For as long as I’ve held a license - and probably a little bit before - I’ve dreamed of owning an M car. I haven’t quite gotten there yet (and my colleague Alex’s E36 M3 has shown how the ‘dream’ can turn to a ‘nightmare’), but the M2 has given me the chance to pretend for a few months. And it felt awesome.
Looking down at the key with its big M Division fob. Walking out the door and seeing wide-arched M aggression filling my driveway. Getting knowing looks when you’re out driving. It’s the vain side of M car ownership, but it makes you feel great.
It’s hard to find things not to like about the M2. It’s more than fast enough, it offers entertaining, accessible handling, and it’s even pretty comfortable and practical. The only real niggle is the interior is a tad drab and dated, something highlighted when we put it against the plusher Audi TT RS. Oh, and the suspension could perhaps do with a little more finesse.
But there’s something which is more than a niggle, and potentially a deal-breaker: the engine. It’s irksome that it isn’t a proper, S-designated M Division engine. Instead, the M2 makes do with a fettled version of the N55 twin-scroll turbocharged straight-six found in the old M135i, M235i, 335i etc, and while it’s certainly powerful and very flexible, it conspicuously lacks drama. It’s not so much the power itself; it’s the way it’s delivered.
When you put your foot down in the M4 and unleash the full rage of its twin-turbo S55 six-banger, it makes your eyes widen and your buttocks clench. The M2 doesn’t do that; instead, you’re met with a slight feeling of disappointment every time you smack your foot down on the right-hand pedal.
I’m not a huge fan of the sound it makes, either. It’s weirdly muted from the outside, and on the inside, the warbly ‘Active Sound Design’ stuff that’s piped in through the speakers just sounds odd.
The rumoured M2 Clubsport - which will apparently be fitted with an S55 - could solve all this. Let’s hope it’s just as accessible and fun to drive.
As far as we’re concerned, the M2’s two most obvious rivals are the Porsche 718 Cayman and Audi TT RS. This makes picking a favourite rather tricky. For starters, they’re all incredibly different. The M2 is front-engined, rear-wheel drive and packing a straight-six, the Cayman is mid-engined, rear-wheel drive and powered by a flat-four, and finally the Audi is front-engined, all-wheel drive and uses a inline-five for propulsion.
After driving all three - admittedly at slightly different times - I found myself leaning towards the TT RS. Its bombastic engine provides a weapons-grade answer to the M2’s uninspiring power plant, the grip is absurd, and the interior is utterly gorgeous. But upon reflection, I worry that its combination of mega grip and epic thrust could become a little one-dimensional over time.
The Cayman is by far the best handling of the trio, but you have to get over the nagging feeling that it would be so much better if the wonderful old 3.4-litre flat-six was still fitted. And unlike the other two, it only has two seats, which could be a deal-breaker for some.
So I’d have the playful M2 then, would I? Yes. Maybe. Possibly. Ask me again in a week or so…
On long, boring motorway runs, I was easily able to hit 35mpg. For a 364bhp, six-cylinder M car, that seems like good going. Of course, not every drive we took in the M2 was quite as gentle, so over the 2974 miles we clocked, the average MPG stood at 22.6. Not amazing, but not terrible either.
I’ve made it my ambition this year to get a little better at oversteer-related shenanigans. While I’m perfectly happy to apply the occasional dab of opposite lock when driving fast on track, I’m not quite so hot at deliberately hanging the back end out. So the M2, with its fairly friendly on-the-limit handling, is the perfect place to start learning, right? Not quite…
With a reasonable amount of rear-end grip, you do have to be quite rough to get the back out in the first place. It isn’t too hard to hold the slide - even for a drift noob like me - but it is quite difficult to get it back into line neatly, perhaps influenced by the fact the wheelbase is relatively short, at least compared to the M4.
But don’t worry, we did hand the M2 over to someone who actually knows what he’s doing, and we have some amazing powersliding shots in the bag for a future video. Watch this space…
Ever since BMW released the M240i, people have been telling me they’d rather have this new M Performance machine over the M2. After all, the M240i has shown to be awkwardly close to the M2 in terms of straight-line performance, so why would you spend the extra £9000 on the proper M car?
To answer the ‘why’, we got an M240i together with ‘our’ M2, for a technical analysis and back-to-back driving comparison. You can click the image above for our full verdict, but suffice to say the much more hardcore M2 does more than enough to justify the premium.
The M2’s engine is a big issue for me, but I still find myself wanting one. I loved being ‘reunited’ with the car at Curborough sprint course after two weeks away from it (CT CEO Adnan nabbed the keys over Christmas) for one last time before it went ‘home’, and I just found myself staring at it and drinking in its conspicuous presence.
I’d argue it’s the best looking thing BMW currently makes. And when you combine those brilliantly muscular looks with the perfectly judged power output, the fun yet approachable handling and the surprisingly practical nature of the thing, the result is a machine that’s probably as close to being my perfect road car as realistically possible.
Now, I’m left hoping that - unlike the 1M - the M2 will actually depreciate…