Roundly talented, useable back seats, in a class of one
Inflated weight and size blunt the extra power, lacks the instant fun of the outgoing M2 Comp
What is it?
The BMW M2 is the smallest, least expensive M car. But this new one is also the sequel to the best-selling M car ever. More than 60,000 of you bought the old M2, in its original, drastically improved Competition and limited-run CS forms.
This time, there are no versions (yet). There’s just the M2. And it’s a refreshingly simple spec in this world of hybrid drives and niche-busting bodystyles. There is only the coupe; no cabrio, no four-door. You can’t have four-wheel drive: the 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six’s power only goes to the back wheels.
How much power? 454bhp, tying with the M2 CS. It gets there via an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard, though for £545 extra, BMW will fit yours with a six-speed manual. Yep, it’s more money for DIY gearshifts.
BMW says it was a ‘real fight’ to get the manual signed off, as it makes the M2 slower, less economical and more CO2-emitting than the flappy paddle version, but the need to please the enthusiasts won out. Even though it’ll only account for one in every ten M2s sold.
Why is this M2 so important?
It’s potentially the end of a storied era. Welcome to the last ever pure petrol M car. Everything from here on out is hybrid or electric. Meet the final ever manual gearbox-equipped M car. And even that was a fight, say the boffins. Only ten per cent of the previous car were specced with the stick – everyone else paid extra for the admittedly superb flappy-paddle DCT. That’s why the new car is an auto as standard and if you want DIY gears, it’s a £545 option.
Odds are this is also the final rear-wheel drive M car. No-one’s complaining the M3 and M5 are now AWD, what with xDrive’s freakishly agile power delivery, the hilariously silly option to bribe the front driveshafts into taking an early bath, and M’s electric test mule is known to be a quad-motor freak investigating torque vectoring and drift modes.
There’s an inherent rightness about a BMW coupe with a straight six in the front, a lever in the middle and all the power spooling up the back. And now it’s dead.
Time to enjoy the feistiest M car while we can, huh?
If you’re thinking ‘aha, this little terrier’s having one last tear-up before the vet snips its knackers off’ then hold that thought very tightly. Now throw it away. Because this is not a sequel to the fighty 1M or a kindred spirit with the hairy-chested old M4. The smallest, lightest, cheapest, least powerful M car has got bigger, heavier, and considerably more powerful. And good luck trying to spec one below £70k.
As with every new BMW, the looks will be divisive. The M2 escapes the engorged nostril disease seen on the 4 Series, going for a square-jawed, almost Porsche GT2 RS-like no-nonsense look. Some of the blockiness sits ill-at-ease with a coupe’s curves, and overall the car lacks the delicious stance and tension the old M2 carried in its swagger, despite a 44mm wider track at the front and 18mm wider rear track.
What's the verdict?
Overall this is an improved vehicle. Quieter, roomier, more generously equipped and less wearying as a GT than the old M2. That’s a crowd-pleasing move from BMW, but the die-hards in the mosh pit don’t want an M4-lite. They want an M2. Now it’s bigger and more grown up just about everywhere, what the M2 lacks is a personality all its own, which the uncomplicated, uncompromising old M2 had in spadefuls.
If we were a current M2 owner, we'd be feeling pretty smug that our car looks prettier than the new M2, has a more intuitive (if less plush) dashboard, sounds fruiter, and goes with more poise, more purpose, more sense of being a barely contained ball of fury straining to escape from a working-class hero chassis. Perhaps that was where the era ended after all.
That said, if you’re looking purely at new car options, the M2 really is in a class of one. No other small sporting coupe is as practical, and in many ways the M2 now asks very serious questions of the M4 itself. There, we just saved you £18,000.