The new 2022 BMW 2 Series coupe arrives as something of a relief for fans of the brand, given the past few years have been rocky.
BMW recently courted controversy by redesigning the beloved M3 with a face that’s hard to love. The otherwise excellent iX looks similarly jarring, and early indications are that BMW is doubling down on this aggressive design direction with the next 7 Series sedan and a gargantuan M-branded SUV.
In online comment sections and message boards, fans have been wondering what happened. In reality, BMW is doing just fine.
It sold more than 2.1 million vehicles worldwide in 2019, a new record, and an increase from 1.4 million in 2011. BMW Group’s pre-tax profit roughly doubled over that time span. So far this year, the company has weathered the chip shortage better than its rivals and it has upped its profit forecast.
Still, it would be a shame if the 2002 2 Series coupe – which could very well be the last generation of old-school combustion-engine BMW sports cars – looked, in a word, ugly.
This new vehicle shows that somewhere in Bavaria, someone at BMW is listening to the company’s most enthusiastic customers. The hotly anticipated entry-level coupe is like a compilation of BMW’s greatest hits: it’s one for the fans.
“The 2 Series coupe really embodies what BMW is about,” says Don Smith, BMW North America’s product manager for the 2 Series. “It represents who we are, as a brand, to have that small, compact, sporty coupe that’s just really meant to be fun to drive.”
That’s not just fluff. These types of cars – the 2002 coupe of the 1970s, the 3 Series of the ‘80s, and others – are still arguably the reason BMW enjoys its current reputation. Like its ancestors, the new 2 Series coupe pairs compact proportions with a great engine and a balanced chassis designed to make the most of every single horsepower.
On a twisting road through California’s desert canyons, the 2022 M240i xDrive stuck to the tarmac and carried shocking speed through tight bends. It feels hefty, but alert, like a large laser-guided terrier.
The amount of grip seems to be an order-of-magnitude higher than in the old M240i, in large part because the new car is wider (front and rear tracks have increased by 64 and 61 millimetres respectively). That, plus new adaptive dampers, translates into less body roll when you pitch the car into a corner, which helps makes the steering feel sharper.
Not only does the suspension feel more composed, it’s more compliant over ruts and sharp edges too, so it should be more comfortable as day-to-day transportation.
The basic 230i – with its 255-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine – doesn’t quite have the power to give the new chassis a workout. There’s so much grip, you’ll want the six-cylinder M240i xDrive.
On a racetrack, the M240′s prodigious all-wheel-drive traction means you’ll need to use all 382 horsepower from the 3.0-litre straight-six to make the car come alive. Gently accelerating out of a long sweeping left, the car behaves like a rear-wheel-drive machine; the front wheels point into the corner and the car powers through with a wisp of oversteer.
Hit the throttle less judiciously and the rear wheels will gently start to slide sideways in a predictable way, but then the all-wheel-drive system reigns things in. It’s wholesome, responsible fun compared with the twitchy, manic antics of the outgoing M2.
At $56,950 the M240i xDrive is significantly more expensive than alternatives such as the new Audi S3 or Mercedes A35, but the BMW has two more cylinders and much more power. It should be landing in dealerships as you read this, while the less expensive 230i xDrive will arrive next year.
It’s impossible to please every fan, of course. (The days of dainty little lightweight Bimmers are long gone and likely never coming back.) Despite how good the new 2 Series is, gearheads may be saddened to hear that – unlike its ancestors – the new coupe is only available with all-wheel-drive and an automatic transmission.
The U.S. market gets rear-wheel drive (RWD) models, and there’s a chance we may get a rear-drive 230i later next year. It is, sadly, just business. If you’re pining for RWD and a six-speed manual, your best hope is to wait for the next M2. Given how capable this new 2 Series coupe is, that car should be spectacular.
2022 BMW M240i xDrive
Base price/as tested: $56,950/$65,345 (est.)
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six
Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive
Fuel economy (litres/100 kilometres): TBD
Alternatives: Mercedes-AMG A35, Audi S3, Lexus RC, Infiniti Q60, Ford Mustang Mach 1, Chevrolet Camaro 2SS, or Porsche 718 Cayman (if you don’t need rear seats).
The best-looking BMW in recent memory, reminiscent of the early ‘00s M3 if you squint. Classic design details return, such as the power-dome on the hood and the Hoffmeister kink. Even the kidney grille looks normal. Thundernight Metallic purple paint is hot.
Similar to the 3 and 4 Series, which means it’s not lacking in luxuries, although you will need to dip into the option list for real leather upholstery. The driver’s seat is nice and low, so you feel planted in the car. The 2 Series coupe will be built at BMW’s San Luis Potosi plant in Mexico, which the company recently gave a US$125 million upgrade.
From the driver forward, the car shares most of its underlying architecture with the 4 Series, so it’s no surprise that it feels similar on the road. (The 2 Series Gran Coupe is based on a different, less sporty front-wheel-drive architecture.) The updated four- and six-cylinder engines have a little more grunt than before; the latter gets 47 extra hp but just 1 lb-ft more torque.
Pricing and options for the 230i xDrive have yet to be announced. The M240i has adaptive suspension as standard. Most options though – like a sunroof and LED headlights – are bundled into pricey packages. The car runs BMW’s iDrive 7 infotainment system, not version 8 seen on the iX.
Taller drivers may want to avoid the sunroof, but otherwise this doesn’t feel like a compact car. Rear seats will fit adults in a pinch and the trunk is rated for 283-litres.
BMW doesn’t always seem to listen to its fans, but when it does, it can make some great cars like this new 2 Series.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.