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First Drive: BMW M2 & XM: Polarising Looks, Brilliant Drives

The BMW M2 and XM have landed in SA, wildly distinct, but both brilliant in their own right.

Jordan Schmidt
August 2, 2023
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First Drive: BMW M2 & XM: Polarising Looks, Brilliant Drives

Last year, BMW showed the world their latest products here in SA and one which has secured its place in the BMW history books as only the second-ever exclusive M car. However, the M badge doesn't imply a similarity between the recently launched duo. Their controversial looks may be the topic of debate, yet the character behind the wheel imposes two very different experiences.

The BMW M2 has been a favourite of mine for years now. The previous generation's gorgeous looks and hearty engine left a lasting impression on many, but the new model seems to divide the M community.

From the moment we saw the leaked images of the new M2, people have been drawn into a love-it-or-hate-it debate, and initially, I liked how it looked. There's something about being behind an M-car which is unique to the brand and having the bold, stand-out looks is a characteristic that the new M2 still holds.

I could go back and forth on the looks of the new M2, but that conversation only scratches the surface of just how impressive this new rendition is. The new M2 now sports a monster of a powerplant; in fact, it's the same 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline 6-cylinder motor that’s used in the M3 and M4, slightly detuned to deliver 338kW and 550Nm bolted to a responsive 8-speed automatic gearbox. For the purists, fear not, as the M2 does come with an optional 6-speed manual too.

The M2 boasts impressive shunt, clocking a 0-100 time of 4.2 seconds. Yet, I suspect BMW is being modest, and under the right conditions, it could achieve a sub-4-second time. The motor isn't the only similarity to the M3 and M4 though, as the M2 shares the same rear axle. Yes, this does add some weight to this little coupe, but under acceleration and cornering its stability becomes apparent.

One of my bigger concerns ahead of my M2 drive was the fact that the M3 without xDrive is a rabid animal. With the same engine in a smaller and lighter car, I expected the M2 to be overly demanding in the corners. To my surprise, though, this wasn't the case. The traction control is phenomenal in the way it allows you to keep the throttle pinned and allows for little in the way of unwanted drama. With that said, if drama is what you want, the M2 can still provide.

In the corners, the M2 provides you with an immense amount of grip, even at the front end on the corner exit, and its ability to build speed is absurd. A 6th-gear pull at high speeds consistently forces you deeper into your seat.

The M2 is longer and wider than you'd think to accommodate additions like the M3 rear axle. Sure, there's a slight weight disadvantage, but the larger dimensions offer a more spacious rear bench, accommodating two extra passengers in reasonable comfort, well, as much as you can expect in a sports coupe.

Coming in at a price of R1,485,000, it is comforting to know that you have a little M3 at nearly R400,000 less. The new M2 costs roughly R200,000 more than the A45 S and RS 3, but these are hatches and offer a very different experience compared to the M2, justifying the price difference.

Now that we’ve discussed BMW’s exciting new track racer for the road, the other half of the equation, and a complete contrast, is the local launch of the all-new BMW XM. The XM is BMW's answer to a luxury performance SUV which can take on the likes of the G63 and is only the second dedicated M-car after the original M1. However, I did struggle to fully understand this car.

On the performance end, the XM is fitted with a twin-turbocharged 4.4 litre V8 producing 350kW with the assistance of an electric motor adding another 150kW which in total gives you a strong 480kW and 800Nm. Now, due to its plug-in hybrid system, the XM can drive in fully electric mode for up to 88km, allowing you to run to the shops or around town quietly without letting the brutal V8 strut its stuff.

Despite being nearly three tonnes, the XM does a 0-100 time of 4.3 seconds. It also corners well and its ability to maintain speed through corners is good, but this is also where its weight becomes apparent, as you can feel its larger tyres take a second to load before hooking up.

I can continue to prattle on about its performance, but the XM is more than just a V8 plug-in hybrid sports SUV. BMW put some work into its interior and I must say it's a comfortable place to be. The M Lounge is the name which BMW has given to the back seats. And you know what, they hit the nail on the head. The second row feels like a luxury couch with soft diamond-stitched leather and a design which blends the traditional bench into one couch with three seat belts.

It is an amazingly luxurious place to sit, but I'm afraid that's really where the wow factor ends. You have more than enough charging points in the back and an air conditioning control panel. Then there's the sound; whether originating from its speakers or exhaust; it's something which everybody can appreciate. From the brutal gear changes which you can feel in your soul to the Hans Zimmer chorus of EV driving, the XM makes a variety of interesting sounds to please any motorist.

Starting at a premium R3,400,000, you can see and feel just why this car costs what it does. I do feel, though, that the XM, similar to the M2, is a car you either love or hate, and as much as I enjoyed my time behind the wheel and in the M-Lounge, but the XM isn't for me. Then again, this comes from a guy who's willing to remove his interior for a better power-to-weight ratio.

If you crave speed and power in a luxury M-Lounge, the XM is the SUV to have. Plus, with its hybrid electric motor, you can enjoy fuel savings unless you choose to let that V8 sing.


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