The BMW M2’s existence can be somewhat attributed to customer/enthusiast demand. When the Munich automaker ceased production of the excellent 1M Coupe, the world got a taste of how brilliant M ingredients tasted if wrapped in a more compact, agile package.
It’s a great result that the M2, bearing the smallest number in the line-up, and derived from the petite 2 Series coupe, is also the least expensive M car on sale. It has all the same basic elements of the bigger M4 and now-four-door-only M3 - turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six up front, 50/50 weight distribution, rear-wheel drive - but with less weight and a more hunkered stance on the road.
Some have heralded it as the best M car due to this deceptively obvious combination of traits. But it isn’t a one-trick pony; rather it’ll happily deliver a precise track blast, slithery power slides, and neck-aching acceleration in the same session, just pick your poison.
It’s also able to be a rather comfortable cruiser on the way home from all that aforementioned tomfoolery, with navigation, cruise control, and a big infotainment screen. Practical too: it has a usable boot, actual (albeit cramped) rear seats, and is easy to park. Did we mention it’s also quite a bit cheaper than the M3 or M4?
It’s main rivals are the Porsche 718 Cayman, Audi TT RS, and Mercedes-AMG CLA45, though one could argue that neither of them compete directly, except that in terms of pricing and the various tiers in an automaker’s branding playbook.
In Australia, it’s offered in two very similar variants: the M2, and M2 Pure. The latter is actually the cheaper one, with a standard 6-speed manual transmission and slightly less equipment as standard.
“Looking at the M2 from the front three-quarter angle for example, makes me want to rejoice and sing from a mountaintop,” - Jalopnik
The 2 Series Coupe, or rather the M235i version is already known to be a very capable little sub-M car. Visually, however, it doesn’t have the same impact as the full fledged versions nor has it been treated with same brush as the older 1M.
The M2 fixes this from the get-go, with an endowment of 71mm of wide track at the rear and a 61mm increase at the front, the proper shoulders to announce itself on a larger performance stage. Add to that the extra sills, vents, huge chin spoiler, 19-inch alloys on fat tyres (245-front, 265-rear), new rear bumper, and quad exhausts - this really is a 2 Series on steroids.
There’s just something about the M2’s proportions that make the enthusiast or random passerby nod their head in agreement, and the praise concerning the car’s muscular exterior is both plentiful and warranted.
Engine and Drivetrain
“The BMW M2 Pure – the apparent Holy Grail of modern sports cars – auto-blips the throttle whenever you downshift.” - CarAdvice
The M2’s 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engine might read similarly to the lump used in the M3 and M4, but is actually based on the less-advanced N55 block. Not needing the strengthened components as the engine’s twin-scroll turbocharger isn’t straining it as much as the M3/M4’s twin-induction system.
It’s no slouch with 272kW and 465Nm (500Nm overboost), and is plenty adequate to make the rear wide rear tyres light up in an expensive plume or send it dashing from a standstill to 100km/h in 4.3 seconds (auto). After all, the car only weighs 1,520kg. Compared to the above competitors, we’d wager that most people would find the M2’s soundtrack more pleasing to listen to as well, with discernible valve train instead of a loud exhaust parp - perhaps tied with the TT RS’ addictive 5-cylinder roar.
Keen drivers will most likely choose the 6-speed manual transmission while those who may be looking at driving the car in more everyday situations will opt for the 7-speed dual-clutch, which improves acceleration times and boasts better fuel economy (up to 7.9-litres/100km).
Either choice is a solid one as nothing can quite replace the pleasure of a stick shift in a car like this, but the M-DCT is equally impressive with lightning fast shifts and the inclusion of launch control.
“If you want to give the kids a thrill, there are ISOFIX points for both rear seats. While headroom in the rear is actually pretty good,” - CarsGuide
It’s obvious that BMW have not gone out of their way to deck out the M2’s interior over the standard 2 Series’, though there are the appropriate amount of M badges peppered throughout.
The well-built but slightly plain looking layout resembles many other BMW products and could stand to have the flair dialled up a touch, but when you’re in the driver’s seat, the focused layout elicits few complaints.
Plenty of Alcantara and blue-stitching are to be found too, but that added touch of magic is missing here. In the M3 or M4, the interior differences left you in no doubt that you were driving something special, but the M2’s looks to simply have not been given the same level of attention in this are.
Still, it’s comfortable, feels great to drive in, and has usable rear seats that shame the ones found in the Audi TT RS. Adults of average size should be able to fit and not have to stave of an early onset of claustrophobia, children meanwhile shouldn’t have much trouble. This, coupled with the 390-litre boot, makes the M2 an immediate front runner for those looking for a sports car that’s everyday usable, especially against the strictly two-seat 718 Cayman.
Behind The Wheel
“It is a much better drive than the M4. It’s so good that in a few bends I was actually dribbling with joy.” - The Sunday Times Driving
This is where the M2 shines above all its other positives, as the smaller size and appropriately reduced power output over the M3 and M4 make it a more approachable sports car for those new to helming something with this level of performance.
It’s also quite forgiving and manages to encourage drivers to push its limits, where there’s quite a wide sweet spot between grip and balance to bask in. As a machine to induce grins and giggles, the M2 is an all-star - an accountant and a matinee idol.
The steering, too, is impressively feelsome for an electronic rack, letting the driver feel more of the road reached by its wider footprint, and egging on the exploration of the car’s very darty front end. Should you encounter understeer, there’s ample reserves of torque to parlay that into a controlled oversteer, but more often the M2 should never deviate from its personality of precision.
Safety and Technology
“The iDrive is made all the more easy to use on the move thanks to the rotary controller on the centre console with helpful shortcut buttons.” - AutoExpress
Euro NCAP, and by extension ANCAP, hasn’t yet tested the 2 Series coupe, and thus we can’t report on the crash test and safety scorecard of the M2. However, BMW has had a strong history of conforming to the highest standards in this regard.
Standard fitment are dual front and side airbags for the driver and passenger while head airbags protect rear occupants. Also factory fitted is a rear view camera, cruise control, automatic wipers, automatic headlights, and BMW’s Driving Assistant package that includes lane departure warning, approach control warning, pedestrian warning, and driver attentiveness assistant.
There’s dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, and the iDrive infotainment system with Navigation System Professional that includes an 8.8-inch display, 3D maps, bluetooth, and voice control functions.
It’s quite a rare occurrence to have the most compelling product in an automakers repertoire also be their most accessible. For BMW, they’ve taken the best of their other M cars and shoehorned them into smaller dimensions to create a handsome, supremely fun to drive car that’s also still easy to live with.
For buyers, it’s quite a time to be a sports car fan.
The Sunday Times Driving - 4/5 - “The road-testers were right. The M2 is a lot cheaper than the M4. And a lot better as well. It’s a fabulous little car, and now I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a Focus RS. Which, apparently, is even better.”
Jalopnik - “If a car makes more sense on the track than it does on the street, then it makes perfect sense to me…Besides, if this thing has a fate like the 1M did, that might just end up being a good investment.”
CarAdvice - 9/10 - “There’s no doubt the first-ever BMW M2 is good. In fact, it’s really good. But for me personally, it falls just short in some key areas that, had it nailed, would've made it an all-time great for hardcore driving enthusiasts.”
CarsGuide - 4.5/5 - “The hype around the BMW M2 is huge, and the waiting lists are already long – and for good reason. This is one of the sharpest, most engaging and most utterly entertaining driver's cars from BMW in recent memory. It's not all the way there in terms of engine response, but it's bloody close.”
AutoExpress - 5/5 - “The M2 focuses on delivering fine handling, thanks to a powerful engine and tuned rear-wheel-drive chassis, and it's all wrapped up in a small coupe body. It’s an affordable way into the world of BMW M motoring, but be aware that there are many talented hot hatchbacks on the market that are just as quick and fun to drive as the BMW M2, but cost considerably less.”
Top Gear - 9/10 - “Praise be, BMW’s given us a proper M driver’s car. The M2 is simply outstanding"