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Back on track: Tidy BMW 2-Series re-energizes iconic driver’s-car lineage

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — BMW’s motto as “The Ultimate Driving Machine” has taken a licking in recent years, but it keeps on ticking.

As many of its cars have tended to get progressively larger and somewhat softer, criticism has grown that the Bavarian company has strayed from its self-proclaimed protocol, but the arrival of the 2-Series has readily responded to those complaints.

Because the 2 is truly a driver’s delight.

Available in both coupe and convertible, the 2-Series recaptures many of the attributes that had made earlier BMWs the sporty cars against which most competitors were judged (and frequently found to fall short).

Potent yet economical engines, superb handling, ultra-responsive steering and brakes are all ensconced in a taut, compact envelope that entices the driver to take the long route home from work.

The 228i model badging on our convertible tester indicated its power source was a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, twin-cam four-cylinder engine. Its 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque delivered surprisingly lively thrust as the eight-speed automatic transmission snapped off rapid, barely perceptible shifts.

Our tester’s engine exhibited the sort of smooth power delivery previously the purview of the automaker’s famed inline sixes. BMW is increasingly relying on four-cylinder powerplants, rather than its sixes, as a means of staying ahead of the curve on fuel economy. Employing turbocharging delivers the kind of performance BMW buyers demand, while also keeping gas consumption in line.

Wheels_j09May_InteriorAmong the numerous and – like all high-end German vehicles, costly – options, our tester featured the Track Handling Package ($2,150) which brings aboard high-performance M Sport brakes, variable sport steering system and the Adaptive M Suspension.

A console switch controls driver-selected performance settings from Eco Pro through Comfort, Sport and Sport +.

On the open road, the 228i is lithe and lively, confidently slipping along serpentine roads while the steering returns feedback rarely found in electronic systems.

As one of the most affordable BMWs, it’s an added and unexpected reward to find the 2-Series is also one of the iconic company’s most rewarding driver’s cars.