Detroit Auto Show: BMW Introduces 2 Series Coupe

BMW M235i Detroit Auto Show - H 2014
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

BMW M235i Detroit Auto Show - H 2014

The replacement for the 1 series evokes the spirt of the BMW's iconic 2002 model.

DETROIT -- Porsche wasn't the only marque at the North American International Auto Show working a retro groove--in this instance, its revived and reimagined 911 Targa semi-convertible, first produced in 1967.  While unveiling the latest pavement-shredding versions of its high-performance M series, BMW also debuted the 2 Series coupe, which replaces its 1 series and is BMW's answer to the Mercedes CLA coupe

Occupying precarious territory for luxury carmakers, entry-level models like the CLA and 2 Series are priced near $30,000 to capture buyers early in their earning cycles, then keep them for life as they trade up to higher incomes and, presumably, more expensive cars. The danger is that these cars can cannibalize sales from the next-highest segment or sully a premium brand's image.

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Larger and better equipped than the 1 series, BMW's 2 is meant to evoke the iconic BMW 2002, launched in 1966. Nimble, sporting and photogenic, the 2002 was driven onscreen by everyone from Jack Lemmon in The China Syndrome to Tom Hanks in Splash, and "established BMW as the ultimate driving machine," said Dr. Ian Robinson, BMW's director of sales and marketing, deftly name-checking the company's slogan.

The 228i coupe, priced starting at $33,025, looks like the impudent younger sibling of BMW's 3 Series. It is equipped with a punchy 240 horsepower 4-cylinder engine (the more muscular M235i version gets a 315 horsepower turbocharged 6) and has a top speed of 130 mph. Mileage will be around 23 mpg in the city and 35 for highway.

Whether it will prove as influential as the 2002 remains to be seen.

The 2002, said Robinson, "launched a whole new driving experience," hyperbole with more than a grain of truth. The 2002 helped legitimize a new car class -- the upscale sporting sedan -- and was the first premium foreign car that l Baby Boomer yuppies adopted as a status symbol.

It seems unlikely that their offspring, who have thus far shown indifference to cars beyond how well they mesh with their Android or iOS devices, will embrace the 2 Series as fervently.