2014 BMW 228 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New rear-wheel-drive coupe with perfect proportions.
The BMW 2 Series coupe is the all-new gateway to the BMW lineup. The smallest and most affordable two-door Bimmer, the 2014 BMW 2 Series replaces the currently defunct 1 Series coupe, bringing it in line with the rest of BMW's new nomenclature of odd numbers for sedans and even numbers for coupes.
Like the 1 Series before it, BMW bills the 2 Series as a spiritual successor to the BMW 2002, a small coupe with a cult following that was produced from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. But while today's 2 Series may pay homage to that early car in name and body style, it's in some ways far from the little coupe of yesteryear, which at its most basic was powered by a 2.0-liter engine making a scant 100 horsepower and riding on what seems now to be miniscule 13-inch wheels.
By comparison, the 2 Series is a monster. The entry-level BMW 228i is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that makes 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. The line-topping BMW M235i (yes, the name is a mouthful) uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that makes a hearty 320 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque. Standard wheels are 17-inch alloys, and the BMW M235i rides on 18-inch wheels wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Super-Sport performance tires.
Much like current women's clothing, the 2014 BMW 2 Series is also larger than its predecessors. Compared with the 1 Series coupe, the 2 Series is 2.8 inches longer, with a wheelbase that's stretched 1.3 inches. It's also much wider than the 2002tii. In fact, the 2 Series' dimensions are not far from the e46 coupe, the two-door 3 Series generation from a decade ago. So just as yesterday's size 6 is today's size 0 in fashion, the same goes for BMW's so-called compact cars.
Unlike some new entry-level luxury cars (we're looking at you, Audi and Mercedes-Benz), the 2 Series keeps a nimble rear-wheel-drive platform; in this case, the same used previously on the 1 Series. Combined with BMW's signature 50-50 weight distribution, the 2 Series is perhaps the most tossable small luxury coupe on the market now. At a time when most manufacturers are going automatic-only, BMW also pacifies enthusiasts by keeping an optional 6-speed manual transmission on both models. The standard transmission is an 8-speed automatic.
In the U.S., the 2014 BMW 2 Series will be available only in 228i and M235i variants. Europe will get two diesel models, and a full-blown M2 is rumored to launch sometime in the near future, but none have been confirmed for North America. Exterior lines on the 2014 BMW 2 Series have been stretched and tightened from the somewhat saggy-looking 1 Series. The 2 is in perfect proportion, with a stance that matches its agile handling and a face that's neither too aggressive, nor too cute.
Even though the 2014 BMW 2 Series is the most affordable car in BMW's current lineup, it's not exactly cheap. Starting at $32,100, it's more expensive than the entry-level Audi A3 or Mercedes-Benz CLA sedans (though it's not unusual for coupe body styles to cost more). There's a hefty price jump between the 228i and the M235i, and options add up fast. Our M235i test car was speced out at nearly $50k, only slightly less than the M Sport version of the larger 435i coupe. All said, the 2014 BMW 2 Series delivers design and performance worthy of an Ultimate Driving Machine, and, in the right configuration, is an excellent value.
The 2014 BMW 2 Series comes in two variants. The BMW 228i is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that makes 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. The BMW M235i uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that produces 320 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission comes standard; a 6-speed manual is optional. Both gearboxes are the same price.
The BMW 228i ($32,100) comes standard with automatic climate control, Sensatec faux leather upholstery, 8-way manually adjustable front seats, pushbutton start, power windows and mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with multifunction controls, cruise control, BMW's iDrive interface with 6.5-inch color display, trip computer, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, an audio system with CD player, HD radio and satellite radio capability, 60/40-split folding rear seats, automatic stop/start, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels on all-season run-flat tires.
The BMW M235i ($43,100) adds 10-way power front sport seats with 2-way power-adjustable side bolsters plus adjustable heard rests and thigh support, a unique M Sport steering wheel, unique sport instrument cluster, power sunroof, a sport exhaust system, an adaptive M sport suspension, bigger brakes, variable sport steering, an aerodynamic body kit, xenon adaptive headlights, LED accent lights, retractable headlight washers, rear spoiler, and unique interior and exterior trim. Standard wheels are 18-inch alloys wrapped in Michelin Pilot SuperSport summer performance tires.
Many of the M235i's performance features are optional on the 228i. Packages include the Premium Package ($2,300), which adds leather upholstery, keyless entry, ambiance lighting, universal garage door opener, one-year satellite radio subscription, auto-dimming rearview and exterior mirrors; and the Technology Package ($2,150), which includes navigation, real-time traffic, BMW Online and apps, Bluetooth audio streaming.
Safety features standard on both models include driver and passenger dual-stage front airbags, seat-mounted front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, traction control, stability control and BMW's Assist eCall emergency telematics system with 10 years of service. Optional safety features include a rearview camera, an anti-theft alarm system, BMW remote services with remote door unlock and stolen vehicle recovery, and BMW's Active Driving assistant with lane departure warning, forward collision warning, pedestrian warning and city collision mitigation.
Although the BMW 2 Series bears some resemblance to its 1 Series predecessor, the coupe is fully redesigned. Up front, the signature twin kidney grille is surrounded by wraparound headlamps and a wide lower air intake that makes it look more assertive than cute.
From the side, the 2 Series loses the 1 Series' saggy lower line created by its droopy rocker panels. Instead, the 2 Series gets a virtual sheet metal tummy tuck, with a sharp, straight rocker panel and an upward-curving character line that flows into the rear wheel arches. An upper line running from the front fender, through the door handles and into the rear decklid is straight and sharp.
The rear is clean and simple, with just the tiniest hint of shelfy-ness that seems to be fading out with the post-Bangle era. Wraparound tail lamps and hood cut lines are very straight and horizontal. We also like that the M235i places its dual exhaust pipes one on each side, giving it a symmetrical look.
Color availability depends on model. The broadest palette is found on the 228i, with unique choices like Valencia Orange, Sparkling Brown metallic and Midnight Blue metallic. Shade choices are narrower for the M235i, and include whites, greys and black, plus the beautiful dark Melbourne Red and the bright Estoril Blue found on other M Sport models in the 3- and 4 Series lineups.
The look and quality of cabin materials vary depending on the model and options. Layout and organization of the controls, as with all BMWs, are clean, simple and intuitive. On cars with navigation, the wide screen sits atop the dash, which makes for very good visibility, but it also looks as if it could be an aftermarket unit stuck on top. Dual air vents, audio and temperature controls sit below, including a wide row of preset buttons, which can serve as shortcuts to navigation destinations and other functions, as well being traditional satellite and radio station markers.
On the center console, the newest iteration of the iDrive button is located on the right side within easy reach. A traditional parking brake sits to the left. To the fore of the gearshift are two side-by-side cupholders. The center armrest offers a moderate amount of storage, and is where iPhones and other mobile devices can be plugged in and stowed.
Front seats are comfortable, and offer adequate support. Aggressive side bolstering on the seatbacks and cushions keep driver and passenger firmly in place around corners. Faux leather, dubbed Sensatec, is standard. Our M235i test car was outfitted with optional Dakota leather, but it seemed hard and waxy in black. If other BMW models are any indication, we'd say the Coral Red leather most likely looks best, although we didn't see an example in person.
Backseat space is expectably snug for a coupe, but is fine for occasionally carrying average-sized adults on short trips. Legroom measures 33 inches, about three inches less than in the larger 4 Series Coupe, and about 0.7 inches shy of the outgoing 3 Series Coupe. Plenty of toe- and foot room under the front seat helps to mitigate a cramped feeling. Headroom is 36.8 inches, about on par with the 4 Series and the old 3 Series Coupe. A rear center console has cupholders for added convenience. When not carrying backseat passengers, the armrest folds down, revealing a pass-through slot for long items.
Cargo space measures 13.8 cubic feet, less than the 15.7 cubes in the 4 Series Coupe, but more than the old 3 Series Coupe and even the 2013 Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupes. Rear seats are split 60/40 and fold down for increased space.
We only saw one example of the 228i coupe in person, and were disappointed to find the interior looks entry-level. The plastic surrounding the instrument cluster and in the center console seems cheap. The abundance of hard, plain plastics in the cabin is especially noticeable in tan. M235i models look more upscale, but still suffer from some of the same maladies. On both models, the trim on the sweeping armrest/door handle looks stuck-on. Sun visors are also very thin, and the corners bend like cardboard when one is unhooked from its latch. On the M235i, we prefer the optional Brushed Aluminum interior configuration with accents in black gloss trim over the default Aluminum Hexagon trim, which includes metallic blue metal inserts that can look garish in certain color combinations.
How much you care about these details may depend on how much you're spending on the car. At $33,000, BMW's interior execution isn't unconscionable. But with our test car topping out at nearly $50k, we expect better.
We found the BMW M235i a joy to drive. We haven't yet been able to get behind the wheel of a 228i, but with 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, we are expecting plenty of power and thrust from the 3,300-pound base coupe for everyday driving and then some.
We drove identically equipped BMW M235i test cars in and around Las Vegas, including a stint on the oval track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the turns are banked by as much as 20 degrees. At speeds of more than 110 mph (slow for that kind of circuit), the M235i was perfectly stable and stuck its ground impeccably.
On the interior road course, we only got in a few laps, but it was clear in that short amount of time that BMW didn't cut corners on engineering. Notably, BMW keeps its performance-oriented, rear-wheel-drive platform used on the outgoing 1 Series. This comes at a time when other manufacturers like Audi and Mercedes-Benz are going to less expensive and less dynamic front-wheel-drive configurations, like those found on the new Audi A3 sedan and the Mercedes-Benz CLA sedan. Kudos to BMW for that alone.
Our car was fitted with an adaptable M sport suspension, specially tuned for the M235i (an adaptable sport suspension is optional on the 228i, but we're told it's tuned differently). In Sport+, the most aggressive mode, we remained planted and hunkered down throughout the circuit, even when we pinched it off early on the first lap around a couple of late-apex turns. In Sport+, traction control is off but dynamic stability control stays on, though at a lower threshold. As a result, the car didn't let us get too out of control, even when it wasn't happy with our line through the corners.
The BMW M235i isn't a light car; the curb weight with the automatic transmission is 3,505 pounds, heavier than the 428i, yet lighter than the 435i with the same gearbox. But the rigid chassis, agile suspension and near-50/50 weight distribution handles the M235i's mass with panache.
Variable ratio steering does its job, tightening up at higher speeds and around corners, with very few turns-to-lock, enabling us to keep our hands firmly and 9 and 3 at all times. Steering isn't overly heavy either, unlike some cars made by other manufacturers that attempt to create an artificial feeling of sportiness via a ridiculously high steering effort. Big brakes bit hard and fast, letting us push our braking zones just a little more with each lap.
Real-world driving proves nearly as satisfying. BMW says the M235i can sprint from 0-65 mph in 4.8 seconds, and we believe it. Merging onto the freeway with 320 horses on tap is a cinch, and we were surprised to look down at the speedometer in what seemed like no time at all to find we were doing 85 mph on the (straight) onramp. Hearty thrust comes from 330 lb.-ft. of torque, available as low as 1300 rpm. Passing is a breeze, and turbo lag is virtually nonexistent.
Even stop-and-go-traffic in the M235i is fun. Cruising the Las Vegas strip, our Melbourne Red Metallic test car took off easily at each green light, and the big brakes halted us firmly and confidently at every (inevitable) red light. The variable ratio steering was noticeable around town, too, allowing more maneuverability at slower speeds and in and out of parking spaces.
Plenty of interior insulation keeps road noise at a minimum, even in the firmer Sport and Sport+ modes. The cabin feels solid and well-damped at all speeds. Even the sticky Michelin PilotSport tires didn't complain too loudly. We noticed some wind noise from around the A-pillar, though this is normal for the class.
Like most BMWs, we find the standard automatic Stop-Start function on the 2 Series intrusive. It kicks in almost instantly when stopped, and fires the engine back up with a noticeable shutter. This technology helps to improve fuel economy, though official EPA estimates for the 2 Series models are not yet available.
The BMW 2 Series offers beautiful design, great proportions and unsurpassed performance in the newly emerging sub-compact luxury category. The M235i offers loads of power and fun on the track, and the 228i should be plenty of car for the everyday driver. We were disappointed with the interior, however.
NewCarTestDrive.com senior correspondent Laura Burstein wrote this report after her drive of the M235i near Las Vegas, Nevada.
BMW 228i ($32,100); M235i $43,100.
Options As Tested
Melbourne Red Metallic ($550); Premium Package ($2,300): leather upholstery, keyless entry, ambiance lighting, universal garage door opener, one-year satellite radio subscription, auto-dimming rearview and exterior mirrors; Technology Package ($2,150): Navigation, real-time traffic, BMW Online and apps, Bluetooth audio streaming.
BMW M235i ($43,100).
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