We love family visits to the beach, but as we live smack back in the centre of the UK, they don’t happen all that often.
During the sunnier months – or even when it’s chilly – our favourite thing to do is hop in the car and take the two-hour drive to the east coast of Lincolnshire so that we can feel the sea air on our faces and the sand between our toes.
Skegness is where both Mark and I spent many a happy summer as children, so it’s lovely to see our own kids enjoying all that this seaside town has to offer.
Let’s face it, getting packed for a family trip is always a bit of a faff. Where are your shoes? Have you got suncream on? Why have you taken your shoes off again? Has anyone seen my keys? And so on…
But while we were trialling the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer, there wasn’t half as much fuss because the kids were actually delighted to be hopping into the car. I think the comfy booster seats and ample head and leg room helped, but it was the pull down tables and iPad holders that really won them over.
I loved it too – here I am being a smug passenger.
Mark didn’t have a bad word to say about the car all weekend. In fact, he loved it. He’s a tall guy (6ft 5) and the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer offered superior comfort and personalisation.
The driver’s seat memory function is a very neat feature if you’re sharing the car with your partner. Once you’ve got the backrest, seat position, steering column and exterior mirrors electronically adjusted to your preferences, you simply save them, and then when you’re next in the driving seat, you press a button and it all automatically adjusts back to your preferences. It just means you can get on the road that little bit quicker, and when you have restless kids in the back, every second saved is worth it.
We all love how the interior looks too, with oyster and grey leather, perforated stitch detailing and wood-look panelling.
Finding our way
We hadn’t driven to Skeggy for a while, so we used the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer’s built in navigation system to plot our course (if you’re not familiar with the navigation offered, I talk about it in more detail in this post about our trip to Clumber Park).
A quick stop at ASDA in Lincoln (thanks again to the Navigation system for getting us there) saw us stock up on beach goodies and snacks, and then we were off again – the kids itching to enjoy a paddle in the sea.
We successfully avoided a couple of traffic jams and temporary roadworks on the final leg of our drive up to the beach, thanks to the in-built Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI), part of BMW ConnectedDrive, and Navigation Plus, which kept us up to date with traffic and obstructions virtually in real time.
Whenever it realised we were about to drive into a traffic jam, a warning would pop up with intelligent alternative route suggestions. This proved useful several times during our trial, and ensured we always got to our destination as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer also comes with superb air conditioning that kept us comfortable on a clammy day and meant we arrived feeling fresh.
Hitting the beach
Skegness beach is an award-winning Blue Flag pleasure beach, which means it’s on the cleaner side compared with many other UK beaches, and the town itself is thriving during the summer, with arcades, fairground rides, and the famous Butlins holiday resort.
During our supermarket stop, I’d picked up this ace little kit for making dinosaur fossils in the sand. Isn’t it cool?!
We also picked up a bubble kit each for the kids, which was a fab choice for a windy day and soon saw other children running over to join in the fun. Highly recommended!
We had a brilliant day, eating our picnic on beach towels, paddling in the sea, digging holes and burying our toes in the sand. It made me wish every day could be a weekend in summer.
A comfortable drive home
The journey home was gorgeous. We soaked up every last bit of summer as we took advantage of the amazing fully panoramic sunroof, which genuinely added to the sense of freedom we felt as we travelled along. The glass is sun protective, and the whole thing opens up or closes electronically so it’s really simple to adjust.
And the drive? Mark described it as smooth and easy. We drove in standard mode most of the fortnight we had the car, and we only needed to fill the tank once, despite daily adventures and several hundred miles of driving over 15 days.
The BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer offers Intelligent Energy Management.
An Eco Pro mode offers less consumption by adjusting the way the car behaves (altering the transmission and air conditioning).
There’s also a clever Automatic Start/stop function as part of the Intelligent Energy Management, which saves fuel by turning off the engine each time the car comes to a complete stop, such as at traffic lights, and restarting it automatically when it senses you’re ready to pull away.
It kicks in when you go into neutral and take your foot off the clutch, signalling on the dashboard that it has done so, and as soon as you shift back into gear and depress the clutch, the engine starts up again – it’s really clever.
All this is a way to be more efficient without actively adjusting the way you drive. You just touch a button and immediately see a ‘bonus’ number on the dash which tells you how much fuel you’re saving. Tips for economical driving also pop up.
We used this during the drive home when we noticed the fuel gauge was low, which helped ensure we drove as economically as possible until we found a petrol station.
For more fun behind the wheel, there’s also a Sport mode, designed for an exhilarating ride. It makes the car more responsive to the driver’s commands, kicking up the engine and adjusting the suspension settings. For long drives on clear roads, Mark said this felt like the most enjoyable drive – responsive and slick.
If you want the height of laid-back comfort, the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer also has Active Cruise Control, allowing you to select a speed and then kick back while the car does the driving. It’s not an autopilot, of course, so the driver still needs to pay all due care and attention as they normally would, but it’s an easier drive as the radar sensors at the front of the vehicle scan the road ahead.
If you’re using Active Cruise Control on the motorway, for example, and you start to pull up to a slow vehicle, it will automatically reduce power from the engine and gently apply the brakes, matching your car’s speed to that of the car ahead and keeping you at a safe distance, measured in seconds to allow for a safe reaction time.
With busy roads full of traffic lights and roundabouts making up the majority of our journeys during the trial, we didn’t get much chance to play with the Sport mode or the Cruise Control, but we could see the value of these settings should we ever manage to make our dream of a driving holiday through Europe into a reality. And we’d certainly want the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer to be our ride if we do.
After a playful Saturday, a busy Sunday
We were incredibly busy all day on Sunday. To start out, we made a dash to the local pet shop to pick up supplies for our new arrivals – two guinea pigs adopted from the RSPCA.
This is the sort of mission where the BMW Remote App (part of the BMW ConnectedDrive Services and Apps) is super useful. Using the Search function inside the app, Mark was able to search for the address of the local store and plan the route, all from the comfort of the living room, before hitting ‘Send to Vehicle’ and hopping in the car to find the route waiting for him.
With the standard 5-seat set up, there’s already loads of horizontal and vertical space in the boot of the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer, as you can see. That’s a big two-story hutch and it fitted in with plenty of room to spare.
Next, I had some last minute recipe commissions to work on, JD had a roller coaster to build in Minecraft, and Mark and Miss J went on Mission B: a spot of furniture decluttering. For this, we went from the 5-seat set up….
…to a 3-seat set up. And that’s a real selling point for us of this car: the seat configuration is super flexible. So flexible, in fact, that you can switch between 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 or 2 seats.
The playdate challenge
So the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer is great for shifting furniture, but it also came into its own on bank holiday Monday when we faced another common family challenge, taking a group of the children’s friends on a playdate to the park.
No problems here, though! With a few easy adjustments, we made use of all seven seats.
With seven seats and five doors, the only challenge logistically-speaking is remembering that you need to get the kids in the back row seated and belted first before fitting any carseats in the middle row, but that’s a small price to pay for the amazing convenience of being able to transport so many people at once.
Pleasingly, none of the seats feel cramped. The individual seats in the second row have so much space that when travelling with the standard 5-seat set up one afternoon, I actually sat in the middle seat between JD’s high-backed booster seat and Miss J’s ISOFIX car seat and didn’t feel crushed.
This is unusual I think, as it would have been literally impossible to do that in our old car – there simply wasn’t room. With the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer, you can even fit a third carseat into that middle seat, meaning three car seats in a single row. Impressive.
More reasons to love the BMW Series 2 Gran Tourer
As well as the game changing features like the flexible seating and ConnectedDrive, while trialling the car we noticed a host of other little features that go towards making the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer extra special.
For example, LED Headlights automatically adapt to ensure the best possible illumination of the road ahead without glaring at on-coming traffic.
This proved great at night on the drive home from our relatives in Lincoln to our home in Nottingham because it’s a mix of brightly lit roundabouts, dark back rounds and foggy B-roads with lots of oncoming traffic. The smart headlights took away the need to keep adjusting manually.
Safety-wise, the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer is equipped with Intelligent Emergency Call, which automatically contacts the BMW Call Centre via an accident-proof telephone if the airbag is deployed.
An emergency call can also be triggered manually, which you might need, for example, if you came across another driver in need of help.
Thankfully, we never had need of the Intelligent Emergency Call feature during our trial, but isn’t it great to know that should you ever need it, even if your own phones were flat, you’d be connected to specially trained personnel who would inform the emergency services and give you support by telephone? I think it’s amazing.
From the top to the bottom, you simply feel like you’re being well looked after in this car. And it doesn’t end there, it’s also so darn aesthetically pleasing.
For example, when you open the car in dim light, such as in a carpark as shown here, little LED Door projectors on the underside of the doors project an image of the BMW logo onto the ground. The kids loved it.
There are also optional LEDs on the lower sill of each door frame, emitting a gentle light when the doors are open.
It all adds up to make the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer feel like a truly luxurious flexible, comfortable and nevertheless sporty family car. It does everything you need it to do, and it does it with style.
This is a commissioned post for BMW, who also provided the car for the purposes of this series.