It’s official. I’ve changed my mind about BMW. Up until very recently, I’d written off the company’s ability to build compact performance cars. For as long as I can remember, BMW had always been at the top of its class when it put its mind to creating the best—not some of, but the best—driving machines.
Stories about the 2002, the E30 M3, and all other M3s, the M5 and so on were stuff of legends. Then, in 2011, BMW shut the world down with their 1 Series M Coupé, aka, the 1M. This was it, this was THE small performance sports car that all enthusiasts needed. Scarcely over 6300 cars were assembled so if you’d missed your turn, your only option was to wait for the new M3 and M4. And what a sopping mess these cars are… Sure, they’re fast and look mean, but they are impossible to drive slow, or fast.
As though they knew that the signature M3 and M4 were buggered up, BMW was quick to release the M2. This time, there would be no cocking about; the new M2 was going to be the best BMW could do within the confines of today’s automotive reality.
The past meets to today
Most car aficionados think back longingly to a bygone era where the driver had to figure everything out for themselves. In today’s pre-autonomous driving cars, the majority of the thinking is done for us. The M2 has all kinds of active and passive safety features, but BMW ultimately gives the driver the power.
To understand what I’m saying, you need to either remember what old cars were like to drive or actually own one. Without going too far back, BMW has long been recognized as the ultimate driving machine, but that changed in my opinion when they realized that there was lots of money to be made by slapping the letter M on car and utility vehicles. In doing so, they diluted the “M.” The M2 is different. It may tip the scale at nearly 1600 kg for safety and technology reasons, but it feels very much like a BMW of old.
Barely 200 horsepower used to be enough to get an M badge, but back then, an M3 weighed roughly 400 kg less than the M2. Despite the girth, the baby M is just fine thanks to its N55 365-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0L inline-6 engine. Torque is the main attraction with 343 lb.-ft. of it available from 1400 to 5560 rpm. When in the mood, an overboost function deploys an extra 26 lb.-ft. for a few moments.
The rush is immense and cannot be compared with any of the previous non-boosted cars. The instantaneous throttle response coupled with the absence of turbo lag launches the car forward in a scarcely believable manner. With launch control and the brilliant M DCT transmission, the M2 will hit 100 km/h in 4.3 seconds. Consider for a moment that the current M3 with the same setup will arrive at the same mark in 4.1 seconds. The M2 is blisteringly, yet manageably, fast.
The well-known engine creates wonderfully usable power and sound, but only before traversing the perfectly synched transmissions. I’ve come to rediscover the M Dual Clutch Transmission in the M2. Porsche’s PDK was once untouchable in the matter; however, BMW’s gone and nudged it. When something works flawlessly, that’s when you know it’s good. The M DCT will just as easily row from 1st to 7th as it will crush the living daylights out of the cogs in order to get to Dairy Queen on a hot summer’s night for that final Blizzard of the day before closing.
The M3 and M4 I drove a while back were unpleasant to drive to the point that I found them unfit for daily use. The M2, which could have turned out to be an appallingly terrible daily driver has turned out to be surprisingly civilized. It’s almost as though BMW read my reviews…
Don’t go thinking for a moment that the M2 is soft, though. The car’s suspension is tuned for action, but won’t put you and your chiropractor on a friendly texting level. The rear five-link setup guarantees that the Active M differential will be given every chance to do the very difficult job of harnessing all that power. Although the suspension is beefy and the car’s wheelbase is relatively short, it’s a good drive.
Under hard cornering and swift weight transfers, the M2 will display a marginal amount of roll, which is very welcomed. The car’s motion is transmitted to the driver in a useful way, which works with the rapid electronic power steering that promotes only a limited level of feedback. The two combined give life to the car’s drive.
The huge “M” compound ventilated disc brakes are equally huge on power. I love strong acceleration, but coming down on speed with rapid precision and control is the best feeling of all.
The new M2 is designed with drivers in mind; this has at the very least never changed at BMW. The driving position in this car is one of the best in recent memory. The various seat adjustments and far reaching tilt and telescoping steering column bring the wheel directly in my lap, thus allowing me to bend my elbows at 90 degrees. Said sports seats are great for long distances and timed laps.
In this posture, all manners of controls are accessible. Interior presentation (especially the matte carbon fibre trim) and ergonomics are very good. The highlight is the fat and grippy steering wheel that also features paddle shifters. All displays and gauges are standard BMW fare and are generally easy to navigate.
The perfect driving position works in conjunction with the M2’s bad-boy, all-business exterior shell. All four fenders are tastefully flared, the front and rear fascias are loaded with scoops, diffusers and spoilers and a truckload of points go the black double-spoke forged wheels.
An M2 for you
The M2 dabbles in a number of categories, from the hot-hatches to performance coupes such as the Chevrolet Camaro SS. The advantage for the car is that it’s a BMW; the disadvantage is that it’s a $61K BMW… Depending on your desires, much can be done to a $40K car with $20K left for a few select mods. Be that as it may, an M2 is a rare treat and should be worshiped.