The M2 is BMW’s long-awaited compact performance coupe, released this month and available this spring in Canada for $61,000. Let’s take a look at it by the numbers.
BMW 1 Series M Coupe
BMW 1 Series M Coupe and BMW M3 Sport Evolution.
There are plenty of fans of the littlest M, which ended one year of production in 2012. Even Jeremy Clarkson, who usually derides all things German, called it “the most fun car of the year” for its agility on a race track. It made 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque and dashed from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds.
But the 1 Series M Coupe, the M2’s spiritual predecessor, was only ever supposed to be a limited-run experiment, just a teaser really. It was meant to sell 2,700 units but BMW caved under pressure and finally built 6,309 cars, of which 220 came to Canada. Soon after, it changed its naming protocol so that odd-numbered models would be sedans and even numbers would be coupes. Any new compact performance coupe would have to be a…
2014 BMW 228i
It’s a nice tidy little coupe, and the popular 228i starts at $36,200. It’s not a bahn-stormer at that price but it’s pleasant enough. Its 241 hp, four-cylinder engine consumes an average of just 8.4 L/100 km of gas. Or if you want more street cred, you can step up to the 235i, with two more cylinders and an extra litre of displacement. That’ll give you 322 hp. Grrrr!
But it’s a long way short of the…
2015 BMW M3
The only real choice for a smallish BMW high-performance car over the last few years, which now comes separated into the traditional M3 sedan and the newly-named M4 coupe.
Its turbocharged 3.0L inline-six starts at $75,000 and kicks out 425 hp. More important, it uses aluminum and lightweight steel wherever possible in its chassis and suspension to keep up its power-to-weight ratio, and much of this is also found in the M2. This is what helps its reputation on the track as nimble and agile.
There are plenty of M3 and M4 pieces on the M2: the front and rear axles are made of lightweight aluminum, as are the control arms, axle sub-frames and the front axle’s stiffening plate. Even the suspension struts and tubular anti-roll bar. This all helps keep the weight down on the M2, despite the beefier components.
The M3 is 0.2 seconds faster from standstill to 100 km/h than the M2, but that’s comparing similar transmissions. If you park a stick-shift M3 and an automatic dual-clutch transmission M2 side by side then drop the flag – and remember to activate the launch control – they’ll both reach 100 km/h in just…
2016 BMW M2
That’s the official acceleration time of the dual-clutch automated manual (DCT) M2. Allow an extra 0.2 seconds if you have the manual, but if you can handle that extra time – which is only a blink, after all – then you’ll also save the $3,900 extra cost of the optional DCT, as well as enjoy a truly satisfying old-school stick-shift.
If you’re a bit rusty with a stick, BMW has that covered, too. The manual will automatically match the revs on gear changes, blipping the throttle to downshift and lowering the revs to upshift. You can turn this off if you want, but your passengers will be so impressed by the smoothness of your clutchwork that you probably won’t.
They’ll also appreciate, but never notice the…
5 Percent Drag Reduction Over the 2 Series Coupe
2016 BMW M2
The bodywork is subtly different from the less powerful 2 Series, including large blades on the front air spoilers inspired by the old 3.0 CSL touring car racer. They’re not just there to look good though – they divert some of the airflow through the wheel arches to smooth out the slipstream, helping to cool the engine while making the M2’s design more aerodynamic.
The overall design also reduces the car’s lift pressure at speed by 35 percent, which is invaluable when there are…
6 Cylinders Powering the 3.0L Engine
2016 BMW M2 inline-six engine
BMW’s engineers knew before they put their digital pens to digital paper that the M2 had to have an inline-six engine, which is part of the German maker’s signature. No other major manufacturer uses an inline-six engine as frequently as BMW does. Let others put V8s and high-pressure turbo-fours under the hood, and by all means use them in other BMWs, but if the M2 and M3 and M4 are to be halo performance cars, they must use the I6.
(Those three models squeeze about as much power as safely possible out of the engine setup. The M5 and M6 need to go up a size, to 4.4L V8s, to hurl their larger bulk effectively around a track.)
Thinking of BMW’s six-appeal, the stick-shift M2 has a sweet six-speed transmission, like every other decent manual transmission except Porsche’s and Corvette’s seven-speeds. It’s lovely to row through the gears, but if you want to attack the corners as effectively as possible, you’ll need the…
7-Speed Dual Clutch Transmission
2016 BMW M2 Coupe 7-speed DCT
It costs an extra $3,900, and is one of only three options available on the M2 (with $850 metallic paint and a $600 connectivity upgrade), but it’ll make you feel like a Formula One racer as you flick the paddles and blip through the gears. The extra cog just adds a little more strength to each ratio.
When maximum torque peaks at 5,560 rpm, or 4,750 rpm on overboost, you want to be sure to not spend too much time bouncing off the 7,000-rpm redline. Here’s where it’s so much easier to just flick a paddle, rather than heel-and-toe the pedals while taking a hand off the wheel to move the shifter. Sorry if you’re old school, but when tenths of a second count, the DCT is quicker than you’ll ever be.
You’d better believe the M2 had a seven-speed DCT when it clocked…
7:58 Around the Nurburgring.
2016 BMW M2 Coupe
Not quite fast enough to get into the Top 100 lap times (#100 is a Seat Leon Cupra, at 7:58.40), the M2 is less expensive than almost all those record setters. The Nurburgring rewards high speed as well as agility, and the M2’s 365 hp is electronically capped at 250 km/h.
There’s no Nurburgring equivalent in Canada or even North America, but there are plenty of racetracks with open lapping days, and the BMW M2 will be available here this spring. Expect to see one filling your rear-view mirror soon. But get behind the wheel and you’ll probably be on…
2016 BMW M2 Coupe
It’s lovely to drive the M2 on a track. Not relaxing, but rewarding, with direct feedback through the wheel and the seat of the pants. Porsche-level feedback? Damn close if it’s not a match.
It’s all about balance for the M2, with an even 50-50 front-back weight distribution. Its balance and power/weight ratio is why there are no plans for an all-wheel-drive version or a cabriolet. You can’t even get a sunroof, which will add to the weight and diminish the structural strength of the frame.
The electric power steering is much improved from the earlier versions of just a few years ago. It grows firmer with greater speed, and of course everything adjusts a little tighter when the Drive Mode is set to Sport Plus.
“It’s not our philosophy to get the most powerful engine in the world,” says Dirk Hacker, BMW’s vice president of the M division. “We think to get the right feeling for the car, and the right BMW M feeling, you need a very good balance of lateral and longitudinal performance. An engine is longitudinal, but a big engine is not a favourite for lateral acceleration. So we look at the weight-to-power ratio to get the best overall performance.”
M2 or M4? The choice of numbers is up to you. How much of a track car do you really want?