I love spending time with Mark and the kids. We’ve been on some wonderful adventures and since we’d already been blessed with trips to Cyprus and Florida in the Spring, we stuck to home turf during the Summer and had a great time taking road trips around the UK.For a fortnight, we also had the pleasure of trialling a gorgeous Black Sapphire BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer for two weeks. It's a car designed firmly with families in mind and we couldn’t wait to put it through its paces. So, one weekend, with rumbling tummies and a burning desire to get out of town, we embarked on a trip to nearby-ish Clumber Park, deep in Robin Hood country.
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.
Supplies were the first order of the day
Our philosophy on our first family trip of the Summer was to keep things simple, so rather than spend the morning prepping packed lunches, activities and other special treats like I usually would, we grabbed only the essentials, got straight in the car and nipped up to the supermarket to pick up bread, cheese and other tasty treats to allow us to put together a spontaneous lunch on the go.
I also got a bit carried away and bought a load of plants and compost, but the all new BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer is perfect for busy family life and has loads of boot space, so even big shops fitted in.
We whizzed home, swapped the compost and plants for bikes and picnic rugs and got the kids settled in for the drive with an iPad, drawing paper and pencils, toys, and drinks.
Our BMW came equipped with an ISOFIX carseat for Miss J and a high sided booster seat with side impact protection for JD. Both kids were both really comfortable and actually complained when they had to go back into their usual seats once the trial was over.
It’s obvious that the clever people at BMW have put a lot of thought into the kids’ comfort when designing the 2 Series Gran Tourer. There’s ample leg space, storage and activity space, meaning both children were comfortable and stayed in high spirits.
The iPad holders (sold separately) attach to the back of the seats so that they’re in easy reach for the kids and can be pulled to different angles and twisted to sit horizontally or vertical. These were a particularly big hit with the kids, for playing games and watching movies on longer trips so that’s a feature I’d definitely recommend.
Finding Clumber Park
Clumber Park is a beautiful expanse of parkland, heath and woods covering more than 3,800 acres and looked after by the National Trust. It’s in Worksop, Nottinghamshire but if you’re travelling by car, the post code to input is S80 3AX. I know, I know, a Sheffield postcode in Nottinghamshire? That’s the UK for you!
Setting up a new destination in the BMW 2 Series is really easy. There’s a big, clear, glare-proof Control Display in the centre of the car’s dashboard, and you interact with it using the iDrive Touch Controller, which also has a touch sensitive surface, so you can write the post code out with your finger.
The BMW Routes feature, part of BMW Online, also allows you to create your route on the ConnectedDrive web portal on your desktop computer and send it directly to your car’s Navigation System.
If you opt for the Navigation Plus Package with the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer, the driver also gets a very swish Head Up display, which shows the next direction as a floating visual on a panel at the bottom of the driver’s line of sight, just beyond the steering wheel.
Mark really liked this feature because it made it very easy for him to keep his eyes on the road and still have a good sense of what his next turning would be. The angle and height that the directions appear at is adjustable, so you can wiggle the settings until they’re right for you.
So on we went, happy and comfortable, returning to a place I loved as a kid but hadn’t visited for years. The directions were easy to follow and the whole journey took under an hour.
Enjoying the drive
As Mark drove, we accessed the car’s DAB radio through the Control Display and listened to Planet Rock for a while, singing along to some classic hits – Miss J is developing quite a vocal range.
When we’d had enough of Guns & Roses and the like, I hooked my phone up via USB using the Snap-in Adapter (sold separately) located in the arm rest between the front passenger and driver.
With ConnectedDrive already installed on my phone, the car was linked seamlessly with my Spotify playlist (I already had Spotify installed on my phone), and we were able to use the iDrive controller to selected from my playlists.
We sang along loudly to all sorts of tunes, from much-loved indie numbers to the Frozen soundtrack, taking it in turns to take the chorus lead. It was a really fun way to work up an appetite.
Time to eat
If you’ve never been to Clumber Park, you’re missing out on a treat. It is a gorgeous stretch of woodland with plenty of paths and walkways. We pulled into a relatively deserted parking field and the kids leapt out, keen to enjoy a picnic in the sun.
It was so, so gorgeous to sit together as a family, away from the stresses of modern life and just enjoy ourselves. I actually got quite emotional.
With full tummies, it was time to pack up and move on to the next phase of our adventure: exploring the park. So we hopped back in the car and drove towards the visitor’s centre.
On such a sunny day, we struggled to find a parking space – people park at all sorts of weird angles – so we used the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer’s various parking assist functions to help park the car without any scrapes or bumps.
A rear view camera with wide-angle lens automatically pops up on the Control Display if you switch into reverse. The lines move as the car moves, telling you where the car will go on its current trajectory, and whether the parking space is large enough.
Meanwhile, the car’s Park Distance Control works at the front and rear of the car and uses ultrasound to measure the distance to any obstacles that may be present. It switches on automatically, (below a distance of 80 cm when the vehicle is moving and below 30 cm when stationary) and gives a beep should any obstacles get too close, while indicating their distance on screen.
But by far the most high tech function is when you let the car park for you. We simply selected a spot and pressed the Parking assistant switch and the car took over, judging the parking space (it can actually tell if a space is the right width), guiding the steering and automatically accelerating and braking. All we had to do was put the car in gear and watch the Control Display in case of instructions, while hovering over the brake just in case.
All this clever parking technology takes a little getting used to when you’re so familiar with doing it all manually, especially when the beeping is mixed with children’s chatter and cries of ‘are we there yet?!’, but by the end of the trial we were rather sad to go back to parking without it.
Lots for children to do at Clumber park
The kids loved getting grubby exploring the pathways, lakes, architecture and woodland that makes up the park. We spent several hours just weaving on and off the beaten path, playing, laughing and getting covered in leaves.
There are geese and swans that you can walk right up to and JD did us proud, taking time to help Miss J understand why she needed to walk up to them respectfully, rather than chasing them into the water.
What I love most about days like this is that the kids bond so much. From bickering over silly things at home that morning, after a few hours in nature, they were as close as can be.
We explored some more, we played hide and seek, we Googled ‘do trees really have a ring for every year?’, and we scooted and cycled all over the park.
Time to go
By tea time, we were all happily exhausted and ready to head home. The car had been sitting in the hot sun, so we used the BMW Remote app via ConnectedDrive to gain open the ‘Climate’ section and gain remote access to the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer’s auxiliary ventilation before we reached the car.
This is such a nifty feature, meaning we didn’t have to deal with that horrid muggy feeling you usually get when you climb into your seats on a hot day.
The carpark was pretty empty by the time we were heading home, so finding our lovely shiny car wasn’t a challenge, but if you’re, say, in a crowded supermarket carpark on a Saturday and forget where you have parked, the BMW Remote app also has a tool that lets you flash the headlights and sound the horn right from your smartphone. You can even use the app to unlock your car.
And if you really can’t remember where you parked, the app even lets you pull up a map to check the car’s exact current location.
If you’d prefer not to use the app, you can also call the BMW Call Centre, who will take you through security checks and then activates the Remote Services to help you locate, unlock or lock your vehicle.
Packing up was quick and easy as the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer has a wide-opening tailgate, so we could just chuck the bikes and scooters in, rather than getting hot and tired trying to collapse them. I wish we’d had this when I was battling with Miss J’s buggy every day!
We really loved our first big adventure in the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer – it’s a fantastic car and drove beautifully on the road as well as on the bumpier woodland tracks.
Miss J fell asleep pretty quickly on the drive home, JD was playing happily with the iPad in its holder, so we pulled in and grabbed drinks.
Then, with Mark driving, I grabbed the chance to catch up on a little work, checking my Twitter stream on the display using the BMW Connected App in combination with the standard Twitter App – you can even tweet, or have them read out to you while you’re on the move.
I even made a couple of calls, which was easy as you can get quick access to your address book via Bluetooth or USB.
You can even access the Internet (another ConnectedDrive option) through the iDrive controller. There's no full keyboard, you use the iDrive Controller to either trace out letters, turn the dial to scroll up and down, or use the surface like a mouse to move and click the cursor around the screen. This isn’t really practical for regular use, but it is quite intuitive and so handy if you’re out of data on your phone and just need to check something quickly. Regularly visited websites can be saved as bookmarks to speed up navigation.
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.
We were so enamoured with our first experience driving in the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer that it made us get up and out more often that we might have otherwise.
One morning, we rose and dressed early to drive to some woods a little closer than Clumber Park for a mini-adventure at an hour when we usually wouldn’t have even finished our cornflakes. It was gorgeously quiet, but I eventually needed hay fever meds. This is where, as a lover of all things techy (ok, I’m a geek), I have to tell you about another of this car’s extremely cool features.
The BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer comes with a Concierge Service – another BMW ConnectedDrive Service which is essentially like having a personal assistant in your car
At the touch of a button, it connected us to a BMW Call Centre agent, who not only found us the nearest open pharmacy but also sent the information directly to the navigation system, then off we went!
I think we can forgive Mark for humming the Knight Rider theme tune at that point.
So that concludes the adventures we had in our first few days with the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer. Come back Friday to find out where we ventured to next and I’ll also take you through a closer look inside this fantastic family car.
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.
This is a commissioned post for BMW, who also provided the car for the purposes of this series.