BMW M2 review: endangered species

Damien O’Carroll
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  • Weapons grade performance
  • Sublime handling
  • Remarkably flexible and docile
  • It's almost as big as an M3 now
  • Styling won't appeal to everyone
  • It's probably the last of its kind...

If BMW's 3 and 5 Series line ups can be considered thoroughbreds, then the 2 Series range is pretty much the mongrel of the family.

Bear with me here: while the 3 and 5 Series cars share common underpinnings and a similar vibe right from the entry level versions up to the top-spec luxury and fire-breathing M variants, the 2 Series line up can't claim the same kind of uncluttered lineage.

You see, the 2 Series line up consists of the FWD/AWD 2 Series Gran Coupe four-door (although BMW NZ has quietly dropped the Gran Coupe here) and Active Tourer baby people mover that share their underpinnings with various Minis, while the RWD 2 Series coupe sits on the same platform as the Z4 and, by turn, the Toyota Supra. Which is... quite the DNA cocktail to lump under the 2 Series banner.

And now there is an M2, just to widen that gap even further.

The "2 Series" M2 is about as far away from the "2 Series" 225e Active Tourer than it is possible for a car to get, packing a 338kW/550Nm version of BMW's utterly brilliant 3.0-litre turbo inline six-cylinder engine and offering up all the feral thrills you expect from a proper M car, with an added and slightly sad incentive: it will likely be the very last purely ICE-powered RWD M car BMW will ever build.

The M2 is instantly recognisable and strikingly differentiated from the lesser M240i coupe by its aggressively gaping square intakes and a subtly muscular body kit. Dropping down inside it, the M2 is likewise differentiated inside with some violently colourful seats M-specific graphics on the infotainment screen, as well as the expected M-coloured stitching. Like the M240i/Z4/Supra it fits like a glove and feels instantly sporty and purposeful, as well as remarkably comfortable.

Fire the M2 up and it doesn't exactly sound spectacular and neither does it feel particularly special at urban speeds, giving off string Z4/Supra vibes and making you wonder quite why you wouldn't spend a significant amount less and just buy a Supra or even a M240i coupe (you can't buy a Z4 because BMW has also dropped that here).

But that is very much selling the M2 short, as once you wind the revs up past the mid range and things start getting surreal. The engine takes on a significantly more purposeful bellow and the whole car seems to tighten up like it knows what is coming.

Slam it into a corner with purpose an the M2 shows you just exactly why it is easily worth $32k more than the M240i (and an eye-watering $45k more than a Supra) with the kind of special blend of terrifying ferocity and assured confidence that BMW's M division does so well.

It is one of those rare performance cars that reward you for going through a corner quickly by simply going faster at the very next one as your confidence in its abilities grows. Every single corner has you feeling both thrilled and slightly disappointed in yourself when you realise you could have almost certainly gone harder. Ah well, next corner...

Of course, the wonderfully flexible engine and 8-speed automatic  transmission are also totally into this, with the engine roaring and bellowing magnificently, accompanied by savagely fast shifts. The fact that the M2 initially feels somewhat underwhelming at low speeds is simply due to the remarkable flexibility of the engine and slick nature of the transmission when just left in their normal settings.

Of course, this is an M car, so there are many settings you can tweak to get it just as docile or feral as you want, with everything from engine response and suspension stiffness, through to the aggression of the gear shifts being adjustable.

Wind everything up to 11 and the M2 is a fire-breathing supercar-worrier that would be a match for some significantly more expensive cars on a winding road. But wind it down to more mellow levels and you get a wonderfully tractable and docile car that is a superb daily driver.

ENGINE: 3.0-litre turbo-petrol inline six-cylinder POWER: 338kW/550Nm GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, RWD CONSUMPTION: 10.0l/100km (WLTP), CO2 226g/km PRICE: $144,100

How much is the BMW M2?

The M2 lands in New Zealand at $144,100, which as previously mentioned puts it a handy $32,000 more expensive than a basic M240i coupe. However, it also makes it the least expensive M model, undercutting the X3 M by around $1000 and the M3 sedan, M4 coupe and M3 Touring by a hefty $50k.

What are the key statistics for the BMW M2's engine?

The M2 uses the same. high-performance twin-turbo S58 version of BMW's B58 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder petrol engine as the M3, M4 and X3 M, but pumps out fractionally less power: 338kW compared to the X3 M's 353kW and the M3/M4 Competition's 375kW.

Is the BMW M2 fuel efficient?

It depends on how you want to look at it - BMW claims a combined WLTP combined average of 10.0l/100km for the M2 with the automatic transmission, which may sound fairly uneconomical for a smallish coupe. But then you have to weigh that against the other important number - the M2's 4.1 second 0 to 100km/h time - which actually makes it sound pretty good... 

Is the BMW M2 good to drive?

Oh, it is exceptionally good to drive! Bumbling around town at urban speeds, it is a docile, flexible daily driver that is effortless and easy to drive. But wind it up and it is a feral monster that chews up corners and spits them out, leaving you begging for more. And more. And more.

Is the BMW M2 practical for a sports car?

The M2's ability to be extremely docile at sane speeds makes it remarkably practical as a daily driver, with a roomy interior that boast plenty of storage space. A decent 390 litre boot makes it capable of swallowing a couple of sets of golf clubs (the internationally recognised boot space measuring system) too. The least practical side of the M2 is how far down you have to drop to get into it though...

What do we like about the BMW M2?

It is a proper M car in every way. While its low speed docility may lull you into a thinking it isn't particularly special, wind things up and throw it into a few corners and it proves itself to be a thing of staggering ability. It's also likely to be the last analogue RWD M car as well, with the next generation of hot BMW's being electrified and AWD.

What don't we like about the BMW M2?

It is almost impossibly to not make an old man noise when you get into or out of it. Or maybe that's just me?


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