Is the new BMW M2 still unfinished? Why does it take so long?
Probably crisis meetings deep in Munich HQ, wondering what to do about the rosters.
Even through the disguised shroud, we can see that the new M2 appears to have relatively normal, respectable, sized nostrils in the center of its face. Can this be done with a new BMW? Will they vaccinate for an i7 face transplant at the last minute? Time will tell.
The new 2 Series looks quite lumpy, with a huge power bump in the hood of even the base 220i, coarse flanks and angular details. It looks like the M2 will double that, although the arches have been pumped out and the tracks seem wider than the M240i, which is a good sign.
And underneath, is it a warmed up M240i or a toned down M4?
The latter, but it hasn’t been watered down much.
If you know your BMWs, you know that the current 2 Series Coupe is now a chopped 4 Series, rather than a stretched and lowered 1 Series, because the 1 Series is now a boring front-wheel drive VW Golf rival and BMW wanted to keep its small two-door rear-wheel drive and six-cylinder in-line.
So reducing a 3/4 series to a 2 series makes the recipe for the M2 a bit predictable. We have the same 3.0-litre bi-turbo six-cylinder engine as the M4 (good for about 450 horsepower), rear-wheel drive (no xDrive 4×4 is even optional), only steel brakes (to keep the price reasonable) and a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic.
So what has changed?
BMW admits the new M2 is heavier than the old M2 and M2 Competition were because it is physically a bigger car, it has adaptive suspension for the first time and there are a huge amount of new body reinforcement beams and struts below the surface to allow the suspension to do its job better while the chassis doesn’t turn itself inside out.
Yes, it’s disappointing that BMW has gone from finicky chasing weight from M cars to using power and technology to get around the problem. But not the M2 to feel too soft on first impression. And who would bet on a lighter M2 CS or even a CSL in a few years?
If weight saving is a specter of yours, take heart from the optional carbon fiber roof, the optional carbon racing seats complete with annoying gutter bulge between your legs, and the knowledge that the lightest M2 has three pedals and a pole between the seats…
Enough specs. Does it feel like a real little sports car?
The most important thing you learn from eight laps of the Salzburgring is ‘this is beautiful, but I wouldn’t want to fall here’. Thankfully, the M2 is a friendly place to get to know a track you’ve never ridden before, even one so covered in pollen that the clouds of wake look like the smoke of an aerobatics display team. erk.
Let’s talk about what we can say with certainty about the new M2. As you’d expect, the M3-style engine has eerily ferocious throttle response and deep reserves of torque. The car feels fast, but not as dazzlingly fast as an M4, which was clearly done completely intentionally so as not to upset buyers of the big boy.
What’s crucial is avoiding the feeling of the engine being held back artificially – to feel the ECU say ‘that’s enough, pipe down until you’ve saved up for the next model’. On first impression, BMW has done well there. The sound is authentic, as you might hope for a straight-six singing through the speakers. Maybe a tad less windy than the current M3 and M4, but it still needs some final tuning.
The front and back is sensational. It’s just nailed to the track and is as foreign to the concept of understeer as ‘good taste’ is to an X7 buyer. Some will find this disturbing. Top Gear’s guardian of brain cells Paul Horrell, for example, prefers cars that understeer a little early so you can feel when the front axle is about to lose traction. If you’re the same, you might not get along with the M2, which changes direction like a racing drone and thrusts through the fast stuff so hard that you feel your neck squeezing to keep your body united with your head.
Send the M2 through the chicane and it’s perky, agile and brilliantly strenuous. You get a good dollop of oversteer in M Dynamic Mode, but it won’t let you spin. Evidently. There’s plenty of room for misbehavior, and brilliantly judged. The baby M car encourages you to laugh. And the steel brakes don’t boil on their own after half a lap – a far cry from bullshit M car brakes of yesteryear.
And the gearbox? Well, the eight-speed is professional and courteous, but the kickdowns are a little lazy and it lacks the motorsport-esque focus of the old DCT. The manual is by no means as mechanically slick as a Cayman, Emira or even a Civic Type R, but the semi-lightweight shifting just suits the M2’s combative, up and at you nature. And since the last M car will likely get a stick-shift option, we’d go for it, just for the end-of-the-era vibes.
What didn’t you like about the new M2? Let’s nitpick.
Okay, the digital displays look like someone left a shelf of Kindles on the windshield, and most of the graphics are unintelligible. Fine, do the crazy tricks, but at least offer an option to display some classic M car dials – like Audi, Mercedes, Porsche and so on. BMW’s really kicked itself in the nuts with the cheap-looking graphics.
The weight is a shame, and so is the overall size: what we loved about the last M2 was how it felt – and was – a small car with a massive tower of power under the hood. And if we had to put money on it, we would have a tenner that this generation of M2 is not as nice as the previous one.
But this – like the Toyota GR86, the new Supra manual transmission, the Lotus Emira and the Alpine A110 – is one of those cars that will probably be archived in the “we’re just glad it exists” folder, because it just won’t. for much longer. These are heady days for sports cars. We look forward to driving the finished product as soon as possible.