2018 BMW 2 Series: Return on Enjoyment

By Frank A. Aukofer, November 11th, 2017

With automobiles -- especially an expensive little sport coupe like the 2018 BMW 230i xDrive -- some buyers feel it's all about the return on investment. It's the same in business as well, but there the focus is on profits measured in dollars. With cars, it's about the tangibles and intangibles they deliver.

Manufacturer photo: The BMW 2 Series features the latest generation of BMW TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder inline engines, that paired with specifically tuned chassis and suspension promotes a driving experience that fuels sporting ambition
Manufacturer photo: The BMW 2 Series features the latest generation of BMW TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder inline engines, that paired with specifically tuned chassis and suspension promotes a driving experience that fuels sporting ambition

Buy a minivan and you get practicality for family vacations. Buy a BMW 230i xDrive and practicality flies out the window. The return on that investment comes in enjoyment, preferably with two people on board. This compact two-door coupe delivers strong performance, capable handling, and decent fuel economy.

A large trunk of almost 14 cubic feet can swallow a couple's luggage for a week. If the trip is longer or you have a lot of stuff, the rear seatbacks fold to expand the cargo-carrying capability to 53 cubic feet.

Arguably, the 230i xDrive is the lineage successor to the 1967 BMW 1600-2, which Car and Driver Magazine trumpeted as "the World's Best $2,500 Car." It had an 84-horsepower, four-cylinder engine that drove the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox. Contrast that (later joined by the more powerful 2002) with my tester's 230i xDrive and you see a great deal of change.

The 2018 230i starts at $34,145. The tested "xDrive," which is BMW-speak for "all-wheel drive," starts at $37,795. With $12,520 in options, it ended up with a $50,315 price tag.

Manufacturer photo: The BMW 2 Series features the latest generation of BMW TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder inline engines, that paired with specifically tuned chassis and suspension promotes a driving experience that fuels sporting ambition

Whether that investment delivers a substantial return depends on the individual owner's delight and involvement, and whether he or she concludes that it merits the "ultimate driving machine" label. But the 230i xDrive is a sweet piece of machinery.

Its tidy size -- 3 inches shy of 15 feet long -- and quick steering makes for confident moves in city and freeway traffic. Need to perform a quick lane change or dodge a clueless and careless driver intruding into your lane? A flick of steering and tap on the throttle and the troubles are gone.

Open highway cruising is relaxing. A supple ride, supportive sport seats with good seatback bolstering, and a quiet interior mean you can put on many miles without fatigue.

The engine is a 248-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Power gets to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel.

For traditionalists, the 230i xDrive can be ordered with a six-speed manual gearbox. Though the engine slurps premium gasoline, city/highway/combined fuel consumption with the automatic works out to 24/33/27 miles to the gallon.

The test car was well equipped with optional leather upholstery (leatherette is standard), navigation system, rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control, motorized glass sunroof, power front seats with memory settings, SXM satellite radio, wireless smart phone charging, WiFi hot spot, and Apple CarPlay. A $2,300 track handling package included an adaptive suspension system, sport brakes, and variable steering.

On the automatic settings, the air conditioning could not keep up on a hot day. Fortunately, BMW included a knob that delivers a manual maximum air conditioning blast. However, with a capable system it should not be needed. I found the infotainment system complicated, and there was no blind spot warning, though it is not needed if the outside mirrors are properly adjusted.

But for those drivers who value a car for visceral entertainment as opposed to average competence, the 230i xDrive returns a bonus on the investment.

Specifications

Base price $37,795 (as tested: $50,315)
Curb weight 3,483 lbs.
Engine type 16-valve TwinTurbo 4-cyl. DISPLACEMENT_________________ 2.0-liter
Epa mileage rating 24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 13.7 gal.
Horsepower (net) 248 at 5200 rpm
Overall length 174.1 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 258 at 1450-4800 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Vehicle type 4-passenger RWD compact coupe
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