Having produced one of the best driver’s cars in recent years with the first-generation 2 Series Coupe, BMW was unlikely to stray too far away from its original engineering formula when it came to its successor. The front-wheel drive platform and transverse engine layout of the four-door 2 Series Gran Coupe were never a serious consideration for the smaller two-door model, said Jos van As, BMW’s head of driving dynamics.
The enthusiastic Dutch engineer is speaking before we head out of BMW’s driver training facility on the outskirts of Munich in a pair of pre-production prototypes to discover if the new 2 Series Coupe can live up to the performance expectations and overall dynamic talents of the model it replaces.
Interestingly, he reveals that development of the new car was partly carried out in combination with the latest Z4; the two cars share powertrains, integral parts of their CLAR (Cluster Architecture) platform and their Macpherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear set-up.
“There is a lot that is shared between the two,” he says. “With the 2 Series Coupe, we’ve managed to increase the stiffness of the body by up to 40% over the old model. It makes a big difference, especially to steering precision because you’ve got a more rigid basis for the rack. Changes to the front suspension also allow us to run greater negative camber. You can really feel it.”
The disguised prototypes we’re here to drive don’t provide many clues to the appearance of the new BMW beyond the fact that you can make out a three-box silhouette with traditional cab-backwards proportions. However, they confirm the 2 Series has grown in size, if only moderately. It also gets a larger footprint – the wheelbase extends by 51mm over the first-generation model and the tracks are up by 52mm and 31mm respectively. Keep looking and you also notice greater volume to the wheelhouses, which van As says now accommodate wheels ranging to 19-in in diametre on standard models.
So far, BMW has confirmed four 2 Series models with either rear- or four-wheel drive depending on the engine. Included in the UK launch line-up is the 220i and 220d as well as the 230i and the M240i xDrive driven here. A mid-range 225i is also planned for selected markets, but it remains unclear whether it will be sold here.
The rear-wheel-drive 230i receives a 245bhp version of BMW’s B48 turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. However, it is the four-wheel drive M240i xDrive with the German car maker’s B58 turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder that is set to take the performance honours when sales of the new BMW begin later this year (until the full-fat M2 arrives). With 374bhp, it offers 19bhp more than its predecessor and 31bhp less than the outgoing M2 Competition.
But we haven’t come to Munich to pore over the specification. We’re here to sample the most powerful standard version of the new 2 Series Coupe on challenging back roads and wide-open autobahns.
The most noticeable improvement from the driver’s seat, however, is the steering. It delivers added precision, and the weighting is much more constant off-centre. With that added negative camber for the front wheels, there is added eagerness to the turn-in, too.
The M240i corners in a confident and very neutral manner. Its four-wheel-drive system is programmed to provide the majority of drive to the rear wheels and there’s an electronic differential to apportion power to each rear wheel, but there’s always an excess of grip, allowing impressively high cornering speeds, even in the wet, but ensuring it remains engaging as well.
You can switch between Eco, Comfort and Sport modes, altering the amount of steering assistance, throttle sensitivity, gearbox settings and stiffness of the adaptive dampers to suit the conditions. But the M240i xDrive is arguably at its best in Adaptive mode.
Reach a town after a quick run along country roads and it relaxes the properties of the steering, throttle, gearbox and damping as you reduce speed. Get back on it again, and it adopts a tangibly more sporting set-up. This broad set of characteristics ensures the new 2 Series Coupe remains a compelling proposition.
Most importantly, though, it feels like its predecessor in every detail, only better and even more eager on the move. A definitive call on its performance and dynamic properties will have to wait until we get to drive final production version later this year.Right now, BMW is busy tooling up its factory in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, where all new 2 Series Coupe models will be produced. Sales of standard model, including the M240i xDrive, are slated to get underway during the fourth quarter of 2021 with deliveries planned to begin early next year.