2015 BMW 228i xDrive Review: High Hopes and Flat Tires
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor potholes.
The praises of the BMW 228i—a compact coupe that follows in the tire tracks of such legends as the Neue Klasse 2002 and E30 M3—have already been sung by choirs of happy owners.
So, when BMW offered me the keys to a 2015 BMW 228i xDrive (starting MSRP $33,900, as tested $43,300), I eagerly accepted. Even with Boston's roads covered in ice, pitted with potholes, and generally in a far greater state of disarray than usual, I jumped at the chance to spend a challenging week with a future classic.
Yes, any 2-series would've been a blast. Regardless of which engine and transmission combo you pick, the nimble, balanced 2 is a driver's car through-and-through. But only the 228i—with its turbo four-cylinder, weight advantage over the more powerful M235i, and $32,100 starting price—is the ultimate daily driver.
Of course, spending every day with a car means putting up with the limitations of local infrastructure, and that's exactly what I set out to do. After all, what good is a driver's car if you can't drive it every day?
The 228i I drove was equipped with the xDrive all-wheel drive system, which I intended to put to the test. Indeed, it did an exceptional job saving my tail—quite literally.
On icy roads, xDrive offered just enough grip for the conditions, but proved communicative enough to prevent me from getting too confident. Even in the snow, I never had the feeling that the car was encouraging me to drive past my ability to recover, should something go wrong.
On clear roads, the 228i offered a perfect mix of agility and stability, with just enough steering weight for precise control, and the right amount of power to go with it. The suspension was firm but forgiving—I never floated over a bump, but I never spilled my coffee, either.
The eight-speed Steptronic transmission proved a good match for the 228i's 240-horsepower turbo four-cylinder engine. (A stick shift isn't available on the all-wheel drive model.) It eagerly anticipated gear changes, and wasn't afraid to let the engine rev before upshifting. Still, when driving more gingerly around the city, I got a respectable 22 mpg.
In fact, the 2 was doing just about everything right until I happened upon a gaping maw in the pavement of I-93. The expansion joint—laid bare by the blades of a hundred snowplows—was invisible to the naked eye, and by the time I spotted the collection of hubcaps and pulled-over cars ahead, it was too late.
Within seconds, a message on the dashboard let me know my right front tire was low, and that I shouldn't drive above 50 mph. Had this been almost any other car, two of my tires would've been flat in seconds—an unappealing prospect on a highway with no soft shoulder or breakdown lane for miles.
Like almost all BMWs, however, the 228i is equipped with run-flat tires. Their thicker sidewalls allow drivers to get to the nearest dealer instead of swapping out a spare on the side of the road. Although the car was making some horrendous sounds and I had to keep the steering wheel 20 degrees off center, I was able to drive to safety.
The prospect of limping down the road instead of being stuck on the side of it might sound appealing, but run-flats aren't without their drawbacks. Google "run flat tires" and you'll find pages of vitriol from unhappy drivers.
For instance, run flats often give a harsher ride due to the tires' added stiffness and weight, and that was certainly the case on the 228i I was driving. When they do need to be swapped out, run-flats are often more expensive to replace and difficult to find than their conventional counterparts.
Luckily, replacements for the 228i's two blown Pirelli Cinturato P7s could be found for under $150 each, and swapping them out took just an afternoon.
The time spent waiting for service instead of behind the wheel? Well, it gave me the chance to wax philosophical.
The vicissitudes of life can add up. Snow falls, tires go flat, and a trillion other big and small things can go wrong, so we try to distract ourselves with vacations, good food, time spent with family and friends, and—sometimes—fun cars.
Driving home after a lousy day, the BMW 228i sure makes for a great distraction.
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