TEST DRIVE: 2017 BMW 230i xDrive

2 Series, Test Drives | August 22nd, 2017 by 0
2017 BMW 230i xDrive review 2 830x553

The ’13 135i was recently dropped off at BMW of Kansas City South for scheduled maintenance. My Service Advisor, Clint Wong, knew I’d need a …

The ’13 135i was recently dropped off at BMW of Kansas City South for scheduled maintenance. My Service Advisor, Clint Wong, knew I’d need a loaner and he arranged to have a surprise waiting for me.

We got my car checked in and Clint lead me out to the lot and handed me the keys to a 230i xDrive. Not bad, and a model that I had wanted to sample. I hadn’t been thrilled with the N20’s, BMW’s previous 2.0 liter four, less than sonorous engine note but was impressed with its performance. Hopefully the new B48 would prove to be better.

2017 BMW 230i xDrive review 2 830x554

And there it was, a brand new 230i xDrive in Moonlight Silver. I don’t care what you call this paint, ‘Heather Mist’, ‘Sparkling Champagne’, ‘Creme Brulee Mica’, or ‘Moonlight Silver’; in my house it’s known as paint code ‘OWL’, ‘old white lady’. Many moons ago I saw a new Mazda 626 in gold sitting on a dealer’s lot, with a heavy markdown splashed across the windshield. It was not an automatic and hence old folks weren’t willing to buy it and no youngster was either thanks to the color. Next to ‘hang around brown’, gold, and it’s many derivatives, should be banned for use on automobiles; if I were running the show anyway.

Once you get past the exterior color, the interior is inviting. There’s more jewellery in the interior of the 2 series than the previous 1 series. Metal colored accents on the switchgear plates and an attention to small details that seemed more mundane in the 1er. There are a number of little design details in the interior that you may not see immediately, check out how the piece that contains the mode selector, park distance control, and ESC off switch is sculpted for example.

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The front seats are as good as ever, with superb adjustability on the power sport seats. The rear seats are pretty much an afterthought, though the center console now contains air conditioning ducts for the back seat passengers (who should be small if they wish to be comfortable also). The 2er, like the 1er before it are best thought of as 2+2 cars, with the +2 being ‘little people’.

But that lack of rear seat space hints at a short wheelbase, a mountain switchback carving tool. And the 230i xDrive doesn’t disappoint. The 230i delivered a composed and comfortable ride – while still being a decent handling machine. I like the way BMW does all wheel drive, with a bias towards the rear. So many front wheel drive derived platforms don’t deliver the bulk of the torque to the rear axle, and their handling suffers as a result. If I had to choose I’d take the sDrive model, but if I had to choose from all wheel drive flavors, xDrive on a rear wheel drive chassis would be the only choice.

The car was equipped with Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season run-flat tires which are very comfortable – much better than previous generation run-flats which were exceptionally harsh over impacts. These are, however, grand touring tires and their capabilities are somewhat constrained. If you do intend to push the car, opt for the 18″ mixed summer tires (it will require adding the M-sport package, but you’ll want that regardless).

The ability to select various drive modes, EcoPro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+, is welcome in the bag of tricks the 2 series can perform. EcoPro, Sport, and Sport+ can be optimized using the iDrive interface. It was fun allowing the car to coast in EcoPro mode and watching the tach drop to idle.

You can attempt to hyper-mile the car in EcoPro and the dash and iDrive displays provide the tools to do that. In Sport mode you can view a horsepower and torque gauge in the display. Entertaining but irrelevant. In EcoPro mode the transmission shifted up early and dawdled during downshifts. It works but, and there’s always a but, in either EcoPro or comfort mode the B48 sounds pretty agricultural.

Things are better in Sport mode however. Select chassis and drivetrain when configuring Sport mode and then kick the shifter to the left, you’ll enjoy it. And you’ll probably leave it there. And that leads me to the following, this ZF 8 speed automatic is tempting. I’ve never owned an automatic, all my daily drivers being sticks. But this transmission is a real delight to use, Selecting sport/manual mode it really works well. Shifts are quick, downshifts are accompanied by a little rev-matching throttle. This transmission is a real treat.

The car does sound better in Sport mode, but, and there’s always a but, it’s because of the spirit of Jack Donovan Foley, who gave Holly wood the Foley sound stage. BMW adds sound effects to artificially enhance the driving experience. Cheating? Well, stretching the truth a bit maybe.

But, regardless of the artificial sound, this thing accelerates with alacrity. It is surprising that the 0-60 time of this four cylinder rivals that of super-cars 20 years ago. (Would you believe a 1999 Ferrari 456 GT has something close to a 5.3 second 0 – 60 time, which is what BMW shows for the 230i xDrive with ZF 8 speed auto? Incredible.) The fly in the ointment with the 230i xDrive is the standard brakes, they’re adequate, but just. Opt for the Track Handling package and you’ll get the M Sport brakes. If you intend to autocross or participate in HPDE sessions the Track Handling Package is a must.

This 230i xDrive was heavily optioned including the navigation system. With the nav system the technology included in the car was pretty comprehensive. The iDrive has evolved nicely, it’s actually quite useful – fulfilling its original promise.

And now we get to the rub, as optioned, the loaner BMW 230i xDrive was sticker priced at over $48,000. Yikes! There are ways to skinny that price down by judiciously selecting options. But, for a few grand more, you could opt for an M2 or a very nicely equipped BMW M240i sDrive. As always, your mileage may vary.

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