In 2011, BMW tantalized us with the arrival of 740 1-series M coupes in the US. Since then, we have been eagerly awaiting their follow-up act - the M2.
The 1-series M (which could not be called the M1 due to the name already being used for BMW's mid-engine supercar from the late 70s/early 80s) began as a skunkworks project. It was created by taking the suspension components from the E92 BMW M3 with the Competition package and installing them in the 1-series. This experiment resulted in the ultimate BMW - a car that boasted a smooth and torque-rich turbocharged six, balanced handling, refinement, chassis rigidity, steering clarity, and aggressive looks. Unfortunately, it was only produced for one year.
The M2 is the same formula as the 1-series M, but with newer BMW components. The aluminum suspension components, limited-slip differential, brakes, and forged 19-inch wheels are all taken from the F82 BMW M4. The M2 has larger front and rear fenders to accommodate these parts, giving it a commanding presence.
The M2's setup is super stiff and it'll make you feel it. You can't get adjustable dampers like the M4, but it's got its own shocks and springs tuned just for it. And even though you feel every bump, the structure is solid as a rock. Plus, an extra plate on the front makes it even more solid.
In the curves, the M2 has the same grip and feel as the M4. The tires aren't as wide, but the Michelin Pilot Super Sports are still good. On the skidpad, it pulled 0.99g. The brakes are the same as the M4, so you get great pedal bite and they never struggle to stop you. 70mph to 0 takes 159ft.
The six-speed manual is smooth and it'll match engine revs on downshifts. If you want to blip for yourself, just switch off the stability control. A seven-speed dual-clutch auto is an option, but the manual is hard to beat.
Downshifting isn't essential coz the M2's turbocharged 3.0-liter has crazy thrust from 2000 to 7000 rpm. It gets even crazier with an overboost feature that bumps torque peak from 343 lb-ft to 369 and the torque curve spreads out from 1450 to 4750 rpm. Turbo response is instant and torque hits hard. The 365-hp engine has the same pistons, crank bearings, and redline-smooching spirit as the 425-hp S55 engine in the M4.
BMW says the manual M2 does 0-60 in 4.4 secs, which is half a sec quicker than the last M235i manual we tested. We clocked it at 4.2 secs. For comparison, the manual M4 does 0-60 in 4.1 secs, and the dual-clutch auto does it in 3.7 secs.
The M2's interior is loud. Mass reduction was the priority, not soundproofing. BMW says the manual M2 weighs 3450 lbs, while our scales showed 3415 lbs. The dual-clutch auto adds 55 lbs. The wide tires sing over most surfaces and the engine noise comes through the speakers. Cruise at 70 mph and you'll get 72 decibels of deep hum. We'd love to hear the turbine snarl of the inline-six under pressure instead of the auto Muzak.
The M2's light steering gives off distant, faint info, and is even higher effort in Sport mode. No progressive rise in effort when turning into a corner, so it's best to ignore it and trust the chassis - 'cause it's amazing. Playful and secure, the suspension keeps the M2 glued to the road. We can't help but daydream about the perfect weight and honesty of a Porsche Cayman's steering.
Inside, you get the usual 2-series fare plus M-specific gauges and carbon-fiber-like trim. There's some scratchy plastic between the seats, but it's outta sight. Our preproduction drive had us manually adjusting the seats and fan speeds; production versions will have power seats and auto climate control.
On winding roads, we thought of the 1-series M, predecessor to the M2. That car still stands for the best of BMW, with a soul that electrically assisted power steering can't match. The M2 is modern, so the steering's a bit distant and the stereo plays engine sounds. But it's got the look and handling of the 1-series M, only smaller and cheaper - $14,000 cheaper than the M4, which starts at $66,695. Skip the M4, go for the M2 and save big.
The 2016 BMW M2 is a fresh take on the existing 2 Series, a great modern-day replacement for the old M3 coupe. It's packed with performance and driving spirit, plus it's a bargain compared to the similar-performing M4.
We usually push for the clutch-pedal-and-stick-shift life but we recognize that an auto can be a smarter choice. If traffic is a nightmare and your left leg needs a break, or if your partner's distracted by steering and their phone, the BMW M2 DCT is the way to go. It still delivers the joy of the stick-shift but with a few extra perks.
For one, it's faster. The auto-shift M2 clocks in 0.2 seconds faster than the manual in the 0-60 and quarter-mile runs. That's huge when you're talking about 4.0 seconds to 60 mph and 12.5 seconds at 113 mph in the quarter-mile. The auto's got an edge cuz it can manage launch traction better, shifts without interrupting power, and has shorter gear ratios. Plus, it's way faster in our 30-to-50-mph and 50-to-70-mph tests since it can switch to a shorter ratio while the manual stays in top gear.
The DCT's seven forward ratios give you a potential for better fuel economy than the M2's manual gearbox. That's a 10% boost in EPA-combined mileage rating - 2 mpg - which is nothing to sneeze at. That said, our manual-equipped M2 we tested in California in February averaged 20 mpg. The dual-clutch automatic will cost ya $2900 extra, but you get a zesty 365-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six, a suspension tuned for the track, and some of the best brakes around. Plus, you get Long Beach Blue Metallic paint and an Executive package with a heated steering wheel, rearview camera, Park Distance Control, and Active Driving Assistant. Inside, you'll find red-and-blue M-department stitching and coarse-weave carbon-fiber trim. And, the M2's rear seat is surprisingly comfy and the backrests fold down to stretch the 14-cubic-foot trunk's cargo capacity.
Automatic mode gives you gentle shifts during light throttle and more assertive gearchanges at the 7000-rpm redline. Floor it and there's a wild whoop as the engine revs to the redline, snarling with each upshift.
Yank the shifter fore or aft and you're in charge of gear selection. Pay close attention 'cause you won't get an upshift 'til you do. Or, go for the third option: forget the shifter after you hit the D/S position and use the steering wheel-mounted paddles for higher or lower gears. Electronics make shifts happen in a flash with a perfect rev-road speed match.
The BMW M2 is a 200-proof driving experience. It's got grip, quick steering and comfortable front buckets. Stick shifts are great for honing your heel-and-toe technique, but the auto's better when your hands are full and you need a braced leg to stay in place. Perfecting two pedals and gripping the wheel with both hands is the fastest, safest way into a corner, across the apex and out the exit. So, if you go for the stick, we still respect you.