[REVIEW] 2021 BMW 228i Gran Coupe xDrive

I think it is safe to say that customers have been smitten by the four-door coupe body style first made popular by the Mercedes-Benz CLS coupe just past the turn of the millennium. Four door coupes must be the second biggest automotive craze of recent years, just behind that for SUVs and crossovers.

These days, every major German manufacturer has such a model if not multiple models. Whether it’s an Audi A5 Sportback, the Volkswagen Arteon, the Tesla Model S, or even BMW’s own 4 Series Gran Coupe, these vehicles bring a sexier, less conventional design than the standard three box body family sedan.

At the turn of the millennium, BMW only had a handful of models to temp customers who were looking for a premium, stylish car that was fun to drive. Two decades later and they amazingly have over thirty different model lines. Thirty! Even Goldilocks would be satisfied.

It’s not difficult to understand why BMW keeps adding the “Gran Coupe” four door coupes to its line-up though. A quick look at the pricing sheets and you’ll see that the “Gran Coupe” models bring a significant increase in list price, and subsequently a bump in the company’s profits.

For 2021, BMW has added yet another Gran Coupe to its line-up. However in this case, the 2021 2-series Gran Coupe is one of the least expensive ways to join the BMW car owners club.

What is it?

Despite its “2-Series” designation though, the 228i Gran Coupe is vastly different than its 2-Series two door coupe / convertible namesake, which is based on a rear-wheel-drive or xDrive all-wheel-drive platform.

Sharing the UKL2 platform with the not-available-in-North America 1-Series hatchback and the X2 SUV, the 228i xDrive Gran Coupe is the first BMW car to be sold in North America that is based on a front-wheel-drive platform. Indeed, the platform is so versatile that it underpins all current MINI products.

The arrival of the new 2 Series Gran Coupe doesn’t mean that the two-door 2 Series Coupe will be pulled from sale. In fact, according to 2 Series Gran Coupe product manager Gernot Stuhl, work has begun on a successor which will still be as a rear-driven platform.

What about its exterior look?

The 2-Series Gran Coupe intends to deliver BMW’s luxury-car experience, going head to head with other compact four-door contenders such as the Mercedes-Benz CLA coupe and even the Audi A3 sedan. In a classic example of form over function, like the CLA, the 228i GC is for those looking to make a style statement.


Like the original X6, the 2-Series Gran Coupe marks an interesting moment in BMW’s history. For the brand traditionalists that still struggle with BMW’s crossovers, the 2-Series Gran Coupe may be yet another difficult pill to swallow.

The front end of the 2-Series Gran Coupe is taken from the 1-Series hatchback, complete with full LED headlights on every model. The rest of the car though, is all-new in design. From the A-pillar onwards the 1-Series’ hatchback’s form factor merges into a compact four-door coupe, while around the back, the 2-Series Gran Coupe boasts a brand new rear end with thin, horizontal LED taillights similar to those on the 8-Series or X6.

In my view, while the front of my Melbourne Red Gran Coupe looked rather fetching, I found the side profile and rear to be a curious blend. BMW’s success with the 4, 6, and 8-Series Gran Coupes has surely solidified its confidence in applying this design formula across its other models as well, even though I find it to be less successful than its bigger and more expensive siblings.

When parked next to the elegant second-generation Mercedes-Benz CLA, the 2-Series Gran coupe looks rather more chunky, compromising its ability to pass as a sleek four-door coupe as the 4 and 8-Series Gran Coupe does.

What’s under the hood?

A 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is the only powerplant available under the 2-Series Gran Coupe’s hood, but in two states of tune.

My vehicle, as tested, was the 228 horsepower version with 258 lb-fts of torque. Step up to the M235i and you’ll get a more powerful tuned engine with 301 horses. Both variants are paired with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive and a quick shifting eight-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment. This clutch-based version of xDrive can send as much as 50 per cent of the engine’s torque to the rear.

All 2-Series Grand Coupe models also have BMW’s wheel slip limitation (ARB) system that can gently brake the inside front wheel during cornering to help to prevent understeer.

How does it drive?

Despite its small displacement, the 228i feels light on its feet around town. Sprightly and eager, the small four door coupe is fun to drive, but more in a MINI-esque sort of way versus what you might expect from previous BMWs. Toggle Sport mode and the throttle response sharpens, the transmission holds the gears a bit longer, and the steering gets more heft to it.

The engine is delightfully responsive and sounds good for a four-cylinder turbocharged powerplant but perhaps lacks some character. Since most BMW traditionalists might shun the 228i GC anyway, this is probably not of huge concern to the BMW brass in Munich. I suspect that like the CLA, the 2-Series Gran Coupe will introduce new and younger clientele to the BMW family. Clientele that may want something totally different than the BMWs that their parents may have driven before.

Despite xDrive, as the drivetrain is mostly front-wheel-biased. Nonetheless, the 228i GC feels competent and balanced, but lacks the same seat of the pants rear wheel “push” from its bigger rear-wheel-drive biased stablemates.

Suspension is by way of MacPherson struts up front and multiple links at the rear, my M Sport package equipped test car employed lowered M Sport springs and passive dampers and it rode on optional 18 inch alloy wheels. This package also includes more aggressive styling and a few more bits and bobs of extra equipment than the base vehicle.

Overall, the 2-series Gran Coupe’s ride is refined, but its handling isn’t quite as sharp as you’d expect from a car wearing the BMW roundel.

What about the inside?

Like most BMWs as of late, the 228i Gran Coupe’s material quality is fitting of that which you’d find in a high-end compact car. The cabin styling matches that the latest BMW X3 or the latest 3-Series sedan. It may look simple, but it’s well thought out. Inevitably, the lower / more hidden parts of the cabin are where you’ll find some harder, scratchier plastics. But generally, these are pretty innocuous.

Climb aboard inside and you’ll find that in typical BMW fashion, the driving position is spot-on and the latest iDrive infotainment system is one of the best in its class with fluid menus, excellent graphics and responsiveness. BMW’s personal voice assistant is also included on the 2GC, despite it being one of BMWs lower end models.

A 10.3 inch virtual gauge cluster in front of the driver is slightly plain but highly reconfigurable and functional. It pairs with the 10.3-inch iDrive touchscreen display which can also be controlled via BMW’s rotary iDrive controller.

GPS Navigation and satellite radio were included on my test vehicle, but the Harman/Kardon audio system is an optional extra. BMW finally also includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Due to the transverse engine layout, the 228i Gran Coupe’s front cabin is relatively spacious. Out back, BMW claims that the rear legroom is nearly the same as the large 3-Series sedan’s, but narrower door openings and the more aggressive roofline make it a bit more challenging to enter the cabin versus the 3-Series. It’s fine for an averaged-sized adult so long as it’s not for an extended period of time.

The 2-series Gran Coupe’s cargo area is also good enough for your typical weekend road trip as the back row can be folded down to accommodate bulkier cargo. Due to its higher trunk lid, there is more height for bulkier items when compared to the Mercedes CLA. But with no hatchback opening, the trunk aperture is relatively compact. Total trunk capacity is 430 litres compared to the CLA’s 460 litres of storage.

Final thoughts

Although the 228i Gran Coupe’s name may suggest that it has sporting, dynamic pretensions, it can’t hide the fact that it comes off a front-drive platform borrowed from BMW’s sister brand MINI. While it mostly succeeds in delivering a premium luxury-car experience, its handling isn’t as sharp as you might expect from a car with the BMW badge.

Despite this though, the combination of a well put together cabin, peppy powerplant, and high-quality materials will appeal to those who don’t mind its slightly quirkier design. By BMW deliberately steering away from a “traditional BMW sedan shape”, it may have appealed to a whole new subset of clients who would otherwise flock to another brand.

Whether or not this strategy works long term remains to be seen. For those who are set on a BMW but don’t like what the 2-Series Gran Coupe has to offer, the small jump to the 330i xDrive sedan may be worth it for a more authentic BMW experience.


Leave a Reply