Now that BMW’s first 2 Series Active Tourer family mover has arrived, it was a matter of time that a bigger alternative would come along and that has surfaced in the 2 Series Gran Tourer less than a year later.
As it were, BMW has sold more than 33,000 units of the Active Tourer globally since it was introduced in the second half of 2014 and demand is seen as encouraging and growing.
The move is logical as BMW would naturally develop a dimensionally bigger model option given the market that these vehicles are targeted at – flexible family motoring.
While the 2 Series Active Tourer would be favoured by those with small families, the seven-seater Gran Tourer would appeal to those with bigger ones.
Then again, the 2 Series Gran Tourer would only come with the third row seats if they are specified according to the demands made by the respective countries.
For Malaysia, the 2 Series Gran Tourer would come with three rows of seats to complement the Active Tourer launched in April.
The funny thing was that its launch here was a lot quicker than that of the 2 Series Active Tourer, less than three months as opposed to more than six months: the Gran Tourer was launched as part of the BMW Safety 360º Campaign on June 12.
When viewed from the front, the 2 Series Gran Tourer and Active Tourer share a common ‘face’ but from the A-pillar rearwards, the body lines and structure are different by virtue of one being bigger than the other.
The Gran Tourer is longer over the Active Tourer by 214mm at 4,556mm and taller by 53mm at 1,608mm, while retaining the same 1,800mm width.
Likewise, it was also developed on a longer wheelbase of 2,780mm against 2,670mm for the Active Tourer.
That means the Gran Tourer requires more metal and other materials being used, accounting generally for a higher kerb weight of more than 130kg.
The range of engines seems to be wider too, with the Gran Tourer having more diesel engine variants, which for the moment is not relevant to our market.
For the international media drive in Zadar, Croatia, BMW provided two models; the 220i Gran Tourer five-seater and 220d xDrive Gran Tourer seven-seater version.
We started with the 220i Gran Tourer, covering about 100km from the airport to the hotel and mostly gentle coastal roads and a bit of the highway.
Being a five-seater, the luggage space was huge compared to what we could remember in the Active Tourer we drove in Austria last year.
We are talking about 645 litres of luggage space compared to 468 for the Active Tourer, and with the addition of the third row seats still provided plenty of space with 560 litres. Fold the middle row backrests (split 40:20:40) down flat and that space goes up almost threefolds to 1,905 litres for the five-seater and 1,820 litres for the seven-seater.
The middle row seats are set higher than that in the Active Tourer by 35mm, so that there is space for the feet of those sitting in the third row.
While there is doubt that the third row seats are best for children, an adult can still sit fairly comfortably here for short urban travel.
This has to do with the front-wheel drive layout of the engine, which BMW believes is the best arrangement to free up space inside the vehicle.
All the doors come with provisions to accommodate 1.5-litre bottles and there are underseat trays for the front and second row seats to stow away toys and other items.
And of course you have the ‘kick under the rear bumper’ feature to open and close the door for the luggage compartment; however, it took us many attempts to activate the function as we were probably not doing it right most of the time.
Entry and exit was made easy with one-off sequence to lower the respective seatrest and slide the middle row seat.
The 220i Gran Tourer has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine located transversely in the reasonably spacious engine compartment; power delivery from the TwinPower turbo engine is 192hp and 280Nm.
Before we drove off from the airport, we were given some friendly advice from the local police about driving safely; keep to speed limits, don’t use the mobile phone while driving and don’t drink and drive.
Needless to say we kept to indicated speed limits most of the time, including the highway that had the speed limit at 130kph.
We could feel the engine flexing its muscle on take-offs from the junctions and the 220i Gran Tourer cruised at a relaxed space on the highway at about 2,000rpm, thanks to the eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission.
We noted that the wind noise – around the door mirrors, windows and roof – rose noticeably above 110kph, which was unusual as we didn’t encounter this in the Active Tourer.
Checks by the BMW technicians found that the front doors were not sitting properly as these vehicles were pre-production units and were subjected to robust driving by the media before us, thus loosening things up. We could confirm this as our drive in the 220d xDrive the following day was far quieter even up to 180kph; it felt stable as well, which was fully expected of a BMW.
Yup, we were gunning it as we had spent a wee bit too much time taking in the sights on the scenic hilly roads that wound through several small towns, going a bit offroad to check out the all-wheel drive and doing photography.
We made it in time to the airport to catch our flight with minutes to spare (it was a chartered flight), thankfully without getting into police trouble.
The 2.0-litre variable turbine turbocharged direct injection engine ran just as quietly as the 2.0-litre petrol on the move although the slightly noisy diesel clatter was obvious at idle from outside the vehicle.
It had the grunt with 400Nm of torque coming in early and 190hp to take to the winding roads confidently, including four hairpins in quick succession; this was an impression consistent to the one we had in the Active Tourer although the Gran Tourer was a bigger vehicle.
The 220d xDrive was a higher-spec vehicle and this showed clearly in the Head-Up Display that had the gamut of navigation and speed information in full colour, unlike the lower-spec 220i’s that offered only road speed and navigation information, but no speed limit for the respective areas we drove through, among others.
We didn’t take the opportunity to sit at the rear, but it should meet the comfort levels that BMW had provided as a rule for its range of cars.
The more spacious 2 Series Gran Tourer is definitely a sign of more to come from BMW.