Skid Marks

BMW 2-Series Gran Tourer: premium corporate downsizing

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The lightness in the BMW 2- Series Gran Tourer’s controls makes it easy to use in everyday traffic.

Maybe it’s because of age, but I have an honest confession to make as a car guy: I love MPVs. They are easy to get in and out of, thanks to the taller-than-a-sedan ride height, which offers a better view of the road ahead, thanks, yet are easier on the knees compared to an SUV.

Crossover SUVs also offer the same benefit, but an MPV is just, well, more European, aka sosyal.

In Europe where MPVs are far more popular than crossover SUVs and the like, the BMW 2-Series Gran Tourer and its smaller Active Tourer sibling make perfect sense.

The BMW 2-Series Gran Tourer is built on the BMW Group’s UKL2 large-size modular front-wheel drive platform, which it shares with BMW’s X1 crossover and MINI’s Countryman crossover SUV.

The all-wheel drive X-Drive is an option in some markets, coupled with a hybrid electric motor and two 4-cylinder engines with different states of tune.

Here, though, we get a 3-cylinder twin-scroll turbocharged direct-inject 3-cylinder powerplant that drives the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Power is a modest 136 hp and 220 Newton meters of torque.

The figures seem low, but the turbocharged engine exhibits almost zero lag, and is punchy from idle, while losing steam towards redline.

That’s fine, as I can’t imagine most people hauling serious arse with family, dog and groceries in tow anyway.

This is essentially a long-wheelbase version of the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer I reviewed a while back, but with an added 1100 mm to the wheelbase.

Much as I liked the Active Tourer (as I do this long-wheelbase, 7-seat version), they both have the same issue with me: it just doesn’t feel like a proper BMW.

It doesn’t feel intimate, sporting, luxurious, and all-enveloping, thus reassuring the driver that all is good all the time.

The interior plastics, leather, and other materials don’t have that same subjective feeling of quality.

The controls are light, lacking the hefty assurance of premium-ness you’d associate with say, fine engineering in a Swiss watch.

As an analogy, it’s like a highly respected Swiss watchmaker such as Rolex, Audemars Piguet, or Patek Philippe suddenly deciding to make a Casio G-Shock equivalent: it tells time perfectly, but lacks that feeling of a high-level, peerless and top-notch quality, and with it, exclusivity.

Those luxury brands, however, are very limited in what they can actually do, aside from telling the day, date and of course, time.

Being a G-Shock of sorts, the 2-Series Grand Tourer has a few redeeming tricks up its sleeve.

First is the 7-seat capability. The third row seats jump up from the rear floor, providing you with 560 liters of cargo space.

Drop the second and third rows flat, and you end up with 1,820 liters of cargo space, larger than all other BMWs save for the X5—perfect if you want to add more members to your family.

If you need to carry a combination of bulky cargo and some people, drop the third row seats. The second row has 40/20/40 split-folding ability as well.

The lightness in the controls also makes it easy to use in everyday traffic. On Edsa’s worst, the Gran Tourer could still muster a very decent 8 km/liter.

On the open road, going down south on my weekly trip to Tagaytay, the fuel efficiency meter displayed a shade under 15 km/liter while cruising at the legal limit.

There’s a bit of effort when overtaking uphill on winding roads as the elevation change affects the 3-cylinder engine’s power noticeably.

Downhill, though, the boffins at BMW made sure that the suspension, steering and brakes still perform like a BMW: fluid, progressive, and well-modulated.

Cargo space of 1,820 liters when back rows are flattened

This is not bad for a Macpherson-strut front suspension designed more for packaging and comfort rather than outright performance, as the fronts feel planted even on rough surfaces.

The rear suspension, left unladen, felt a tad bouncy, but later, with passengers in the back, ride felt a bit more composed.

Of course, the driver’s seat adjusts in a multitude of ways to deliver a great driving position when you’re in the mood, while the steering wheel also adjusts for reach and rake.

Surprisingly, for what seems like a modestly sized car, turning radius is a somewhat large 5.8 meters. BMW has massaged the Gran Tourer’s size and proportions well to hide the extra mass and bulk.

Of course, being a BMW, it’s packed with safety features. Traction/stability control are standard, as well as six airbags, and ABS-EBD equipped brakes.

The smaller Active Tourer scored 5 stars at the EURO NCAP crash test assessment program, and although no official results are available for the larger Gran Tourer, it will most likely fare the same.

The Gran Tourer and Active Tourer belong in a very particular niche, alongside Mercedes-Benz’s B-Class and Peugeot’s 5008.

It’s not for everyone, and appeal is somewhat limited, especially if you regularly go out of town via less than ideal roads.

These vehicles, and especially BMWs, exhibit surprising grace and fluidity for an MPV, making your drive surprisingly still very enjoyable.

To be fair, the Gran Tourer (like the Active Tourer) emits some odd, un-BMW-like squeaks, rattles, and other odd sounds from the suspension, which are absent on the rest of BMW’s regular range.

But the Gran Tourer still feels good, planted, and secure on the road. Spec-wise, I just wish it came with a more powerfful engine, and bigger wheels instead of the 16-inch alloys shod with 205/60R16 Continental Premium Contact Touring Tires.

The latter is an easy fix with the aftermarket option. I’d say 18s with a 235/50R18 size to fill out the wheel arches, eh?

So, would I buy this? If I had kids (focus on plural) and could afford one, it would definitely be an option. And therein lies the final hurdle.

At P2.79 million, you have a slew of options available that are far cheaper than the BMW, although none of these options offer BMW’s ethos of being the ultimate.

In this case, the Gran Tourer is indeed The Ultimate 7-seat MPV driving machine.



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