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Long-term review

BMW M2 - long-term review

£65,830 / as tested £70,295 / PCM £803
Published: 26 Jan 2024
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SPEC HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPEC

    BMW M2 G87

  • ENGINE

    2993cc

  • BHP

    453.3bhp

  • 0-62

    4.1s

The BMW M2 is better and more relevant with an auto gearbox, and here's why

Have I made a huge mistake? Should I deactivate all my social media profiles, claim I was hacked and go enter a witness protection scheme? Feels like it. We asked BMW if we could replace our retiring i4 saloon with the baby M car. The M2. The last manual M car. And guess what? We’ve gone for the automatic.

Yes, we’ve taken the only stick-shift M car you can buy in the UK and snipped £1,200 off the enthusiast-baiting price by selecting the standard-fit eight-speed flappy-paddle auto instead of the optional manual. Sacrilege? Madness? Heresy?

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Allow me to explain myself. First off, whether you approve of it or not most M2s will be autos. The DCT outsold the manual in the old M2, despite being £1,500 pricier, and BMW’s data brain says (outside of the US) only one in ten of this generation will go manual. So this is the more relevant car to more of you.

But I also suspect it’s just better. Knowing the automatic is more popular, easier to pull better economy and CO2 out of, and simpler to integrate into modern conveniences like adaptive cruise control and auto-parking, I suspect it’s had more development time lavished upon it.

That would explain why the manual is actually a bit awkward. Look, I love a good stick shift as much as the next guy, but I’m just not convinced the M2’s DIY gearbox is actually as brilliant as we all hoped it would be. The shift action itself was fine and the lever pleasingly unadorned, but in all the examples we’ve tested, the lengthy clutch pedal travel is obstructed by the carbon speed bump amid the S&M Division seats. So, we’ve binned those too, and gone for the standard chairs.

Somehow, this is the everyman M2, with an as-tested price just north of £70k– a mighty seven grand less than the carbon-dipped manual example that joined us for Speed Week 2023. It’s also in a guise most M2 buyers will actually choose. And most importantly, I think most buyers are right. I suspect it’s the new M2’s comfort zone.

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The M2 has changed size and shape. Now based on the M3’s platform, it’s swelled in dimensions and weight. It’s not a terrier. It’s a bulldog. Big. Thuggish. An XXL bully. So, a sharp-shifting automatic gearbox with shorter, punchier ratios and an easy-cruising top gear feels more appropriate. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

I think you’d prefer to hear about a different side to the M2 than have me spending six months complaining the inseam of my jeans is being chafed by the centre of the seat. And you save twenty grand, buy a Honda Civic Type R and enjoy a more precisely engineered gearshift.

Now that’s off my chest, let’s have a look at the rest of the spec. ‘Congratulations – It’s a Boy!’ aka Zandvoort Blue is a free-of-charge choice I rather like. Its cuteness weirdly juxtaposes the M2’s square-jawed villain styling. Odd name though – don’t we all associate Zandvoort with orange these days?

Silver wheels are infinitely preferable to the black rims. Inside there’s many buttons for changing the car’s behaviour, but none at all to make it warm or cool. And it’s not just my co-workers who are upset about the M2. A neighbour strolled past the morning it was delivered while I was busy teaching the car my mother’s maiden name and three most favourite colours in order to sign into the BMW ID mainframe.

BMW M2

“Oh, it’s you!” she smiled gregariously. “I saw a flash new BMW getting dropped off and thought ‘ugh – who’s that t**t?’” The M2 might’ve grown up, but some stereotypes endure longer than others, then.

On its first full day in the TG Garage, I took the M2 on a track day. Not the track day you get as part of the M Driver’s Pack (£730) which throws in expert ‘don’t crash’ tuition along with raising the 155mph speed limiter to 180mph. No. More of ‘a frosty old airfield in Oxfordshire’.

Popping in to visit The Little Car Company at the gloriously nostalgic Bicester Heritage offered the opportunity to slither about on its frozen ex-RAF taxiways, with the genial delivery man’s comments of ‘these are a bit lively eh?’ still ringing in my bitingly cold ears.

Not being The Stig, and barely having got to grips with how to turn on the bum-warmers, I chose not to turn everything off. The warm embrace of M Dynamic Mode is a much less scary way for someone who’s never lived with an M car before to get to know a new 450bhp ubercoupe.

What a brilliantly calibrated system it is. Genius, in fact. The way it’ll lurk unseen as you test your limits, but instantly – and neatly – snuff out any over-exuberance probably doesn’t get enough credit in our world of ‘kill all nannies and let slip the tyres of war’. MDM doesn’t feel like it’s been introduced to lull normal drivers into the belief they’re superheroes. It’s smarter than that – and teaches you to respect the forces involved.

Course, the next step is ready and waiting: M Division’s ten-stage traction control. So much to explore, and no pesky gear-changing to get in the way. Gulp.

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