What is it?
The M2 also happens to be one of the most eagerly awaited performance cars in years. So it is with rather high expectations that we head to the Laguna Seca circuit and surrounding roads in California to drive the new 365bhp coupé, whose impending introduction opens a whole new chapter for BMW’s M division.
Unlike the earlier 1-series M Coupé, which acted as a forerunner to today’s line-up of BMW M Performance models, the M2 is acknowledged as a fully fledged M-car.
When it reaches UK showrooms in April, the muscular two-door will carry a price tag of £44,070, positioning the it £12,520 below the four-door M3, up until now the most keenly priced of all BMW M models.
With this sort of pricing, the new junior M-car will inevitably be compared with the £39,995 Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic and £39,950 Audi RS3 Sportback.
Unlike its highly rated four-wheel-drive hatchback rivals, though, the new BMW is rear-wheel drive, maintaining a rich tradition at BMW M that harks all the way back to the original M3 from 1986, a car the firm is quick to point out possesses close parallels to the M2.
Given the decision to continue down the rear-wheel drive route, BMW M division boss Frank Van Meel expects to see stiff competition from the recently facelifted four-cylinder Porsche Cayman S, which starts at £48,783 in the UK.
The starting point for the new junior M-car was the M235i, alongside which the M2 will be produced without the volume restrictions of the 1-series M Coupé at BMW’s Leipzig factory in Germany. Such are the extent of the changes, though, that it could be considered an all-new model in its own right.
It is clearly the smallest of all current BMW M division models. With a length of 4468mm, a width of 1854mm and height of 1410mm, the M2 is 202mm shorter, 21mm narrower and 10mm lower than the M3. It also boasts a wheelbase that is 117mm shorter than that of its larger sibling at 2693mm .
At the M2's heart is a heavily modified version of BMW’s six-year-old N55 petrol engine that employs developments first used on the more powerful S55 unit used by the M3 and M4.
The two powerplants share the same cooling system, pistons, crankshaft bearings, elements of their exhaust system, Valvetronic variable valve control and Double-Vanos variable camshaft control.
Unlike the twin turbocharged S55 unit found in the M3, though, the reworked N55 engine relies on a single turbocharger that uses a twin-scroll process to boost induction.
The result is a solid if not particularly spectacular 365bhp at 6500rpm, giving the M2 60bhp less than the M3 but 30bhp more than the old 1-Series M Coupé. In combination with a claimed kerb weight of 1495kg, some 40kg more than the M235i, this provides the new BMW with a power-to-weight ratio of 244bhp per tonne.
To put this in perspective, the 425bhp M3 boasts 277bhp per tonne, while the 335bhp 1-Series M Coupé served up 225bhp per tonne.
The 343lb ft the engine develops between 1400 and 5560rpm is 62lb ft less than that of the M3 and 26lb ft lower than the 1-Series M Coupé. Still, an overboost function, which is activated during kickdown to liberate a full 2.1bar of boost pressure, temporarily raise the engine’s peak torque loading to 369lb ft between 1450 and 4750rpm for 30sec bursts of full-throttle action.
The M2 comes with the choice of either a standard six-speed manual gearbox with an automatic throttle blip function for downshifts or an optional seven-speed DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox offering the choice of both manual and automatic modes, three distinct driving modes (Comfort, Sport and Sport +), launch control and even a so-called Smoky Burnout function, which allows the driver to indulge in wheelspin off the line. With the DCT gearbox, the kerb weight increases by 25kg to 1520kg.
As on all existing BMW M division models, an electronic limited slip M-differential offering a fully variable locking effect comes as standard.
With the standard manual gearbox fitted, BMW says the M2 accelerates from 0-62mph in 4.5sec. A lower first gear ratio and the effectiveness of the launch control feature of the DCT transmission shaves 0.2sec off this time, reducing it to 4.3sec.
The M2 rides on a largely bespoke chassis boasting tracks that are increased in width by 64mm at the front and 71mm at the rear over the M235i, at 1579mm and 1601mm respectively. They’re essentially the same tracks used by the M3 and its two-door sibling, the M4.
Additional bracing between the suspension towers helps to boost the high-strength steel bodyshell's rigidity, and M division has also dispensed with rear bushings, with the M2’s rear axle subframe bolted directly to the structure without any use of rubber to dampen road shock.
In a bid to pare weight, some 10kg of sound deadening material has been taken out of the bodyshell.
The suspension, featuring MacPherson struts up front and a five-link arrangement at the rear, also receives a number of new lightweight components, including forged aluminium control arms and wheel carriers, which help to lower the unsprung weight by a claimed 3.0kg.
The M2 rides on standard 9.0Jx19in front and 10.0Jx19in rear wheels shod with 245/35 and 265/35 profile tyres respectively. The wheels house standard 380mm front and 370mm rear steel disc brakes, four-pot front and two-pot rear calipers.