RE: BMW M2: Review

Saturday 20th February 2016

BMW M2: First drive

The M car we've been waiting for, or left in the shadow of the M4?



We all know what we want from the BMW M2. It needs to keep the 1 M's attitude, build on the high standard set by the M4 and be sufficiently more desirable than an M235i. Just imagine how good that car might be, one that successfully combines all those M car elements. Then picture a car that surpassed those expectations. The M2 is the latter - it's simply magnificent.

Let's start with the styling. Though it of course looks good in the press pictures, they really don't do justice to how well it works in the real world. At least as real world as California gets, that is. It's brimming with aggression, from the first corner of the engorged intakes to the last millimetre of the quad exhausts. But where the 1 M's aesthetic sometimes sat oddly with the gawky 1 Series Coupe, the M2 forms a more cohesive and attractive whole. One of the sexiest M cars ever? Must be up there.

The interior is pretty sombre by comparison. It was always going to be, really, but besides some Long Beach Blue stitching, a flash of Alcantara and some M badging, it's very much a 2 Series cabin. From here you won't find any complaints - it's sensible and stylish - but it's easy to imagine a few wanting a touch more glamour.


Redemptive qualities
Enough of it as a static object; what's the M2 like to drive? Bloody brilliant, in two words, but it deserves way, way more detail than that. If you were worried that in 2016 BMW is overly concerned with MPVs, SUVs and SACs (that's Sports Activity Coupes), the M2 will allay those fears faster than you can say 220d xDrive Active Tourer.

You sit low in a heavily bolstered, properly supportive seat, staring forward to dials that read to 7,500rpm and 180mph. The wheel isn't overly chubby (as BMW's can be) and the straight-six starts with an angry rasp. Even without Laguna Seca out of the windscreen - yes, really - the M2 sets the right tone.

"All the M4 good bits with problems addressed" is my first note for the M2 track driving. It's that good. Like the M4 it has a superb front axle, one that seems almost impervious to understeer and therefore garners huge confidence that you will make the apex. It's directed by steering that feels far more natural than the M4, with much less of the gloopiness and artificial response that blights that car. It's still not the most detailed - name a modern car that is - but for speed and weight it's spot on. Praise be, it's a BMW that you can drive in Sport+ without moaning about the steering.

Sport+ also brings a sharper throttle with the heavier steering, as well as more aggressive shifts if you've got the optional seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. A couple of points to note here: one is that the modes do nothing to the suspension - this is an M car with fixed rate dampers. An interesting choice we will return to shortly. But also the transition from Comfort to Sport mode feels subtle, with nothing ramped up unnecessarily to give a false impression of performance. Of course there's an argument that one good set-up would cover every base, but this is certainly one of the most convincing multi-mode drivetrains.


Steel yourself
The majority of the track time is spent in Sport+ with manual gearshifts, where the M2 is absolutely fantastic. The steel brakes remained up to the job, only beginning to squeal very late after other journos had lived out their Gran Turismo fantasies. The pedal is progressive and the performance excellent, really helping to nail that fantastic front end exactly where you want it. They're also handy when you're charging towards the Corkscrew at 115mph for the first time...

Anyway, what's so rewarding about the M2 on track is that it feels staunchly rear-driven without ever being intimidating. The relationship between the mid-way MDM stability control mode and M diff is perfectly judged, giving you, as the driver huge confidence in the car's behaviour. In the quicker stuff you can feel the outside rear powering the car out, while at slower speeds it permits a sensible - yet hugely enjoyable - amount of slip. They're lovely sensations, those that we crave as enthusiasts and praise rear-wheel drive for. It feels nimbler than an M4 and rotates quickly thanks to a shorter wheelbase, but the whole process feels oddly less frenetic than in the bigger car.

In this majestic dynamic show, the engine arguably doesn't shine quite - quite - as brightly. It lacks the ferocity of the M4's engine, not punching so hard at high revs or responding quite as sharply. The M2's single turbo straight-six delivers tremendous performance, but in a very linear fashion. That being said, it still hauls from 1,500rpm, revs enthusiastically and is so damn fast. If 62mph takes less than 4.5 seconds, it must be below 10 seconds for 100mph. The noise is great as well, a fascinating array of turbo gurgles with straight-six howl, certainly aggressive enough to match the styling. Like the M4 it might be even better outside too, with a real motorsport edge.


Passive aggressive
Fortunately, it's equally terrific on the road. And this is on crummy tarmac akin to that found in the UK too, not just US highways. The passive suspension set-up certainly isn't shy, but the damping is brilliantly done. Like the 1 M, there's that impression of the M2 bullying its way down the road, yet with greater composure and finesse. It deals with some bad imperfections flawlessly, body movements in check and the tyres always in contact with the road, clawing grip from the surface. Given the M4's damping issues on bumpy roads, the M2 is a revelation. Combine it with the smaller footprint and it's significantly more rewarding on the type of roads UK buyers will use it on. Bring on Wales!

Furthermore, the engine is far more impressive away from the circuit. Because you're not chasing every last rev, the punch it offers from low down becomes more relevant and more rewarding. Knowing the chassis can deal with it means it can be more readily exploited too, rather than nervously working the throttle as in the M4. And it feels faster on smaller roads. And it sounds louder. And...

Finally, just as a last convincer, the manual is even pretty good. Seriously. Sure, it won't rival a Cayman GT4, but it's a tighter and more precise shift than we've come to expect from BMW.

So the M2 is pretty good then. Beyond an engine that maybe won't be remembered as an M great and wondering how it might drive with a few kilos less, the M2 is an absolute triumph. It not only questions the need to buy an M4, but also how much more you would realistically want from a performance car. For involvement, ability and sheer fun factor, there isn't a better way to spend £45K. There will be cars that deliver a tad more on circuit and a little extra refinement on the road, but none will provide such a broad and beguiling combination of talents. Best of all, and very much unlike the 1 M, there will be as many M2s built as customers want. And you definitely, definitely want one.


BMW M2
Engine
: 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six
Transmission: 6-speed manual/7-speed DCT, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 370@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 343@1,400-4,750rpm
0-62mph: 4.5sec (4.3sec)
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Weight: 1570 kg (EU Unladen)
MPG: 33.2 (35.8)
CO2: 199g/km (185g/km)
Price: £44,070

Figures in brackets for DCT gearbox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

MarkM5

Original Poster:

80 posts

123 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
Goodbye, M235i + kidney biggrin

HJMS123

982 posts

67 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
Of*

matpilch

240 posts

74 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
That is a lovely colour and props to BMW for, once again, offering a manual. Judging from the article, it sounds a blast and is only exhaust and remap/tune away from being a M4 killer.

j_s14a

792 posts

112 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
That will surely go down as one of the ugliest front bumpers ever.

Otherwise, sounds like a great M car.

Johnnytheboy

16,832 posts

120 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
Good, good. Now make an M1 and I'll buy it.
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stephen300o

15,462 posts

162 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
A bit bigger than a one, a little smaller than a three. Think I'll wait until they come in half sizes to fit just right.

kambites

55,093 posts

155 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
Sounds like they've done a good job of most of it. Shame about the engine and lack of steering feel but I guess turbocharging is just the way of the world these days.

I could never like the looks, but I could live with them. Given the number of people who don't like it, I suspect the aftermarket will offer some solutions for the front bumper which is by far the worst element.

Edited by kambites on Thursday 18th February 09:10

stephen300o

15,462 posts

162 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
kambites said:
Sounds like they've done a good job of most of it. Shame about the engine but I guess turbocharging is just the way of the world these days.

I could never like the looks, but I could live with them. Given the number of people who don't like it, I suspect the aftermarket will offer some solutions for the front bumper which is by far the worst element.

Edited by kambites on Thursday 18th February 09:05
I have faith in the aftermarket making it look worse.

kambites

55,093 posts

155 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
stephen300o said:
I have faith in the aftermarket making it look worse.
I dare say they'll achieve that as well, although in this case they'll have their work cut out for them.

Just modifying the bumper from an SE to fit with the flared wheel arches would do me fine as long as it would provide enough cooling. smile

Edited by kambites on Thursday 18th February 09:13

K14A

54 posts

44 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
Dimensions are quite good (New 4 too big imo) but still pretty heavy, and the engine just doesn't seem 'special' enough for an M car.

PunterCam

747 posts

129 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
This is the car we've been waiting for? There's very little on this car that is desirable, and I fking hate these engines.

yonex

12,401 posts

102 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
Sounds epic, I'll await all the negatives from the usual doom mongers biggrin

matpilch

240 posts

74 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
I don't get all the fuss with the front bumper, sure, there is a lot going on, but I've seen much worse (new Mini anyone?).

kambites

55,093 posts

155 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
matpilch said:
I don't get all the fuss with the front bumper, sure, there is a lot going on, but I've seen much worse (new Mini anyone?).
It's not that it's fussy, it's that they've dumped some random slabby planes at apparently random angles in the vent/intake gap. To me, it resembles what happens when a coordinate gets corrupted in a cad package (or computer game for that matter) and a number of large triangular planes get created sharing an arbitrary point in a random place in the image.

matpilch

240 posts

74 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
kambites said:
It's not that it's fussy, it's that they've dumped some random slabby planes at apparently random angles in the vent/intake gap. To me, it resembles what happens when a coordinate gets corrupted in a cad package (or computer game for that matter) and a number of large triangular planes get created sharing an arbitrary point in a random place in the image.
I get that entirely, although I think all that sculpting has a purpose: cooling the engine and brakes, maybe even aerodynamic influence, it's all possible. So, even though it may look strange, there is a chance it has a function.

kambites

55,093 posts

155 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
matpilch said:
kambites said:
It's not that it's fussy, it's that they've dumped some random slabby planes at apparently random angles in the vent/intake gap. To me, it resembles what happens when a coordinate gets corrupted in a cad package (or computer game for that matter) and a number of large triangular planes get created sharing an arbitrary point in a random place in the image.
I get that entirely, although I think all that sculpting has a purpose: cooling the engine and brakes, maybe even aerodynamic influence, it's all possible. So, even though it may look strange, there is a chance it has a function.
I'd imagine it must be functional because there's no way anyone would design it like that for aesthetic reasons. hehe

The question is not whether it's aerodynamically adequate, the question is whether they could have made it look less bloody stupid while achieving the same aerodynamic results. biggrin

philmots

4,474 posts

194 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
I never understand PH when it comes to BMW's, they've just released a properly awesome car and people criticising the front bumper. Jesus

kambites

55,093 posts

155 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
philmots said:
I never understand PH when it comes to BMW's, they've just released a properly awesome car and people criticising the front bumper. Jesus
It's fairly easy to understand - PH is a place to talk about cars. smile

Since none of us have actually driven it, there's not really much point in talking about how it drives. The article above tells us everything we can know about that for the moment.

Edited by kambites on Thursday 18th February 09:50

Toltec

5,479 posts

157 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
kambites said:
It's not that it's fussy, it's that they've dumped some random slabby planes at apparently random angles in the vent/intake gap. To me, it resembles what happens when a coordinate gets corrupted in a cad package (or computer game for that matter) and a number of large triangular planes get created sharing an arbitrary point in a random place in the image.
Perfect description, along with four exhaust tips and so much bonnet above the wheel arch it could be some generic fwd hot hatch.

I don't have a problem with turbo engines, however I do wonder if a well set up 228i might be more fun.

kambites

55,093 posts

155 months

Thursday 18th February 2016
quotequote all
Toltec said:
Perfect description, along with four exhaust tips and so much bonnet above the wheel arch it could be some generic fwd hot hatch.
The bonnet height above the arch is probably unavoidable if they want to stick with an inline-6 in a car this size without going to the expense of a pop-up bonnet and I actually think the design hides it as well as is reasonably possible.