BMW has grand ambitions for the 2 Series Gran Coupe, its newest model. We learn more from two men who worked on it behind the scenes
LOS ANGELES – One of BMW’s biggest cars for Singapore next year is its smallest four-door, the 2 Series Gran Coupe. It made its global debut at the LA auto show and will be previewed here at January’s Singapore Motorshow, and ticks many of the same boxes that made its arch-rival the Mercedes CLA such a strong seller here: attractive styling, room for a young family and a premium badge on the bonnet.
BMW launched the 2 Series Gran Coupe (or “GC”, as people here will inevitably call it) with three engines, two of which are headed for Singapore. A 218i with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo (good for 140 horsepower) will be the mainstay. It gets from 0 to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds, a decent time, and is front wheel driven, like the 118i hatchback it’s based on.
Meanwhile, a M235i xDrive (2.0-litres, four cylinders, all-wheel drive and 306hp) is also headed for Singapore. It gets to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. Yum.
We covered the 2 Series Gran Coupe in detail when BMW announced the car in October, but at LA we caught up with Senol Kapici (above, left), the project head for the new car and Gernot Stuhl, its product manager to learn more.
It’s not meant to be a 1 Series Sedan
That car already exists, and it’s on sale (and only on sale in) China. Although based on the new 1 Series, the 2 Series Gran Coupe is pitched as the smallest member of BMW’s Gran Coupe family — so think baby-4-Series-GC and not slinky-1-Series-with-boot. The whole idea, says, Mr Stuhl, is “to excite people with design oriented and yet sporty and elegant coupes for the brand BMW.” To draw a link with the other Gran Coupes, the 2 Series has their low roofline and frameless door windows.
The 2 GC is also meant to be more upscale than a 1 Series, so it comes straight out of the factory with higher spec — bigger wheels, LED lights and such. Not for Singapore, however. Here, 1 Series cars are specced highly to begin with, and the 2 Series GC will be identically specced for our market. That means the 218i Gran Coupe will be offered in Luxury and M Sport trim here, the latter with bigger wheels, firmer suspension and racy-looking bodykit.
It’s aimed at younger buyers
BMW says the 2 GC is for relatively young customers. The extroverted design and what the brand claims is best-in-class handling are two carrots, but so is the equipment level. “We put the latest technology in the car,” says product manager Stuhl. “We have connectivity inside the car via the driving assistance systems that we could adopt higher Series, like the 3 Series. You will find a lot of technology in the car and this is what a young customers will expect.”
The dashboard of the car is a carryover from the 1 Series, but expect to find the new BMW OS 7.0 with the dual 10.25-inch instrument/infotainment setup, along with a full host of connectivity features, as well as the Intelligent Personal Assistant voice control system (also known as “Hey, BMW”). Interestingly, BMW board member Pieter Nota told us that connectivity is now hyper important in some markets. “In China, we know that 60 percent of customers say that if another vehicle will offer significantly better connectivity, they will switch brands,” he said.
It drives differently from the 1 Series
Just as the X2 feels like a different car altogether from the X1, the 2 Series Gran Coupe is setup to feel distinct from the 1 Series. Senol Kapici headed development for both cars and often drove them back-to-back while they were being set up, and made sure the engineers gave the 2 GC its own feel.
Part of its handling prowess is down to technology — it has a traction control system adapted from the i3S electric car that’s 10 times faster than the 118i’s. Mr Kapici says it kills understeer (the tendency for a car to run wide in corners) smoothly and removes torque steer (the tugging that the driver feels on the steering wheel when he applies too much gas).
The body is also more rigid in the right places, with reinforcement measures such as strut bars.
Space was a priority… but the 2 Series Gran Coupe couldn’t be too big
The switch to front wheel drive meant more room for the cabin. The 2 Series Gran Coupe is still a compact car, however, and in the back your head might brush the ceiling if you’re around 175cm tall.
But Mr Stuhl says BMW took a measured approach to the 2 GC’s size. “We didn’t want to build a 3 Series. We have that already,” he said. “This is still in the compact class.”
There will still be a rear-wheel drive 2 Series Coupe
The two-door 2 Series Coupe (and presumably, the Convertible) will stay rear wheel-drive (hooray!), which should please the presumably tail-happy purists.
BMW recognises that the Coupe and Gran Coupe appeal to different drivers. “We think they were completely different clients, so from our point of view it does make sense to have the 2 Series Gran Coupe on a different architecture from the 2 Series Coupe,” Mr Stuhl told us. Some BMW fans will be only 2 happy to to know that.