Just like its smaller brother, the 2 Series Active Tourer uses the same platform and engines underneath all that controversial sheet metal. That being said, you won’t find anything different under the bonnet that could surprise you. As a matter of fact, the underpinnings are mostly shared throughout the range, as all front-wheel models use what BMW internally calls the UKL platform.
The new MINI models (all of those coming after the Mk3 Hardtop), the 2 Series Active Tourer, 2 Series Gran Tourer and even the new 2016 BMW X1
use it and, as you can imagine, the Germans have big plans for it.
Of course, purists will still gag a little when you mention front-wheel drive but not even they can deny the advantages this layout brings to the table. Apart from money-making innovations like using modular engines that share up to 40 percent of their parts in between them (both petrol and diesel variants) there are other things you’ll enjoy on these FWD
The extra space offered inside the cabin is nothing to scoff at, and the 2 Series Gran Tourer takes advantage of every millimeter. After all, this is supposed to be a family car, an MPV
, even though a lot of people prefer to use a different term. And it looks like one.
Compared to the Active Tourer, the GT is bigger both in theory and in real-life. The wheelbase has been extended by 11 cm (4.3 inches) and it’s 22 centimeters longer overall (8.6 inches) while the roof sits 5 cm (2 inches) higher. All those changes can be felt when you see the car in person.
If you didn’t like the styling of the 2 Series Active Tourer, don’t expect the Gran Tourer to be better and change your view on things. It’s taller, longer and just as wide so no, it’s not a great car to look at. It does sport some typical BMW cues though, and they make things a tad better.
The headlights have roughly the same shape, and the Corona rings inside tell you immediately this is a Bavarian car. The kidney grilles up front do the same trick, and they are imposing in size while, the taillights have LED strips that look great at night.
When it comes to the interior, you can describe it as the same as on the 2 Series Active Tourer but with a bit more space. That being said, you get the same layout up front as in almost all BMWs these days, the center stack features plenty of storage spaces (one pretty big under the arm rest), the doors have generous bins while the seats are modular (if you tick this option when purchasing the car) and comfortable.
The extra 5 centimeters (2 inches) in roof height are there to make sure that, even if you fit your car with the optional panoramic roof, as we had for testing purposes, there’s still plenty of headroom. The seats are actually mounted higher as you go towards the back. Therefore, the occupants of the second row sit higher than those in front and those on the third-row sit even more elevated. And this is how we get to what differentiates the Gran Tourer from the Active Tourer. That’s right, it’s those two extra seats in the back.
Compared to its smaller brother, the GT is a proper 7-seat model and yes, you can use them, they’re not there just for the show.
To see exactly how tall you could be and fit back there, we took seven people aboard the car at the same time and then asked them to switch their seats around. We had people from 1.58-meter (5 ft. 2. in) to 1.83-meter (6 feet) tall take part in this experiment and found out that if you’re over 1.8-meter (5 ft. 10 in.) tall you’re going to struggle to stay comfortable in the back.
Even so, for shorter trips, you can take up to six adults with you, and that’s not a small feat. Of course, they won’t be in absolute comfort but it’s not going to be unbearable either. Access in those rearmost seats is not easy, but it’s also not more difficult than in any other car that offers this kind of seating. As a matter of fact, we were surprised how much room the Gran Tourer provided if you know how to adjust the second row of seats.
They can slide forward, the backrests can be adjusted to various degrees of inclination and can be folded in a 40:20:40 manner, but that’s not a standard feature. Another optional feature that could be fitted to the car in case you plan on carrying long items is the folding passenger seat that will allow you to fit things up to 2.4 meters (226 inches) in length.
In terms of absolute storage space, some precise figures will make things clear as daylight. With all the seats up, the remaining space in the boot will be limited to 145 liters which are enough for let’s say two medium travel bags. Fold the third row and you get access to 560 liters which is less than inside a Volkswagen Touran (695 liters) but more than inside the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso (537 liters).
Then you can slide the second row of seats forward and get access to 720 liters of space, trumping over what the competition has to offer. Last but not least, with the second row of seats tucked in the carrying capacity grows to 1,820 liters which is enough to carry, let’s say two washing machines. So now that we settled the fact that you can carry home appliances with it and that you get plenty of room even for seven people inside, let’s dwell into the driving dynamics, the part the BMW boasts with the most.
When the Bavarians brought out the 2 Series Active Tourer, the enthusiast crowd simply frowned and started living in denial. Moving to a front-wheel drive layout certainly wasn’t a move they welcomed. However, BMW assured us that the driving dynamics would still be worthy of the blue and white roundel.
As for that promise, it was only natural not to expect it would come true. The taller center of gravity and the power being sent to the wrong wheels simply can’t be overlooked. To us, this doesn’t feel like a BMW, and it certainly doesn’t drive like one. It’s still the best in its segment though in this regard and that says a lot.
It’s mostly because it has all sorts of tricks up its sleeve. The powertrain is made up of engines that can go as high as 231 HP
and over 300 Nm (221 lb-ft) of torque, more than potent to handle the size of this MPV. While other manufacturers don’t know how to make plants smaller, BMW decided to fit the 2 Series Gran Tourer with some proper engines.
The transmission comes from Aisin if you’re going for an automatic gearbox and that’s what most customers will be ordering. On the 2-liter mills, the box has eight ratios and works rather well. It’s not exactly on ZF levels of comfort or intuition but it’s close.
One thing we noticed on our tester was that, at times, the 8-speed gearbox was slow to respond. That’s not to say that it was on the same level as the older 6-speed units of the early 2000s but still, we wished it went down in gears faster when needed.
Furthermore, this issue gets even more annoying when using the automatic cruise control function with stop and go function. That being said, when the car brakes and comes to a complete stop, for example, the gearbox is a bit hesitant to downshift and, for a moment, you might get the impression it’s going to stall.
In terms of engines, the entry-level units are not exactly what we’d recommend. For a car this size and that is supposed to carry seven people around, the 1.5-liter 3-cylinder diesel or petrol mills on the 216d or 218i versions could be a bit overwhelmed.
We, on the other hand, didn’t feel the need for more power at any point. The car we tested was a 220d xDrive model that comes with a new-age 2-liter 4-cylinder diesel making 190 HP and 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) of torque. It was also all-wheel drive but not the old system that used to send its power to the rear wheels most of the time but the new one. That means it powered the front axle continuously and sent some of it to the rear only when needed.
Dynamically, it may very well be the best in its class but we’d stop short of calling it a true BMW.
In terms of driving fun, the xDrive model doesn’t stand out compared to the front-wheel drive version. Sure, it will take care of understeer momentarily but it doesn’t bring the fun we were used to on the old verion , when the rear wheels were leading the show.
It will, however, be a popular option as the demographic looking into the Gran Tourer wants more safety than usual and even in this guise, xDrive will get you out of sticky situations, especially on slippery roads.
Around town, the car performs better than expected, especially for its size. Visibility is good all around, and that might be due to the seating position that is high, nearly on the same level as inside the X1. It’s also problematic because if you’re more of a long-legged fellow, you might bump into the steering wheel more than every once in a while.
It happened to me and made me wonder why the seats didn’t go lower or why wasn’t the steering wheel mounted a bit higher. Even when adjusted to their limits I would hit the otherwise brilliant wheel (in terms of design at the very least) with my knees.
The one other problem we could spot while cruising in the city was the A-pillar that cuts into your field of view quite a lot making pulling out of a crowded junction tricky.
Other than that, you’ll be traveling in style around town with plenty of comfort, even when the car is equipped with the biggest wheels available.
Leaving the proximity of your home and venturing outside the city revealed things we didn’t expect. The car is comfortable and deals with wind noise without an issue. Of course, due to its shape and the tall center of gravity, you can’t make too make sharp turns or swerving as there will be plenty of body roll to go around. As a matter of fact, on speeds above 50 mph (80 km/h) it’s quite dangerous to pull on the steering wheel all of a sudden.
Other than that, the 2 Series Gran Tourer will carry you and your family on longer road trips with ease. The rear seats can get a new app to keep the kids preoccupied that’s called myKIDIO. Thanks to it, screens mounted on the backs of the front seats stream family content such as feature films, audio books and audio plays for the youngest members of the family to enjoy, allowing you to focus on the road. Fuel consumption is not high, but it doesn’t fall into the BMW estimates, as one might imagine. Around town, our tester went as low as 8.6 l/100 km (27.3 mpg) while cruising on the highway returned 6.1 l/100 km (38.5 mpg). However, due to the versatile character of the car, these figures can vary wildly.
The 220d xDrive we had didn’t break a sweat carrying 7 people around as we already told you but in doing so, the consumption went up accordingly and it’s the same story no matter if you’re going for a short trip around town or outside of it.
Unfortunately, the 2 Series Gran Tourer hasn’t been tested by any safety bodies but its smaller brother was and it showed five stars in the Euro NCAP tests. The same should be true for the 7-seat version that comes with six airbags as standard as well as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning system (that makes your steering wheel vibrate if you don’t signal leaving a lane) and a feature that brakes automatically if it detects you’re going to crash or hit pedestrians.
The second row allows you to install up to three Isofix child seats proving once again that the Gran Tourer was thought out from the beginning for young families. Couple that with the myKIDIO app and you get the picture.
Speaking of apps, the iDrive system remains one of the best in the business. It’s easy to use, responds to commands quickly and has a resolution worthy of envy. If there’s one optional feature we’d get, it would be Navigation Plus that brings a bigger screen to the table as well.
So is this Gran Tourer model any good? Well, it’s certainly unique and lacks any serious competition at the moment, at least price tag wise. The only potential alternative for it would be the Mercedes-Benz B-Class but then again, that model is only available in the 5-seat guise that leaves it to deal with the likes of the 2 Series Active Tourer.
That being said, there are plenty of other MPVs that could rival the Bavarian in terms of practicality, space or even being a proper MPV in the first place. It’s quite evident that the 2 GT is still in its infancy and has a lot to learn about being a Multi-Purpose Van but even so, it’s all alone in the premium niche at the moment.
The 2 Series Gran Tourer will appeal to either those that want a bit more practicality out of their BMW or to those that want a premium feeling from their MPV.
If that’s the case, you should know that you will pay the price for it. The 2 Series Gran Tourer starts at €26,950 in Europe for the 216i model that uses a 3-cylinder 1.5-liter 102 HP engine. On the diesel front, things kick off with the 214d that uses the same kind of engine and yet has even less power at 95 HP. We wouldn’t recommend either of these.
The one to get would be the 218d or 220d xDrive. The latter starts at €40,200 which is a bit steep to begin with. Our tester had a €58,555 price tag due to being fitted with expensive optional features like LED headlights, Navigation Plus, and a panoramic sunroof.
Is it worth it? Well, since it’s the only premium 7-seat MPV out there at the moment, it’s up for you to judge if it’s worth going the extra mile. However, other cars like the Ford S-Max come a lot cheaper if you’re willing to drop the whole premium thing. And then again, that’s exactly why the 2 Series Gran Tourer came out.
All in all, out of the two front-wheel drive 2 Series cars available at the moment, this is the one to get. As one of my colleagues said, if you’re going to buy a front-wheel drive BMW, you might as well go for the most practical choice, which is the Gran Tourer.