of road noise and, on rougher surfaces, noise, vibration, and harshness. Sharper impacts travel through the suspension and directly into the cabin, too, so watch out for those potholes.

Final Impressions - Find the best BMW deals!

Approach the 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe with cynicism about its underlying platform and coupe-but-not-a-coupe marketing sleight-of-hand, and you might surprise yourself with how much you like the M235i. This car is easily competitive with an Audi S3 or a Mercedes-AMG A 35 or CLA 35, a BMW-flavored take on the same small performance sedan theme.

At the same time, based on a test car priced at more than $50,000 and still missing options like a premium sound system, wireless smartphone charging, Wi-Fi connectivity, and adaptive cruise control, value is not this Gran Coupe’s strong suit. But then, the Audi and Benz have the same problem.

In fact, you might want to consider a lightly-used BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe instead.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2020 J.D. Power

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