BMW branched out into a new segment when it released the 2 Series Gran Coupe for the 2020 model year. It expanded a little more downmarket by launching a cheaper front-wheel-drive variant of the sedan for 2021.
Called simply 228i, the new entry point into the BMW sedan range is essentially a two-wheel-drive variant of the all-wheel-drive xDrive model (pictured), according to website CarsDirect. Power comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine turbocharged to 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and the only transmission offered is an eight-speed automatic. Sending power to the front wheels only saves weight, and data published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pegs the 228i’s fuel economy at 28 mpg combined, compared to 27 mpg for the xDrive. As a tradeoff, it’s three-tenths of a second slower (6.3 seconds) than the xDrive to 60 mph.
Leaving the rear axle in the parts bin reduces the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s price by $2,000, so pricing starts at $36,695 including a $995 destination charge. It’s a figure that allows the 228i to neatly fill the gap between the entry-level variants of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan ($34,700) and the CLA ($38,900). Both are front-wheel-drive, too, and executives don’t think buyers will mind because they’re primarily seeking style and space.
While the mere thought of a front-wheel-drive BMW is enough to shake some enthusiasts to their core, the 228i isn’t the first of its kind, and it certainly won’t be the last. The current-generation X1 offers front-wheel drive in its most basic configuration. Across the pond, the 1 Series ditched rear-wheel drive when it entered its third generation, and BMW took advantage of the switch to build a hot hatch aimed at the Volkswagen Golf GTI. All three are built on the same basic UKL2 platform, which also underpins several members of the Mini range.