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.