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BMW's M2 edges a little closer to home: we've now driven it in Europe, and in right-hand-drive form. And we still think it's brilliant
Matt Prior
13 April 2016

What is it?

Soon we’ll get the BMW M2 - which we’ve already driven in the US - here in the UK, where we’ll line it up against something equally tasty. But for now it’s here, in right-hand-drive form, in, er, Spain, unusually. But, at least, we're on roads much like our own, with the steering wheel on the correct side of the car and, huzzah, with the six-speed manual gearbox that is standard.

All of which initially reveals that the latest, currently smallest M-car is has a fine driving position in right-hook form and a sweet – firm and not over-short of throw – gearshift. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The M2 arrives in UK showrooms this month. Because it’s the smallest M-car, BMW evokes the 2002 Turbo, E30 M3 and the 1M Coupé. The M2 sits on a widened 2 Series coupé body, which means it is mostly made of steel, whereas its bigger M3 and M4 siblings receive more aluminium and, in places, composites. As a result of all that, the weight difference between the M2 and M3 can be as little as 25kg. The suspension, though, owes more to the bigger siblings, which is why the body is wider and looks suitably cross with the world.

The engine is a 3.0-litre straight six, but with one turbocharger instead of the M3 and M4’s two. It gives 365bhp and mammoth reserves of torque: 369lb ft, developed from – get this – 1450rpm. There’s no torque reduction at low revs to make the car feel naturally aspirated, to give it a sense of gently building power. The curve gets up and stays up, right through to 4500rpm. Peak power is at 6500rpm.

The interior? Pure BMW, with obligatory highlights, badging, embossment, stitching and Alcantara. That driving position: there are about three dozen good ones in there for any driver. I spent a reasonable portion of a 12-hour drive day fiddling between several. Eventually you’ll settle on one.

What's it like?

Now, when BMW evokes those earlier cars, it’s remembering something about them, specifically their compactness, lightness and agility. But even by the time the 1M arrived this was becoming relative. The M2, now, weighs at its lightest a not insignificant 1570kg. It has so much oomph it needs 10in-wide rear wheels to drive its power to the road.

Read our full UK review of the BMW M2 here

Credit, then, that this 4.47m-long, 1.85m-wide car does feel notably more alert and agile than its only marginally bigger, heavier siblings. It has a verve and spirit about the way it changes direction. It steers fluently, keeps its nose well planted and is balanced, poised and ready and able to deploy as much of its 369lb ft as you’re inclined to push through its fat rear tyres. Which, yes, it overwhelms pretty much as your whim dictates. The M2 has the same active rear limited-slip differential as other M cars, so it can lock by anything between 0 and 100%. It does easy slides, in other words, despite a 60bhp power deficit over an M4.

In the end, the power difference feels less than that. The M2 has plenty of shove – bar a little turbo lag at low revs – making it quick much of the time, and although you can wring it out if you want to, you don’t need to because it has mammoth flexibility. And it feels the ‘right’ kind of fast. You don’t need any more power than this; it’s enough to bring the best out of an adjustable chassis, it feels quick without being hyper and fast without being overly, um, furious. 

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And yet it also feels more complete and more focused than its most obvious, albeit slightly cheaper, rivals, the Audi RS3 and Mercedes-AMG A45. It feels a more natural fit against a Porsche Cayman – a sports car, not a hot four-seater. 

Should I buy one?

This is where things get interesting. The M2 makes a decent noise: it’s a straight-six, so why wouldn’t it? It’s composed, too, and it has a good ride but slightly looser body control and more vague steering than the Porsche would have made the Cayman our choice. 

Remove the Cayman’s soulful, responsive naturally aspirated engine from the equation, though – as Porsche just has – and that could shift the balance of power. Hopefully, we’ll soon find out on the same road, on the same day. Meantime, be assured that, even in isolation, an M2 is a hugely appealing proposition.

BMW M2 

Location Malaga; On sale April; Price £44,070; Engine 6 cyls, 2979cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 365bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 369lb ft at 1450-4750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1570kg; 0-62mph 4.5sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 33.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 199g/km, 36%

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NF001 15 April 2016

Driving Dynamics

Hard to argue with that - if driving dynamics unimportant to you Mustang is a sound choice. Looks subjective though - not yet seen the M2 in the flesh but IMO the M4 is a much finer looking creature than the mustang.
david RS 14 April 2016

Two weeks ago I saw a black

Two weeks ago I saw a black M3 E36.

Far more desirable than the actual so-called M cars...

NoPasaran 14 April 2016

Things get worse and worse...

My God, how boring it all becomes from year to year. Now we are saluting a turbo-charged run-of-the-mill engine and electric steering. 1M at least had hydraulics and a very tunable engine...
There are really very few cars on the market that are exciting, and most of them are used ones.
Look at E46 M3 CSL, the price went up quite a lot! Look at old Porsches, like 965T, 993T, 997 GT3/GT2, prices are now crazy high.
The smart move today is to find manual 997 GTS car, buy it and keep it. Not only will it not lose value, it is a great driving car, hydraulics, NA engine, light weight.
There is nothing on the market right now that is exciting, except maybe Porsche GT4. Maybe Cayman S/GTS still.
Boxster is done now, it has 4-cyl turbo like your Golf.
:-(
NF001 14 April 2016

Wow, must be depressing being

Wow, must be depressing being you. Not going to get any better either as electric steering and turbos are here to stay. All we can hope is that manufacturers produce decent cars within those parameters which the focus rs and m2 seem to be.