What is it?
We’ve not long been out of the M2, BMW’s newest, most compact M-variant. Think of this, then, as a brief amendment to my colleague Matt Prior’s typically spot-on first drive.
Why are we driving precisely the same car again? Matt drove it in Spain where the main roads are as smooth as silk; this time, we’ve had a go in the UK where the roads are as lumpy as day-old paella. There’s nothing like 100-odd miles of Welsh Tarmac to gently round off a first impression of a 365bhp coupé.
What's it like?
Still extraordinarily good, really. Crucially, despite the shared chassis components underneath, the M2 needed to feel like its own thing – and it does. Nicely compact in a way the M3/4 isn’t, the car has a knack of zeroing you into the experience. It’s clearly fast, although, Prior’s right: it isn’t an anxious, on-the-brakes, stomach-churning sort of speed; it feels very suited not only to the car, but also to the prospect of delivering all its power on the road.
Chances are you’ll do this a lot, a) because the turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six is exceptionally keen after a mandatory moment of lag, and b) the M2 seems fantastically well controlled. We get here what we’ve often asked for: a passive, sporting suspension set-up tuned by a manufacturer to offer the compromise they think best suits the car.
For my money, for 90% of the time, BMW has nailed it. There’s an unexpectedly wonderful suppleness to the way the M2 (on standard 19in rims) rides. It's taut, but never strangled by the sort of overly tight body control that becomes wearing after an hour spent on Welsh B-roads. Instead, it simmers brightly on its spring travel, feeling animated and ever ready to deliver the kind of agile response you’d expect from such a pithy wheelbase.
The downsides? Well, the six-speed manual isn’t quite as sweet as it ought to be. Personally, I don’t like auto-blippers, especially ones that insist on working even in Comfort mode because sometimes I’m downshifting to gently slow down – it’s one of the pleasures of a do-it-yourself ‘box and not really helped by artificial rev matching.
Also, doubtless by design, the M2 is less handsomely tacked down at high speed than the Competition Pack-kitted M3/4 we tested recently. Although, that said, it never lacks for fluency, and is second only to a Cayman in the communication of its limit.
Should I buy one?
Certainly there’s nothing to suggest a British buyer shouldn’t. There’s a very real chance – as we hoped there would be – that the cheapest M-car might also be the best. Further testing, not least in the format of a full road test, will sort that out.
Currently though, our first impressions remain overwhelmingly positive – sufficiently so for us to be far more envious of those on the waiting list for an M2 than those who’ve plumped for a 718 Boxster. Which, for now, says it all.