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The all-new BMW 2 Series continues the Munich manufacturer’s run with compact coupes but with a new numeric designation to fit in with the rest of the company’s two-door line-up.
It represents a significant evolutionary leap over the old 1 Series Coupe, with a considerably more mature look and a raft of improvements.
Styling is critical for coupes, and with its extra-high beltline and top-hat-styling, the 1 Series Coupe (like its hatch donor) looked a little awkward from some angles and was widely perceived as a car that didn’t quite live up to BMW’s sporty design standards.
The new BMW 2 Series puts to rest any such chatter. It’s no masterpiece, but borrowing from the 4 Series styling recipe, the 2 Series range gets a lower roofline, wider stance and longer wheelbase, adding up to a noticeably more handsome car and one that should find favour with a wider group of buyers that will also be looking at rivals that include the Audi TT.
Although there are six different versions of the 2 Series available globally, Australia has kicked off with a three-model line-up: the entry-level petrol-powered BMW 220i from $50,500, the $52,500 BMW 220d, and the $79,900 range-topping BMW M235i high-performance model – with on-road costs to be added to all.
By comparison, the 220i, which comes standard with an eight-speed sports automatic transmission with paddleshifters and launch control is $465 less than its equivalent 120i coupe with six-speed auto.
While it might be the base model, the 220i is definitely no slouch in the performance department.
Equipped with the latest turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine from the 3 Series, 5 Series, X1 and X3 models, the BMW 220i makes 135kW between 5000-6250rpm and 270Nm of torque between 1250-4500rpm – up 20kW/70Nm on the outgoing 120i – down just 25kW of power on the old 3.0-litre six-cylinder 125i.
The 220i feels like it punches well above it weight and BMW’s claim of 7.0 seconds from zero to 100km/h even seems a tad shy.
Mid-range thrust is particularly satisfying, as is the fast-response throttle, which makes it easy to keep this little coupe on the boil.
The 2.0-litre petrol turbo is also deliciously smooth and wonderfully flexible, though we’d like to hear more of a snarl from the car’s lone exhaust pipe to match the 2 Series’ sporty billing.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the diesel is no less appealing, particularly given its high torque output and unusually high-revving nature (5500rpm redline).
The 220d is also $8580 cheaper than the 123d it replaces. While lower outputs of 135kW and 380Nm leave the new twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine 15kW/50Nm off the pace of the old twin-turbo unit, its only 0.1sec slower to 100km/h at a claimed 7.1 seconds, while 20 per cent more fuel efficient (4.4L/100km).
Despite an even less songful exhaust note, this is one diesel that doesn’t disappoint. There’s no turbo lag to speak of, and again likes its petrol sibling, its mid-range pulling power is impressive.
There’s also a range-wide standard-fit of BMW’s Driving Experience Control on the centre console that allows the car’s set up to be adjusted at the touch of a button through Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Eco Pro settings. It’s a thoroughly worthwhile bit of electronic gadgetry that can literally transform the car’s character from a creamy-smooth two-door shopping trolley in Comfort mode to a bona fide sports car in the Sport+ setting.
The system can be used to modify the car’s accelerator mapping and steering weight, as well as the shift pattern of the automatic transmission and dampers with adaptive suspension.
Even more impressive than the 2-series’ willingness to get up and go is its corner-carving prowess and sheer composure when pushed, although the 220d isn’t quite as agile as its petrol counterpart.
It simply doesn’t matter how rough the road surface gets, or how hard you push, the car is able to maintain its line while simultaneously absorbing the nastiest of bumps.
BMW steering has become a bit inconsistent of late, but thankfully for the sporty 2 Series it shines here.
Pick the flagship BMW M235i and you get variable sport steering that effectively quickens the steering ratio for even sharper handling.
It’s also the bruiser of the bunch.
Armed with a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol engine producing 240kW, and 450Nm between 1300-4500rpm, the M235i will hit triple figures in a claimed 4.8 seconds (no argument here), making it 0.1sec quicker than both the M135i hatch and previous full-strength 1 Series M Coupe.
But like its less powerful siblings, the M235i’s core strength is in the handling department, where high levels of grip, balance, and composure produce endless driver satisfaction.
An important note for keen drivers is that this coupe remains rear-wheel drive and is not to be confused with other 2 Series models coming – the first of which is the Active Tourer that will be BMW’s first ever front-wheel drive car.
Thanks to some specialised equipment including electronically controlled dampers that respond to cornering forces and stiffer spring and damper settings (a worthwhile option on the 2.0-litre models), we found the M235i to be equally adept at threading several fast laps together at the technically challenging Baskerville race circuit in Tasmania – though we are yet to properly test this vehicle on the road.
Inside, the BMW 2 Series gets increased specification levels so the cabin feels more luxurious, though, it still falls short of Audi in this area.
The iDrive infotainment system with high-resolution 6.5-inch screen and satellite navigation is standard-fit across the 2.0-litre models (8.8-inch on M235i), along with a host of other creature comforts, but click here for a detailed list of equipment.
The optional Dakota leather seats (standard on M235i) are a highlight, as they provide superb lumber support and equally high levels of bolster for steadfast anchoring during more spirited driving.
We also like the overly thick three-spoke sports leather steering wheel, too. It’s wonderfully tactile, with easy-to-reach paddshifters – essential for maximum driver enjoyment, which this thing delivers in spades.
No matter which 2 Series engine you choose you will get impressive performance, though this is especially true of the M235i.
The big question mark will be around whether it’s worth the extra $15K over the $64,900 M135i hatch.