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.