BMW has blown hot and cold with its compact M cars.
The 2002 Turbo, the firm’s very first turbocharged road car, set the tone, coming only a year after BMW Motorsport was founded in 1973. But the 2002 had a short life, and after it bigger M cars took centre stage. It wasn’t until the late 1990s, with the Z3-based M Roadster and Coupé, that anything smaller than an M3 received a Motorsport badge.
In 2011, a penny dropped when BMW squeezed a turbocharged straight six into a shrink-wrapped 1 Series Coupé, and the cultish 1M Coupé was born. The original BMW M2 (2015-2021) rekindled the 1M’s spirit in 2016 and was a commercial success. And now, in 2023, we have a second-generation M2 Coupé, ready to pick up where its predecessor – by the end of its life, the biggest-selling M car of all – left off.
After Munich switched the 1 Series hatch to a more commercially minded front-wheel-drive platform, the 2 Series Coupé could only survive by switching to a shortened 3 Series architecture, so the M2 follows suit. As we are about to explain, the car therefore becomes something larger, more powerful and more capable than any 1M or M2 before it – something more akin to an M 2.5, perhaps.
Read on to find out what implications that has for a car that previous M division executive boards might have considered a sideshow but which certainly demands greater respect now.