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Driven: BMW M2. Image by BMW.

Driven: BMW M2
Forget the heritage M3 nameplate (or even M4); this BMW M2 is a near-perfect performance car.


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BMW M2 Coupe

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: everything

Not so good: nothing

Key Facts

Model tested: BMW M2
Price: from 44,080 manual, 46,580 DCT
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door, four-seat coupe
CO2 emissions: 199g/km (Band J, 500 first 12 months, 270 annually thereafter, if registered before April 1, 2017; 1,200 first 12 months, 450 per annum next five years, 140 per annum after that, if registered after April 1, 2017)
Combined economy: 33.2mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Power: 370hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 465Nm at 1,400- to 5,560rpm, 500Nm on time-limited overboost

Our view:

After the BMW M4 launched in 2014, the usual M Power fraternity split into two. On the one hand were the people who were delighted by the way BMW had corralled 431hp and, more pertinently, a massive 550Nm into the 4 Series body shell and created the fastest M3 (re-badging issues notwithstanding) yet. On the other were those who felt the M4 was a bit of a disappointment; it was just a bit too wayward in the handling stakes, a real handful on public roads in the wrong conditions, in a way previous M3s - for all their potency and driving ability - never had been.

This particular author fell firmly into the latter camp, so the M4 was a let-down. Therefore, by rights, a car that follows the same principle of the M4, only in more compact form, should be just as compromised as a road-going motor. Like the M4, the M2 has a fixed rear sub-frame and a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six petrol; admittedly, it's a powerplant fitted with only one twin-scroll turbo instead of the M4's two, but it's still not a normally aspirated unit that this division of BMW has been famed for in years gone by. So is the M2 another car chasing on-paper performance data, at the expense of the cohesive overall driving experience?

Well, let's not despair just yet. There are various reasons why the M2 might just be able to handle its 370hp and 465Nm (500Nm with a time-limited overboost function, as is the wont of all turbocharged motors these days) better than the M4 struggles with its 550Nm. For a start, the boosted M235i already existed in the 2 Series range when the M2 arrived, and now that has become the 340hp/500Nm M240i. And the M2 has a forced induction precursor itself, called the 1 Series M Coupe; similarly steroidal, similarly forced induction, similarly propelled, with a 3.0-litre straight-six churning out 340hp/450Nm, with - yep - 500Nm on overboost.

There's plenty of precedent for the M2, then, whereas the M4 is the first turbo machine in its lineage. Right, let's therefore assess the M2 without our anti-M4 blinkers on. And, by crikey, it looks the absolute mutt's. Many examples since launch have been snapped in that signature Long Beach Blue, but the Mineral Grey car is also utterly fantastic to behold. It would be all too easy to fall into the trap of using the adjective 'pugnacious' (oh damn, we've gone and done it), yet there's little doubting the M2's road warrior intent when you look at it. Presumably, the perfectly judged, aggressive appearance is one reason you'd splash out the nigh-on ten grand extra required to sit your backside in the M2, over and above the almost-as-quick M240i.

The interior is remarkably simple by 21st century standards, but mighty effective for it. The driving position is great: low, everything just where you want it, visibility out unimpeded. The lovely three-spoke steering wheel (round, not flat-bottomed; daring and refreshing) isn't overly festooned with switches and it feels great in your hands. And yes, you can't have failed to have noticed that here in our test car we have three pedals and a six-speed manual gearbox - proper. The DCT option makes the M2 quicker and cleaner, but we'd advocate saving the astonishing 2,500 required for the twin-clutch transmission and we'll explain why later. Otherwise, the neat iDrive screen, the formal arrays of buttons on the centre console, the grey M analogue dials with the excellent digital displays in their lower portions and the ability to genuinely seat four adults in reasonable comfort within makes this cabin a winner. We really like the carbon dash trims and the blue stitching/highlights inside, too.

But all the aesthetic and ergonomic brilliance is as nothing compared to the sparkling jewel of a chassis the M2 possesses. Honestly, you will be hard-pressed to find a better rear-wheel-drive platform than this, even if you double the 45,000 budget you'd need to bag the Beemer. Like any good M creation, it functions superbly as a regular road car. You can tool around in the lower rev reaches of the 3.0-litre engine's scope and it'll feel acceptably rapid, refined and comfortable. The damping is a one-size-fits-all set-up and for town driving and motorway cruising, it's very good; incredible, given the car wears sports rubber smeared over large 19-inch wheels at all corners.

Yet there are already plenty of signifiers of the fun that's to come. It sounds great, despite the forced induction, with a metallic BMW M snarl to the straight-six engine at all times - admittedly, it is ever so slightly augmented by the car's sound system, but it doesn't sound artificial or corny. The steering is a doozy, which has genuine feel flooding back through the wheel's rim, as well as sumptuous weighting and perfect consistency. Sure, the DCT would bring its own pleasures to the M2, but not enough to justify the price, and there's that reassuring, slightly chunky throw action to the manual gearbox that makes you feel more involved in the process of extracting the pace from the BMW. It's a suite of major controls that is executed with unremitting brilliance, of the kind we historically associate with BMW M.

However, the searing and yet accessible performance remains the star. That engine is a stunner, hauling hard and clean from low revs right out to its 6,500rpm redline, making the M2 brutally quick in all conditions. Even better, all that thump doesn't ever overwhelm the rear axle, so you can really lean on the prodigious grip the BMW has in the corners far sooner - get on the throttle early and while the M2 will wag its rear end if you want it to, most of the time it just finds traction and fires the car cleanly out of the corner and into another soaring surge of six-pot power. The damping now comes into its own, blending epic body control with the ability to breathe over poor surfaces, allowing the M2 to go quickly everywhere, rather than just on silk-smooth tarmac. It is, as a result, a far less intimidating and ultimately more rewarding car than an M4 could ever hope to be, the M2 plastering a massive smile onto its driver's face almost incessantly. And it's about 12,000 cheaper than its big brother.

We're sure there's something we could find to fault about the BMW M2 if we thought about it long and hard enough, but for the life of us, right now we can't conjure up anything. This machine is the crystallisation of everything M Division really should stand for and, in our opinion, it's more enjoyable to drive than an E46 M3, the phenomenal 1M Coupe, any number of belting M5s, the Z3M Coupe 'breadvan'... in fact, it might just be the best M car we've ever driven. It is a super-talented, magnificent driver's machine and one of our favourite motors of all time. So make sure you give the M4 a swerve if you're in the market for a slice of BMW's dynamic brilliance, and aim for the glittering M2 instead.


Audi S3 Saloon: slightly more practical, mighty quick with 310hp and AWD, great looking, but - as ever from an Audi v BMW fast car comparison - the Ingolstadt machine is less involving to steer.

Ford Focus RS: similar power and performance, despite its differing body style, and the Ford is an almighty good performance car too. RWD M2 just shades it, even accounting for the Focus' price.

Jaguar F-Type V6 Coupe: F-Type Coupe is the prettiest modern car on sale. Don't let anyone tell you base V6 is slow, but more expensive and less thrilling Jag is beaten in most respects by the M2.

Matt Robinson - 18 Dec 2016    - BMW road tests
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2017 BMW M2 Coupe. Image by BMW.2017 BMW M2 Coupe. Image by BMW.2017 BMW M2 Coupe. Image by BMW.2017 BMW M2 Coupe. Image by BMW.2017 BMW M2 Coupe. Image by BMW.

2017 BMW M2 Coupe. Image by BMW.2017 BMW M2 Coupe. Image by BMW.2017 BMW M2 Coupe. Image by BMW.2017 BMW M2 Coupe. Image by BMW.2017 BMW M2 Coupe. Image by BMW.


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