FIRST DRIVE: BMW M2
The M Formula that works Every Time.
A brief history: The BMW 2002 Turbo, 2-door coupe was introduced in 1973 as a forerunner of what the world would later adopt en-masse. Turbocharging. The 2002 Turbo found itself in the middle of an oil crisis with Germany imposing laws to clamp down on fuel usage…for a time. The BMW 2002 Turbo was built in limited numbers with just 1 400 units being made and has since joined the ranks of rare classics with just one Turbo reported to be on local soil right now.
Some 38 years later, BMW unveiled the BMW 2002 Turbo’s successor, the BMW 1 Series M Coupe, a short, stout entry into M-ownership with a feisty 250 kW under the hood. It too, has become a rare sight in South Africa. In 2016, BMW officially launched the successor to the 1M as the first-generation BMW M2. With more power and more space, the M2 would become the highest selling BMW M product in its 50-year history with over 60 000 first gen M2’s finding homes.
We’re into the newest era now, with the 2nd-generation M2 that you see gracing these pages. The new BMW M2 first made its appearance to the world at the BMW M-Fest in 2022 at the Kyalami International Grand Prix Circuit in Johannesburg. The reception was mixed with many distressed by its grille and rectangular forms, me included. In my mind, the M2 just didn’t quite resolve into something complete but I’m happy to report that despite that, the M2 is the most complete M2 ever made.
It's nothing ground-breaking, but rather BMW improving an already-existing formula, one that has always garnered praise from driving enthusiasts. The formula takes an already excellent engine, namely the 3.0-litre, twin-turbo, high-revving unit out of the M3/M4 and then couples it to a rear wheel drive, taut and short chassis. The formula prioritises driver engagement over anything else, heaping focus on thrills and fluidity of movement. The result is a hoot of a sportscar, more fun than its larger brethren because the dynamics are less complicated.
BMW has chosen to launch the M2 in the hot Arizona desert, and our drive route for the fiery coupe sees us head North into cowboy country. After about 100 kilometres of tiresome and uneventful main roads, our GPS politely tells us to change direction and head into cactus-laden wilderness. The roads are empty and undulating with all manner of corners and drop offs you could imagine. Ensuing nearly every crest is a sharp right-left sweep followed by a long off-camber turn that eventually opens onto a straight, rising over another crest and ditto, another series of twists of varying ilk. The roads here are fantastic. The M2 comes into its own.
I’m in a 6-speed manual M2 in Toronto Red, the very car you see on these pages. For absolute, purist driving engagement, this is the one to have. The pedals are in the perfect position and the gear shift action is slick and decisive. The rev-matching assistance on the downshifts elicits additional grins. The steering is classic M BMW, perhaps not as direct as a GT4 RS, but certainly close. It’s the feedback that is so good despite the electro-mechanical steering, the weighting remains top draw combined with the 50:50 weight distribution and engaging chassis, the M2 is one of the most exciting drives of the year.
The power is linear and usable, all through the rev range. Peak power arrives at an aurally stimulating 6,250 rpm. 338 kW of power feels just right here, never over-excited, never catching you off guard. This is not to say that the previous M2 Comp felt underpowered, but you don’t realise how much more intoxicating an increase of 66 kW is. The throttle response is immediate and brings that engine to life on tap.
All considered, the new M2 must not be mistaken for its only significant change being a healthily uprated powertrain. BMW has simply taken an existing recipe and beefed it up in all the right areas. Contrary to some reports, the new BMW M2 doesn’t have a new suspension setup. The suspension components including the 5-link rear axle are lifted wholesale from the previous M2. The Active M diff is still there, considering steering angle, torque through the rear wheels and lateral grip to give you the most engaging feel and feedback. The only changes to the suspension and chassis can be pin pointed to adding additional pieces of aluminium in some key areas. The front axle and entire engine compartment have been stiffened as has the rear from the C-pillar down to axle, all in a bid to improve rigidity and torsional stiffness. I’ve been privileged enough to see the aluminium pieces that have been added and I have to say, I can only attest to the functional difference these bracing elements have had on the overall experience. The M2 feels more grown up now.
The structural improvements have made the car far more mature, particularly in how lively the rear is. Oversteer is more predictable now and the tail-happy nature of the G87 M2 Coupe has been tempered for a more enjoyable experience. There’s more poise and control under hard braking, but the same can be said as you turn into a hairpin, bury the throttle and ride out the tail-waggle that follows…if you so want it. The M2 now also gains the M Drift Analyser Software and the M Traction Control function for controlled and measured drifts.
Stopping power comes courtesy of 380mm, six-piston brakes up front, with floating 370mm discs at the rear. The wheels in standard guise come as 275/35 ZR 19 and 285/30 ZR 20 tyres, front and rear respectively. The big news is the dual pedal feel on the braking system, which is configurable from the M Mode menu, giving you the option of varying bite points and pedal feedback, depending on your driving style. It’s the M-car way, isn’t it? The ability to dive into the M Mode menu and configure the chassis, engine, steering, braking, and exhaust note as you like, is what sets real M-cars apart from their wannabe counterparts. The new M2 is no different and offers these functions within the latest BMW OS 8 operating system with the Curved Display.
The new M2 is a fantastic sportscar because it’s presented as a simple offering. The engineering isn’t simple at all, nor is the tech on offer, but as a driver who simply wants an engaging and versatile sportscar, the M2 is a step up on its predecessor for all the right reasons. It’s more mature but hasn’t lost its zesty playfulness, it’s more powerful without the loss of real-world usability, it’s more tech-laden with the most up to date on-board infotainment and say what you want, its design is still a talking point. I was unimpressed by the M2’s design when I first laid eyes on it, but having seen it up close and spent some 200-miles behind the wheel, I am willing to put those petty opinions aside for this car.
The new BMW M2 has just been introduced as the official new Safety Car for the MotoGP™, starting the 25th season for BMW M in this role. It’s also one of the cars that will close out the epic 50th year celebration for BMW M. What a year it’s been for the brand, and what a car they’ve made in the M2.
M Performance Parts
As with all M-cars, the M Performance Parts catalogue will make a host of parts available to make your M2 stand out from the crowd. The car picture here is fitted with every M performance part in the catalogue, including M Performance suspension, centre lock, carbon fibre replacements of the air inlets, front splitter, mirror caps, side skirts and fuel filler cap. M Performance logos for the LED door projectors are also an option as is a CFRP roof for improved dynamics and reduced weight.
There are 28 M Performance Parts available to order for your new M2, for both exterior and interior fitment. The available colours of the new M2 are: Alpine White; Sapphire Black and Brooklyn Grey plus the two exclusive-to-M2 colours, Toronto Red and Zandvoort Blue.