The introduction of the F46 220i Gran Tourer broke new grounds for BMW. In the BMW sphere where sedans, coupes, convertibles, wagons and lately sports activity vehicles rule the roost, this car would stick out like a sore thumb. No matter how one would look at it, this is a multi purpose vehicle (MPV). On the surface it would be difficult to comprehend why BMW is moving into this segment. Perhaps to ensure its long term viability there is a need to diversify and cater to all segments of passenger cars.
Then there is the added ‘shock’ to BMW traditionalists where front wheel drive may become the norm in the future. It all started with the 2 Series and the trend continued here in the 220i Gran Tourer, and in the pipeline we will see more front wheel drive cars from BMW, including the new 1 Series and in the new X1 as well.
Design wise, the 220i Gran Tourer looked like any other MPV on the road, save for the distinctive front headlights, rear lights and the twin kidney grills, indicating this is a BMW. From the side profile you will be hard press to tell if this is a BMW. If there is a facelift model later on, a fair bit of restyling would be required to drum up some excitement into this car’s design.
The 220i Gran Tourer is a fairly long and slim vehicle. A quick glance of the spec sheet revealed the following:-
There are three rows of seats the with the mid row having the widest space while the third row the narrowest. Seat to roof space is also fairly generous with the exception of the third row.
|Width||Seat to Roof Space|
Without sliding doors, entry into the third row is a bit of a challenge. Long haul trips in the third row would probably be impractical and uncomfortable. Lifting the back row seats into place requires the mid row backrest to be flipped forward. This requires some effort as each mid row seats move independently.
The boot (tailgate) is operated electronically and you can set the maximum opening height. I noted this particular model did not come with the contact less opening feature whereby you do a slight kicking motion in between the rear bumper thereafter causing the boot to automatically open. However, you can still remotely open and close the boot using the car key controls. Boot space is generous and can be expanded by folding down the second and third row seats.
Stepping into the 220i Gran Tourer revealed a generous amount of headroom and legroom for the driver. This was one of the very few cars where I had to move my seat forward to achieve a comfortable driving position. I did not mind the extra B pillar at the front, as the extra side windows enabled more light into the cabin.
As a driver, there are a few adjustments that you need to make. Due to the relatively steep downward slope of the bonnet, from the driver’s perspective I could not see the front end of the car. Also being a slightly longer car than usual, sharp turns from walls especially in car parks would need extra care. Hence, some space allowance is required when you negotiate in close quarters.
This is the ‘Luxury’ trim model and you’ll get leather Dakota seats, wood trim finishes, twin chome tail pipes, park assistant (beeps), park distance control (on LCD), rear view camera, comfort access (opening/closing door via touch on driver’s side door knob), interior lights package, 17 inch multi spoke alloy wheels, auto start/stop and the usual array of safety features (air bags, Dynamic Stability Control, run flat tyres etc).
There is plenty of storage space all around. The electronic handbrake is moved forward next to the gearlever and there is a useful gap below the armrest to store even a fairly large item like a compact DSLR with a small lens. There are even places to store things like shoes underneath the seats. However, the chrome push up/down button to engage the Driving Experience Control is positioned a bit too far (below the air condition controls) for my liking.
We noticed that the test car did not come with a DVD/CD player as part of its entertainment system. It was revealed that moving forward, newer BMW models will omit this feature since the trend now is moving toward music sourced from mobile devices such as smartphones, USB drives etc. You can also run your playlist remotely via Bluetooth.
Some ‘downgrades’ were noted in this car. Based on current BMW standards, the 6.54 inch LCD display is too small. The supplied navigation system appears to be a dumb down version with lower grade graphics. Driving Experience Control only featured 3 settings (Eco Pro, Comfort & Sport). The gearlever for the auto transmission is not the usual joystick type. All these seemed to be a step back in time. As for the electronic handbrake, I actually preferred a manual lever.
However, there is no denying the quality of the LCD display as the image from the built in reverse camera is excellent, one of the best I have seen so far and is comparable to high definition images. The electronic boot release and the central locking/unlocking button are moved to the driver’s side door.
Powering the 220i Grand Tourer is the new transversely mounted B48 engine. Initial concerns about modest and restrained performance from this powerplant proved unfounded. Instead the B48 engine proved lively, transmitting its output of 192hp and 280Nm of torque onto the front wheels with gusto. Floor the accelerator and the kick down triggers a welcome engine roar which is synonymous with BMW’s performance engines.
Turbo lag is almost non existent and BMW has more or less perfected and resolved this issue. Power and torque is delivered in a constant linear fashion and in abundance even during higher speed cruises. This facilitates quick and decisive overtaking maneuvers even at speeds of 80kph to 100kph. There is no necessity to switch to the ‘Sports’ mode to up the ante.
Front end grip is good and despite being a front wheel drive car, understeer and body roll are not discernible even at higher speed turns. Ride quality is excellent as the adaptive suspension system (Driving Experience Control) at the default ‘Comfort’ setting did a great job of soaking up the humps and bumps on the road. Even the odd pot hole could not ruin this experience.
Fuel consumption was a respectable. Taking into account that this car is still fresh off the production blocks, its on board computer recorded an average fuel consumption of around 10liters per 100km. The car only covered about 500km by the time we handed back the keys so we are expecting further improvements, possibly closer to around 8 to 9 liters per 100km once fully run in.
Overall, the entire driving experience of the 220i Grand Tourer exceeded my expectations. The B48 engine showed a lot of promise and performed admirably. Despite being a front wheel drive car with an electric power steering, its handling remained sharp.
Average fuel consumption is within expected range considering the dimensions of the vehicle. If there is any gripe it will be the somewhat ‘downgraded’ features mentioned earlier, and the impractical third row seats. To be a ’true’ MPV you will need better access to third row seats, and these same seats must comfortably accommodate adults. However, these are minor issues as the entire driving experience overcame these shortcomings. So while you may be consciously aware that you are driving an MPV, at times you might forget that and let it rip once in a while.
|Full Tank:||61 litres (Ron 95)|
|Warranty/Service:||5 years BMW Warranty with scheduled service|
These are estimated costs applicable to Malaysia only which are subject to change without notice. Road Tax is for private registration in Peninsular Malaysia. Standard/scheduled service excludes additional or specific service/repairs requested. Please reconfirm these terms and costs with an authorized BMW dealer.
|Engine:||BMW Twin Power Turbo four-cylinder petrol engine|
|Max Output:||141 kW (192 hp) @ 4,700 rpm|
|Max Torque:||280 Nm @ 1,250-4,600 rpm|
|Top Speed:||221 km/h|
|Acceleration 0-100km:||7.6 sec|
|Fuel Consumption:||6.2 litres per 100 km (combined)|
Source: BMW Brochure
Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized BMW dealer