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Driving the facelifted BMW 2 Series, as well as the new X2, gave me an opportunity to discover and embrace BMW's braver face.

06 Feb 2018

I find myself again in Lisbon, Portugal, driving yet another BMW with the Atlantic Ocean glistening over my shoulder. De ja vu.

The BMW 218i Convertible was a joy to drive, though perhaps top-down wasn't the brightest idea in the world
Except this time around, it's 12 degrees outside and I'm driving a soft-top convertible with the top down, rushing down the highway at 150km/h.

My face is frozen, my fingers are losing all sensation, and I'm now wondering why the hell did my co-driver and I think that this was a good idea. Something about being brave and having big cajonas.

I've in fact headed up to Lisbon to drive the brand new BMW X2, and also took the opportunity to drive two other models - the 2 Series Coupe and Convertible.

Why, you may ask? Well, the 2 Series range recently underwent a facelift, or Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) in BMW speak. The LCI 2 Series features a range of updates, most notably in the interior with the improved ConnectedDrive infotainment system.

But ultimately, this is a relatively niche model with limited appeal, and it'll inevitably move fewer units compared to the more 'conventional' model ranges like the 1 Series or 3 Series.

So what are the cars like to drive? First, there's the Coupe. It certainly looks great, and there's always immediate appeal from a coupe model. But, it's also a prime example of how just because you put a sporty suspension on a car doesn't mean it improves the drive.

With its sleek looks, the 2 Series Coupe is an appealing car that certainly stands out
Specced the way it was (with the M Sport package with lowered suspension and all), the car feels too jittery without being aggressive or sharp. Personally, I'd just ditch the M Sport package and have the car the way it's supposed to be - a comfortable and head-turning coupe with an effortless and easy drive (something it's easily capable of).  

The 218i Convertible is noticeably better, if only because it better encapsulates the more carefree spirit of the model range. It's a comfortable cruiser, pliant enough to manage long journeys at ease.

It also copes well enough in corners, though it's still no sports car, regardless of what the BMW marketing materials may say (if you want a proper sports car, buy the M2).

Paired to a six-speed manual gearbox, the 218i is much more engaging too. It's not fast, per se, but the work of having to actually use a clutch and change gears manually is still enjoyable.

If you want power, you have to hunt it down, maybe shift down a gear or two.

But how are these cars relevant to the X2, you may wonder? Well, in some ways, beyond just the numerical denomination, the X2 and these 2 Series models share something in common. They are all compact cars in their relative body shapes with sporty intentions, and ultimately will be more niche models compared to their equivalent mass sellers (the X1 and the 1 Series respectively).

Driving these cars made me a little braver inside, somehow convincing myself that dangling my legs over a cliff face was a good idea
But perhaps more importantly, they all capture that same bold and brave spirit - the willingness to stand out and be a little different.

The same sort of bravery that goads you to drive with the top down while 10-degreee winds freeze your nose off.

These are cars that will stand out no matter where you go, whether its Germany, Portugal or even Singapore. These are cars that make a statement - that you're a little bit different, not content with just being another face in the crowd.

And I like that. I like that BMW is still willing to spend the time and effort to make these cars. It's easy to be carried away with mass producing your cookie-cutter models and be happy with that.

However, with the X2 and these 2 Series cars, BMW proves that it still wants to (as is capable of) producing cars that reward the driver for driving, rather than just being an ownership proposition. It proves that BMW is still willing to stand out and be a little different, and we're all better off for it.

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