Car reviews - BMW - 2 Series - range
Proper BMW driving pleasure – handling, brakes and control, plus great engines and superb design, quality and ergonomics
Room for improvement
Expensive options, firm ride on bigger wheel packages, some road-noise intrusion…. And very little else
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17 Nov 2014
IN A SEA of kooky crossovers, ever-expanding SUVs and front-wheel drive ‘Active Tourers’, it is hard to keep track of what BMW is and what it now stands for.
For many people, brand-stretching fatigue has well and truly set in.
But two days driving through Tasmania in the new 2 Series Coupe proved just the antidote.
Lightweight, tight and terrifically focused, the F22 is already a modern classic in the traditional, old school BMW sense, encapsulating many of the unique personality traits such as good looks, a great interior and fabulous drivetrain, in one brilliant package.
The previous E82 1 Series Coupe – a striking design in its own right – was much the same, but the newcomer is more so, because the subtly larger proportions and palpable interior quality uplift bring the 2 Series right up to where the old E46 3 Series left off.
It is as if the Bavarian engineers stretched themselves in thousands of different little ways to make a huge difference to the finished product.
Let’s begin with the base 220i.
Even when heaving with around $15K worth of options including leather instead of vinyl trim, a sunroof, larger alloys, fancy paint, electric seats and uprated navigation, it is clear that the basic car underneath is a shining beacon of engineering excellence.
A wide stance and communicative steering make for absolute agile handling joy, backed up by a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine with good flexibility and responsiveness.
No recent mainstream BMW has felt quite as agile or light on its feet as the 220i – even with the impressive eight-speed ZF auto gearbox.
That it also does sumptuous refinement – well, with all those extra options thrown in anyway… that comment may not apply when ensconced on boiling pleather on a burning-hot day – complete what is an outstandingly well-rounded package.
Not since our first drive of the seminal Toyota 86 has the urge not to return a set of car keys on a local car launch hit so hard.
The 220d – some 25kg heavier than the 220i at 1390kg plus – certainly felt a little heftier, with your typical diesel soft-start acceleration followed by a whoosh of forward thrust. But like its petrol sibling, the chassis’ superb control and finesse shone through.
In fact, low-revving engine apart, the diesel-ness (rattle and hum) of the hushed 220d was virtually imperceptible. That it averages 4.4L/100km and yet is just a smidgen off the 220i to 100km/h from standstill is some feat.
But the 2 Series admiration society turned into an R-rated love-in the moment we sat behind the wheel of the M235i.
This is where the old-school BMW sensations of sound and speed coalesced with most conviction, for the 3.0-litre straight-six shoots down the road with uncanny knuckled-down conviction and authority.
Perhaps the automatic transmission (no manual cars were available on the launch) masked any potential turbo lag, for the 3.0-litre’s performance delivery is as linear as a missile’s – and just as targeted.
And the grip on the 225/40 R18-245/35 R18 tyres is nothing short of phenomenal.
As awesomely quick and agile as it is, however, what the 1470kg-plus M235i lacks is the 1365kg 220i’s infectious alacrity – its acrobatic controllability that allows the driver to feel and steer the car with the seat of his or her pants. Maybe that’s the sticky rubber doing its thing, as tested and tortured on the wonderful little Baskerville racetrack near Hobart.
Yet the fact that buyers have the option to choose the 2 Series Coupe that fits their needs as well as their desires is just fantastic.
Negatives are few and far between.
Expensive options? There are literally hundreds of tempting extras to put you tens of thousands of dollars above the list price.
But keep in mind before you tick the boxes that the base car is well equipped enough nowadays, so the era of Mother Cupboard BMWs are a thing of the past.
Bigger wheels and tyres, too, might jar – in a harsh ride sort of way. But, again, in a time of 18s, 19s and even 20-inch alloy options, such things are unavoidable.
Finally, all of the F22s driven seemed to suffer from road-noise intrusion over some of the coarser local surfaces we encountered.
After our two-day odyssey in the F22, we came away beguiled by what is the best new BMW available today.
A longer road test will test that statement soon enough – and the day we’re thrown the keys to a 2 Series Coupe again cannot come soon enough.
Be bewildered by the broad model range no longer. The BMW we’ve always loved apparently never left.
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