BMW M2 overview
For many, the latest BMW M2 is a car that's more in keeping with previous generations of the M3. While that model (and the closely related M4) has grown in size and weight, as well as adding more electronic trickery and four-wheel drive in some instances, the relative size of the M2 means it's more of a spiritual successor to those M division classics.
In terms of looks, it's certainly very different from the last M2. BMW has taken the standard 2 Series Coupe and added some serious beefcake into the mix. The M2's box arches and squared-off lines add a level of brutalism that will turn heads wherever you go, arguably even more so than the current BMW M3 or M4. The car's front end will split opinion but from the rear the M2 offers squat lines and a purposeful stance.
The BMW M2 has some tough rivals to contend with. That asking price places it against the likes of the Porsche 718 Cayman (either in less expensive four-cylinder Cayman S guise, or the pricier flat-six-powered GTS 4.0), while the Alpine A110 S delivers similar handling finesse to the Cayman at the expense of outright performance. If it's muscle you want, then the outgoing Ford Mustang offers traditional V8 punch, while the Toyota GR Supra is another rear-wheel-drive performance coupe to consider.
The BMW 2 Series Coupe model range
The BMW M2 starts from €115,055, which is more than double the starting price for the 2 Series Coupe on which it's based. At €54,744, the entry-level 220i features a 184hp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, while the 230i uses the same engine with 245hp and with a price tag of €61,545. Next up is the M240i xDrive, which is the only four-wheel-drive model in the range and, aside from the M2, is the only version to feature a straight-six engine, here making 369hp - or around double the power of the 220i. From there it's a €35,000 jump to the M2, but as well as adding nearly 100hp over the M240i, you're getting a lot more equipment and the expertise of BMW's M division to create a unique chassis.
The bodywork is pumped up for the M2, plus there are 19- and 20-inch wheels front and rear that come in a range of dark finishes to complete the M-car transformation, and they're fitted with grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres. Under the skin, the 2 Series Coupe family uses the same 'CLAR' platform as the 3 and 4 Series line-ups, while the latest M2 shares plenty with the M3 and M4. The engine is the same 'S58' twin-turbocharged straight-six, which is a high-performance evolution of the B58 found in the M240i. Here it makes a healthy 460hp, which is around 50hp down on the M3 and M4, while the M2 comes exclusively with rear-wheel drive. In terms of size, the M2's wide body is needed to cover front and rear track widths that are the same as the M4's, but the M2's wheelbase is 110mm shorter, which further enhances the car's stocky look.
The M division upgrades include plenty of kit that enhances the M2's driving experience. There's adaptive suspension, an M Sport differential and quad exhausts poking out of the rear of the car, while M division-developed stability control and analytic software can help you make the most of the car's power. The steering, throttle, exhaust and suspension settings are all adjustable from the driver's seat, too.
Other standard equipment includes gloss black exterior trim, adaptive LED headlights, a carbon-fibre roof, auto-dimming and folding mirrors, electric seat adjustment with lumbar control and M performance brakes with red calipers. There's leather trim inside (which can be specified in different colours and with different detailing), while carbon fibre is used liberally across the dashboard, too. The twin screens of the curved display include a large 12.3-inch digital driver's display and an even larger 14.9-inch touchscreen which houses all of the main controls - including the three-zone climate system. The climate controls are part of the main touchscreen (we would prefer physical controls) but the M2 does retain the rotary iDrive controller on the centre console that makes navigating the screens extremely straightforward.
Other equipment fitted includes a Harman Kardon stereo, M-specific interior lighting (including door panels that illuminate in the blue, violet and red of the M division's corporate colours), heated front sports seats with memory function, front and rear parking sensors, plus a suite of connected services.
Since the BMW is very well equipped, there aren't many options available. The biggest change that you can make is to choose a six-speed manual gearbox. This adds €982 to the price, and means the 0-100km/h time is two-tenths of a second slower (economy and emissions are poorer, too, although nobody is going to buy an M2 and worry about such things), but some drivers will be happy with that sacrifice if it means they can take greater control of the car.
Another option is the €4,207 M Driver's Pack. This increases the top speed to 290km/h, but more importantly includes a voucher for an 'M Intensive Training' course, where you can make the most of the M2's performance.
The BMW M2 interior
Frameless windows are a traditional coupe touch that enhance the M2's sporty feel, and this character continues from behind the wheel, with lots of high-quality materials and shiny carbon-fibre trim dotted around. The low-slung seating position feels purposeful, while the seats themselves are figure hugging and offer great comfort over longer distances. There's a wide range of adjustment in the seat and wheel, too, so it's easy for most drivers to get comfortable.
That steering wheel is perfectly round (unlike the flat-bottomed items you sometimes get in performance models), and has a familiar M-car feel, in that it's a little on the thick side with squishy padding under the leather trim. It's also packed with the usual multifunction buttons, plus bright red M1 and M2 buttons that can be configured with your favourite drive settings. There are a pair of carbon-fibre gear shift paddles for the auto-equipped model, too. They're thin and just in the right position, although they don't feel quite as satisfyingly solid to use as metal paddles would.
As for the rest of the dashboard, the twin curved screens look fantastic, with clear graphics and plenty of functions at your disposal. One handy feature is the Setup button on the centre console which takes you straight to the menus for adjusting the car's chassis, steering, brakes and traction control - find your perfect combination of settings and these can then be mapped to the buttons on the steering wheel.
While the M2 is focused on performance, there is a decent level of practicality on offer for a coupe, too. Space in the front is good for two, although the car's shortened wheelbase means sacrifices have been made for the two rear seats. Legroom isn't that generous, and rather ambitiously BMW has included two sets of ISOFIX child seat mounts. You'll have to fight to get a child seat back there in the first place - why there isn't ISOFIX on the more easily accessible front passenger seat we don't know.
Boot space is decent for a sports car, with a Volkswagen Golf-rivalling capacity of 390 litres, although the narrow saloon-style boot opening will limit what you can carry. There's also 40:20:40 folding rear seats if you want to load longer items that are thin enough to slide through to the cabin.
The BMW M2 driving experience
Our time with the BMW M2 was spent on a typical Irish day on the roads around Wicklow, so we had it all, from dry roads and sunshine to torrential downpours. But the M2 proved itself to be a hugely capable machine.
Fire up the twin-turbo straight-six and it has a purposeful rumble that soon settles once there's a bit of heat in the system. On the move, the ability to adjust so many settings could cause confusion, but when you've found the set-up you like, the M2 really does deliver. And I for one love the option to alter all the settings.
There's lots of communication from the front tyres to the steering wheel, so much so that you may as well have your fingertips rose-jointed to the front wheels. Surface changes are easily perceived, and every lump, bump or cat's eye can be felt. The downside is that the wheel moves around in your hands when dealing with adverse cambers, while the wide tread of those Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S's can suffer from aquaplaning a little too easily. But then the M2 is so easy to exploit it's likely that you're travelling a lot faster than you might anticipate.
At the other axle, the combination of those grippy tyres and the M-tuned transmission and differential mean there's huge traction out of corners. Push too hard and the dynamic stability control cuts in quickly and without fuss, so the M2 simply hunkers down and fires forward.
As for the assorted settings for the car's powertrain, switching the engine between Efficient, Sport and Sport Plus transforms the car. Efficient will be the best mode for urban use, when you can't really make the most of the M2's ability, but cranking things up to Sport Plus changes the engine's character. Here the exhaust sounds more purposeful, and the throttle is much snappier. Outside of stop-start traffic, that's the setting we'd drive in at all times.
Changing the adaptive suspension between Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes also makes significant changes, although even in Comfort mode the M2 is only tolerable at best and never truly becomes comfortable. In the two stiffer modes, even the Sport setting is unbearable on rough surfaces, although the trade-off for that is an unbelievable amount of body control in corners.
The gearbox also has a range of settings that alter the ferocity of its shifts, both in auto and manual modes. Thankfully, the manual mode is exactly that - while some automatics can reset into auto mode if you're not actively shifting, the M2's gearbox remains a manual until you move the stubby lever on the centre console back to auto mode.
Switching the steering between Comfort and Sport modes adds more weight to the wheel, but the same two settings for the brakes didn't offer any noticeable difference in feel - this will probably come to light when using them hard on the track. Either way, there's no shortage of braking power on the road.
The track will be the best place to explore the ability of the M Traction Control system. This has 10 settings that adjust the amount of slip the system delivers, although it only works when the dynamic stability control is switched off. BMW has also equipped the M2 with a drift analyser, so that you can look at how far and fast your sideways slides are going, although of course this should only be conducted at a track, not on the public highway.
In fact, you really need a circuit to make the most of the M2's overall performance. It's ferociously fast through the mid-range and all the way to the red line, which means it's difficult to use all of its performance on the road. In some ways the latest M2 has lost a little of the old car's useful playfulness as a result, since it's harder to exploit its ability at legal speeds.
Our verdict on the BMW M2
The BMW M2 is arguably the sweet spot in the current M range. It delivers searing performance and excellent feedback to the driver, lots of traction and responsive handling that will bring a smile to your face. It's far more capable than its predecessor, though it has admittedly lost a little of its playfulness to enable that. It looks the part - pictures don't really do the car's stocky shape justice - and it has a level of practicality that means it's a viable everyday performance car, albeit one that could show a few supercars a clean pair of heels.