Some would argue that BMW’s M Division began to lose its way as its line-up grew portly and the once slender M3 coupe was finally replaced with the burly M4. Not that it isn’t any less a performance car, but the old formula of a finely balanced vehicle was lost as more power was countered by more weight and the car that once wanted to dance became a little unforgiving.
The M2 changes that, and the sold-out performance coupe has been restocked for the 2018 model year which receives an LCI (mid-life cycle) update with some minor tweaks and a push in price.
Vehicle Style: Premium Performance Coupe
Price: $93,300 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 272kW/475Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo 6cyl petrol | six-speed manual (no-cost option and tested) or seven-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.5 l/100km | Tested: 10.9 l/100km
Crossing the $90,000 barrier for the first time, the entry-model M2 Pure is still the best bang for your buck in the M line-up, but its updates inside and out cost an additional $3400.
The LCI update includes new LED head and L-shaped taillights, M-specific instrument cluster, an 8.8-inch infotainment system with iDrive 6 software as well as minor interior tweaks – the most noticeable being the indicator stalk now snaps back into position.
The engine remains unaltered, and the modified N55 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbocharged motor produces 272kW of power and 475Nm of torque, hitting 500Nm when overboost function kicks in.
M2 models are fitted with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission as standard but offer a six-speed manual as a no-cost option. The stick shift option is a little thirstier, consuming 8.5L/100km compared to the auto's 7.9, and a touch slower in a straight line, reaching 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds rather than 4.3 seconds. But it offers a driving experience which is hard to find among largely auto-only competitors.
Standard kit on the M2 Pure includes 19-inch M alloys, rear spoiler lip, quad exhaust tips, bi-LED headlights with cornering lighting, carbon-fibre interior inserts, Dakota leather trim, climate control, M leather steering wheel, non-adaptive cruise control, rear-view camera and tyre pressure monitoring.
- M2 Pure: Leather trim, sports seats, dual-zone climate control, trip computer, sports steering wheel with multi-function buttons, carbon fibre trim highlights, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control with speed limiter, Bi-LED headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.8-inch touchscreen, iDrive controller, Bluetooth phone and audio, DAB+ digital radio, seven-speaker audio, M-specific app integration, satellite navigation, 20GB media hard drive, DVD drive
- Cargo volume: 390 litres
The M2 Pure misses out on some plush gear such as electric seats and a Harmon-Kardon sound system, but apart from saving weight, what the Pure does miss out on isn’t essential.
Instead the M2 offers manually-adjustable figure-hugging seats with plenty of range for tall and short drivers, and a good amount of steering wheel adjustment to find a low-slung position. It’s not the Bavarian’s makers best hide and ergonomics but considering the small interior dimensions it is plenty comfortable.
The manual gear lever is also well placed and the gear knob feels nice in the hand, elevating the driving experience when going at it that bit more.
The lack of a heads-up display is about the only thing missing that might be a niggle for those used to keeping eyes pointed out the window and not at the dash but there’s plenty of boxes on the options list – at which point the M2 Coupe (not Pure) is worth considering at $99,900.
The rear seats aren’t as gracious for legroom though and taller types won’t appreciate being crammed in for long trips, but the seats are comfortable and get the job done, and shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
The infotainment system, now in its sixth-generation, works well and offers an intuitive experience on a slick interface controlled by rotary and push buttons. BMW isn’t a fan of mobile connectivity options such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but the former is available and will connect wirelessly just like Bluetooth - great when ducking up to the shops without a USB cable.
Around back, the 390 litre boot is well proportioned but it's only good enough for weekend getaways – perfect for the performance coupe’s intents and purposes.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 272kW/475Nm (500Nm overboost) 3.0 litre turbocharged straight six
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, or seven-speed dual clutch automatic, rear wheel drive with Active M differential
- Suspension: M sports suspension - MacPherson strut front, five-link rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel vented cross drilled discs, 380mm front rotors, 370mm rear rotors
- Steering: Electrically assisted dual-mode power steering
Where the E36 BMW M3 left off is perhaps where the M2 picked-up the baton, providing a delicate and engaging drive though it is superior machine in terms of outright performance.
The mill in the M2 produces 272kW and 475Nm (500Nm during a limited overboost spurt) which is plenty of grunt in a small package. Where it lacks the sky-high rev ceiling of the old naturally-aspirated six it still offers a free-revving motor with good character. The optional M Performance accessories exhaust takes the note to another, more raucous level, but in stock form it’s subtle yet menacing.
The torque is delivered in full from early on (1400-5560rpm) so planting the right foot results in worried traction control and an appropriately numbed ride, but feather it on lightly and the little coupe offers a well-balanced and dynamic chassis with plenty of feedback.
The M2 doesn’t feel as strained and wound up on tighter roads like its larger siblings which leads to better control when changing direction and a less aggressive weight transfer. It doesn’t require the intense concentration of hotter performance cars either but it’s no less quick.
Unfortunately, the electric-assisted and speed-variable steering isn’t as communicative but it isn’t completely filtered, and the artificial weight added is well judged. Turn-in and accuracy is also sharp and spot-on.
The six-speed option also brings automatic rev-matching on down shifts, which can be turned off in Sport+ mode, but it’s not intrusive and is as good as most heel-and-toe situations need.
The supple nature of the coupe also transfers well into the urban environment and the M2 is a good daily driver choice. The manual can be a chore like most but the drivetrain is pliable in comfort mode with only the suspension feeling too firm and less forgiving. In-cabin noise is also well damped and the Pure’s ‘basic’ sound system is sharp and powerful. What’s missing is tech like lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control, but not a glaring omission in such a driver’s car.
ANCAP Rating: The second-generation BMW M2 has not been rated by ANCAP yet.
Safety Features: The BMW M2 features forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, six airbags (dual front, curtain for first and second row), front load-limiting seatbelt pretensioners, ABS brakes and electronic stability and traction control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometre
Servicing: 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. The M2 is also included in BMW’s inclusive servicing program which covers servicing for five years or 80,000km, whichever comes first, at $1989.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Porsche 718 Cayman is svelte and communicative and all of the things that make the BMW fun to drive, and thus the M2’s nearest rival despite having only two seats. It is however powered by a slightly less powerful four-cylinder motor and is more expensive at $115,300 plus on-road costs.
The Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 offers a similar size four-door coupe with all-wheel drive and a cracking four-pot but it lacks the depth of enjoyment and is at the end of its current life-cycle.
The Audi RS3, available in either hatchback or sedan guise, has a characterful five-cylinder turbocharged engine that’s the quickest of this bunch to the tonne and is also around $10,000 more affordable, however, it wants to be more perfect than fun to drive.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The M2 continues to offer the most enjoyable - and thankfully most affordable – option in the exclusive M car line-up. The Pure is still good value despite the creep in price and there’s enough premium finishes inside that options aren’t necessary.
More important is that the model will be revered for its return to form for the German performance brand that will please both old and new M buyers alike.