So here we are in 2016, admiring the new BMW M2 Coupe, proadly declared to be a worthy successor for the 1 M Coupe. But is it really the new BMW M2 so good?
Do you still remember the astonishing BMW 1 Series M Coupe – that insane model which liberated 340 HP and 450 Nm (500 Nm with overboost) out of its inline 6-cylinder engine? That insane model, created on the base of the previous generation of the 1 Series, a model that has been produced in only 1,000 units? We tested it in 2011 in Germany, ran like crazy with it at speeds of 265 km/h and I still remember today that unique thrill that car gave me back then! It was a thrill equally intense on 40 km/h, as well as on 265 km/h! It was a car of overflowing naturalness, a car that was able to make everyone drool when seeing it, even the most enthusiastic and experienced BMW fans, even those BMW fans that went out of the time train in the ’90s and choose to adore only what has been produced before the Bangle era…
The demand for that car was huge, but BMW couldn’t break its promise to limit the production number on 1,000 units, so the available cars for sale have vanished instantly. From then and until now, several versions of other BMWs have been launched, pretending the role of a moral successor for the glorious car. In 2013, I tested the M135i, created on the base of the current 1 Series, and the car I drove was a hatchback. Moreover, Bavarians have put less power into that car comparing to the 1M Coupe – “only” 320, so that they wouldn’t steal the gloss out the legend with the new sporty model, thus somehow recognizing that the new car was more a projection of the original rather than a real successor. It was with no doubt a joyful car to drive, but it had a totally different story than The Legend.
A year later, I was in Munich, testing the new BMW M235i Coupe, a car with a much closer formula to the 1 Series M Coupe. So I was driving again a fresh “moral successor” of the Legend, at that time one pretending to be a much more purist car. I had the same 6-cylinder engine under the bonnet, releasing 326 CP and 450 Nm, and the car I drove was equipped with a manual gearbox, which amplified the sporty feeling. So I experienced once again an outstanding manoeuvrability, an excellent stance on the road, a huge pleasure to drive it, but again it all felt like a following to the original idea, not a reinterpretation with the same inspiration and intensity. A spicy car, but deprived from any extreme or diabolic character.
So here we are in 2016. In March I was at Geneva motor show, admiring the new M2, and saying to myself that the numbers of this model state a total different picture. Yes, it’s still the same legendary 3.0-litre 6-cylinder engine under the hood, but it’s the first time its power exceeds the Legend’s characteristics, delivering 370 HP and 500 Nm with overboost. I talked then in Geneva even with the President of the BMW M Division, Frank van Meel, and he proudly declared that the new BMW M2 is for sure a worthy successor for the 1 M Coupe. The philosophy behind the new BMW M2 Coupe is much more purist than of any M Performance models launched in the past years. The new M model got rid of all fancy equipment and has focused on the sole spirit of pure and direct driving pleasure. It doesn’t have a suspension with adjustable dampers, because Bavarian engineers have created a chassis setting that needs to further electronic adjustments, thus preserving the old-school character of the car. The list of optional equipment – usually one quite large for any BMW model – is extremely short in the case of the new BMW M2, because you only have to choose the colour, the gearbox type – manual or a double-clutch automatic – chose some few more options and here you are, ready do have you fulfilled car. In terms o philosophy, such an approach really puts this car to the honorific place of a real successor of the Legend, to the place of a new Legend. But is it really the new BMW M2 so good?
To find the right answer for this question, the lucky me had the honor to be invited on Hungaroring – one of the most interesting trakcs in Europe. A whole army of BMW M2s have been waiting for us to put them to work on Hungarian public roads, as well as, of course, on the supreme test ground – the race track!
Presence and design
A car of a great character – this is the message that the new BMW M2 is instantly transmitting you from the very first moments you look at it. I like its splay shoulders, but also the way the front fenders flow to the front, putting a great accent on the car’s width and evolving into an aggressive front end, with such sharp lines, that you would say this car is ready to fight with anyone. But the colour of the new BMW M2 is extremely important for its presence – while the blue one fits it perfectly and highlights the right lines, the white colour, for example, seems to sponge a large part of the design effect, leaving the car with a middling presence. Well, we say you should definitely choose the blue colour for the new BMW M2!
And again, I really like the car’s rear stance, with such an attractive profile and with some very interesting lines around the taillights, with a splay bumper and a discreet spoiler on the trunk door. And there are those four exhaust pipes down there which help you better hear the concert of those 6 cylinders!
No fancy things
Those who aren’t aware of the philosophy of the new BMW M2 may get disappointed by its interior, as it lacks a lot of fine details which ensure the elevated ambiance in other, fancier and more expansive BMW models’ interiors. First of all, because the new BMW M2 is an M, it limits itself only to inserts and details that fit into its pure spirit. Then, even comparing it to the larger BMW M models, it comes with more harsh plastic inside – on the door panels, on lower side of the central console, on lower part of the dashboard. It’s a texture which is of a much more basic type, and our cars even had some ointment applied to darken the dashboard, which made it look even worse. But a similar interior could be found inside the 1 M Coupe and for sure BMW deliberately went on this simplistic path with the new model, thus putting a strong accent on the car’s purist and youthful character. And a prove to that deliberate action is the far-from-being-cheap real carbon fibre inserts you can find aboard the new BMW M2, with no additional layer or gloss on them! No filter, as you would say!
And the leather on the seats is also closer to a basic texture, but the shape of the seats is very sporty, with an excellent lateral support. Overweight folks or those who are wider on shoulders may feel tight, but that’s not critical. I am one of those slightly wider on shoulders and I fit in perfectly between those firm lateral supports. But I would chose the textile interior for the new M2, as it is more practical and more suitable for the car’s spirit, and I would even save some money when buying the car. I would even love that textile interior with blue stoke, matching the car’s exterior colour.
BMW M2 on public roads
Even though we came here especially for driving the new BMW M2 on the circuit, I am glad that the car was also offered to us for driving on public roads, for that the review would have been otherwise incomplete. The first segments of public roads proved to be very bumpy, with a lot of transverse waves, so I felt almost like in my home country. And here I could immediately feel that the M2’s suspension is rigid and firm, passing those bumps visibly irritated, like a thoroughbred sport car. But the suspension isn’t so rigid as the one of the great Legend, the 1 M Coupe, where the settings were more extreme. The new BMW M2 better swallows the bumps on the asphalt, with no drama. It just does it with a bit of noise, making the car nervously shake from time to time because of those bumps. As I said, the suspension isn’t adaptive, so no matter what regime you choose to drive – Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus – the chassis characteristics remain unchanged.
Only the steering wheel gets heavier, having a greater resistance on turn in the Sport and Sport Plus regimes. But I must say that the direct feeling you get in your hands when you touch it and when you steer is not the most purist BMW has ever made. The brand’s engineers told us just today that they put an electrical assisted steering in the car, which they adjusted so well, that it must feel like a hydraulic one. But what I feel now with my hands does not fully confirm that statement. The steering wheel is very precise and direct, but at the same time it feels a bit too filtered from the road, which reduces that awaited purist spirit. And it is also very thick, so even with my big hands I cannot hold it naturally. That feeling of a steering which feels like a hydraulic one I felt only twice on latest BMW models – on 4 Series Gran Coupe and on 2 Series Convertible in its US version, which I tested a year ago in the States.
And because I drive a BMW M model, and because the new M2 has been declared such a purist model, I expect a great sound to accompany my driving experience. Here the things differ pretty much depending on the regime you choose – in Sport and Sport Plus that exhaust valve opens and the engine sound gets louder and more profound. Well, it sounds really astonishing, without any doubt! Sweet and thick when idling, especially when the engine starts cold, then the sound evolves differently as it climbs in revolutions. But there are also gaps where the sound seems less emotional, a bit more far-fetched. That can be felt especially around 3,000 rpm, if you keep the engine speed constant for a while. You will feel a hum of a pushed engine, not of a one which pushes, and meanwhile you hear the aggressive rumble of the exhaust system, and none of that acoustic aggressively from the front, where the engine actually sits. Not even from beneath my seat, though an especially made hole, as it’s done in other fresh civilized sport models. I wish the sound to be heard from where it generates as well, at least on these purism proclaimed models!
Happily enough, there is recipe of how you can make the engine sound the most beautiful way possible, with intense mechanical emotion! When you push hard the acceleration pedal, in the moments when engine makes its strong effort to push and raise the revolutions, it produces the nicest sound you could dream of. That is the time when the admission valves are longer open, the turbo interferes with maximum boost and the engine is developing its most skilful musical score. So there is no wonder why I soon caught myself braking only for the purpose of repeating another full throttle acceleration, to hear that magnificent sound!
The ride of the BMW M2 is absolutely excellent. It goes through tightest curves like glued to the asphalt, with a superb adherence and an ideal handling. Only if you push the gas pedal on purpose of drifting you can lose adherence. With a moderate pushing of gas, you can pass and exit curves with an impeccable precision. And if you push hard, the rear differential receives information from a bunch of sensor and it could easily do you the pleasure of blocking itself, thus throwing the car into a beautifully executed drift. But we were not allowed to do it, of course. Unfortunately.
After some tens of kilometres of driving the new BMW M2 on motorways and narrower roads, I said to myself that this car is comfortable enough to ride you on some long trips. The speed limit of 130 km/h on motorways seems unfairly restrictive for this car, as the speedometer indicator climbs too easily to illegal speeds when you push the acceleration… Perhaps you can ride this car really free only in Germany, on its limitless motorways… And a useful thing to say here is that the new M2 comes with an option of deactivating the usual 250 km/h electronic speed limit! That sounds tasty!
But the most joyful driving is of any doubt on curvy mountain roads, maybe on some mountain passes, where you can really push the car to its bounds. And do you know what’s really admirable on those driving modes? Well, it’s the fact that the Sport Plus mode puts the stabilization system of the car into a more permissive mode, so that, if you enter a curve with the right speed and the right angle, the car not only doesn’t prevent you from drifting, but actually helps you do that, and in the same time is acting like a guardian angel, coming in action only if and when you obviously go a bit too far! How many cars are there in today’s world, that support the idea of drifting? We can surely count them on fingers, and only for that the new BMW M2 deserves its praise!
BMW M2 on the circuit
The first episodes on the track were quite short for us, resuming at some fast segments, which were meant to make us feel the car and the track, and which we were put to pass as fast as possible with the correct technique. It was a scorching heat outside and the freshly poured asphalt on the Hungaroring was extremely hot. That means the tires of the cars warmed quite quickly and the real fun came right away. I put the car again in the Sport Plus mode, with the stabilizing system partially off and I really start to believe this is the most appropriate mode to drive a modern BMW fast on the race track. Of course, if your intention is to drift on such a track, than switching all the systems off would allow you to make a better use of the car’s physics, but we aren’t allowed to actually drift here. We are supposed to be fast. And the laws of physics are quite clear about it: the more you slide, the slower you are.
Really aggressive starts are quite difficult to realize with the BMW M2 on the circuit. There is no launch control, so we had to improvise to simulate one. And when you take your foot off the brake, you have the impression of one second missed out of the full acceleration, before in actually starts that full advancing power, although your right foot is on the gas pedal. But, when the full power is there, you can really burn rubber with those rear wheels, and you sometimes do that even when the gearbox engages the second or even the third gear! That much torque you have on the rear wheels, that they sometimes can’t avoid having a short spin even in higher gears, although rear wheels are quite wide. And except that first second, the acceleration feeling of the new BMW M2 is intense and thrilling, equal to sportiest models on the planet, equal to thoroughbred sport cars, and most important, worthy of a continuator of the Legend.
In the first tight turn of the track I convince myself one more time that the composite brakes of the new BMW M2 are extremely efficient and firm to stop the car, but at the same time very informative, managing to stop this meteor from highest speeds to acceptable ones to pass the curve in a matter of a couple of seconds. And that makes me even more confident to brake later, gathering some more time. And I am braking with intense power, the maximum power I feel I can apply to the brakes without blocking them, but anyway the transfer of masses from the centre of the car to its front in such moments makes the rear axle little playful, but with no danger felt. And then, when exiting the corner, I push hard on the gas pedal and here I can feel the absolutely most formidable driving feeling of the new BMW M2: the feeling that you can juggle with that tiny balance with an unseen refinement! Basically, in the middle of that turn taken with maximum possible speed, you feel that you can decide the exact way the car passes the turn – if you keep the throttle in the same position, you pass it at that limit of adherence with a perfect and fast trajectory, and if you decide to put a little more gas, then you really do feel the juggling on the edge of adherence, and that edge is uncommonly wide and easy to feel and manage! So it’s really up to you to have a slight drift, or a more courageous one, or put the car in exact angle you want, all at the disposal of gas pedal and steering wheel. The more you press the gas pedal, the more oversteering you have, directly proportional and what’s really astonishing – all among a wide boundary that allows you to play with the car just as you like! You get to a point where you connect so well with the car and with this feeling that you could actually pass all the turns sideways, like in a rally, should you want that! It’s absolutely startling! Usually, the cars have to be provoked to pass that bound of adherence like you try to balance a half-empty bottle of water turned horizontally – you either have more water on one side, or on the other side and it’s quite difficult to keep it in the middle. And when the drift starts, you get on the other side and try to keep everything in control. But here you can play at that middle point as much as you like, and that gives you even more confidence to play on both sides with even greater control! That’s what delightful driving means! And if you actually keep your car in long drift with strong lateral G forces, there is a risk of having all the oil in the engine out of the pump’s reach, but not in the case of the new BMW M2, since the engineers have put two pumps in the engine precisely to be sure that drifting is safe for engine reliability! Oh! Fantastic! That kind of makes the new BMW M2 the perfect car for the young enthusiasts, and even for the more experienced ones who look for the compactness and greatest agility! But being a young enthusiasts and make your entrance into the world of supreme performance by buying this car seems the absolutely right pace! So, here I perfectly understand the philosophy of the new BMW M2 and the statement of Germans that the new model is a car especially focused to younger folks, like a great welcome car to the world of BMW M division! What a hot welcome!
Our verdict: BMW M2
No, BMW M2 is not as extreme as the 1 Series M Coupe and even the dose of purist philosophy seems more temperate, with a more comfortable suspension for daily driving and a slightly more filtrated feeling in the steering wheel, although the direction is still very precise and informative. Simplicity and focus to the essential forms the interior ambiance, a thing which we totally agree with. When driving on public roads, I have really enjoyed the car’s ride and manoeuvrability. The engine pushes you strongly in your seat, but on the acoustic side the feelings are dualistic, and you have to put it to intense accelerations to get the best sound out of it. But on the race track you are given access to an unseen level of controlling the balance between keeping the adherence and starting of oversteering. The juggling with the equilibrium, in other words – a characteristic I have never felt before in such amount on a car driven on race track! And it doesn’t even take you long to figure out how to juggle with that balance! BMW M2 allows you to feel it and discover it immediately, as you would expect from a purist sport car. Even though the new BMW M2 doesn’t surpass the 1 M Coupe on the madness level, it manages to add something new in the world of absolutely pure performance and that makes it, finally, a worthy successor for that rebellious car launched half a decade ago.