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Long-term review

BMW M2 - long-term review

£65,830 / as tested £70,295 / PCM £803
Published: 22 Apr 2024
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SPEC HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPEC

    BMW M2 G87

  • ENGINE

    2993cc

  • BHP

    453.3bhp

  • 0-62

    4.1s

The BMW M2 has more power than an F80 M3... but is it just as sketchy?

Filthy, isn’t it? Sorry about that, if you’re one of the People’s Republic of Car Detailing Army. Where I live in muddy England at this time of year, cleaning a car is about as worthwhile as shovelling snow during a blizzard. Or arguing with a Tesla fanatic on TwXtter.

Yes, the weather’s cruddy where I choose to live, boo-hoo. Actually, that brings me to what I wanted to talk about. The way the M2 behaves in sub-optimal conditions.

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Or more accurately, the fact the M2 behaves at all when it’s grimy and slimy. See, that’s not a given in a modern car wearing modern tyres, fitted with clever modern traction control.

Exhibit A(aaargh): the old ‘F80’ M3. The first twin-turbo M3. Good looking car, that, in a purposeful, muscular way that no current BMW can match. But by heck was that car sketchy when the weather forecast was sad.

We had a long-termer in the Top Gear Garage. It was entrusted to Ollie Marriage, a man blessed with car control reflexes to make Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell look a bit sleepy.

I am not one of those ‘fighter pilot reaction times’ people. I’m one of those ‘normal’ people. So you can imagine my alarm when I borrowed the M3 for the weekend, and it responded with death threats.

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Okay, slight exaggeration. It was a Friday afternoon and I just wanted to get around the hellscape that is the M25 and go home. It was spitting with rain and the traffic was flowing. And so, as a gap opened up just as my exit sliproad presented itself, I decided to give the M3 some berries. Heck, it’s an M car. Sue me.

Now, because I hadn’t bothered to tailor all its modes and settings for ‘normie’ skill level, I was in Mr Marriage’s M mode, with the fastest DCT gearchange. The old M3 used to perform a little ‘shunt’ when you pulled the paddleshifter. So as I demanded fourth, the car did its coded go-faster jerk, which dramatically unsettled the rear axle. Fevered corrections. Jabs of traction control. Full body clench. It lasted barely a second, but it didn’t half knock my confidence in the M3.

Later that weekend I was putting my supermarket bags in the boot when the heavens opened. I turned around and went back in the house. I’d sooner go hungry than drive one of those F80 M3s in the wet.

I remember at the time that M3 fans argued it demanded a different driving technique – basically always stay a gear higher than you reckon you should. See a second-gear corner approaching? Stay in third. The car developed such a mountain of torquey wallop you could just ride the freight train of boost and still demolish the sat-nav’s arrival time.

That was 2017. Here in 2024, the M2 has 26 more horsepower, a similar 406lb ft of torque and one more gear in its torque-converter auto. So with time to live with the car, experiment with its shift speeds and settings, I’ve finally overcome my fear of turbo M cars. If you’re brutish with the car, it’s an animal, but knock your ambition back just a touch (and stay in tall gears) and the pace it’s got in hand when the road is coated in moist crud is fairly spectacular. It’s confidence inspiring, instead of buttock-clenching.

Some of that is due to the less abrupt damping – the M2 has much more bandwith across its modes, though in truth I never bother with Sport Plus on the road. Obviously the tyre deserves praise – our M2 is wearing Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4S rubber. The Pilot Sport is already a ‘fast car tyre’ and I’d worried the ‘S’ (meaning a softer compound and revised tread pattern to enhance what Michelin deems ‘occasional track use’) would be a real handicap through winter. So far, so dependable. Even when it does break traction, it’s metered out in a friendly manner, rather than snatching and fighting at the surface.

But I’m also adamant BMW’s rowed back a little on those gimmicky gearchange ‘shunts’, which were always an affectation. After all, when M cars used a dual-clutch box, the whole point of a DCT was a seamless gearchange. Only a marketing moron would’ve demand the shift was interrupted with a binary burp.

Now it’s a regular auto that’s been sportified, the flat-chat upshifts are gloriously uninterrupted, but free of that nerve-shredding artificial jerk. It’s a tiny detail, but one that adds up to making a 454bhp rear-drive coupe a much more trustworthy winter warrior than I’d feared. And in a world where it sometimes seems that cars have plateaued, that there isn’t much meaningful ‘progress’ between generations any more, it’s a change I really appreciate.

Told you I’m warming to it. Okay, Yes. Fine. It probably deserves a wash.

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