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Long-term review

BMW M2 - long-term review

£65,830 / as tested £70,295 / PCM £803
Published: 10 Jun 2024


  • SPEC

    BMW M2 G87



  • BHP


  • 0-62


Is the BMW M2 really an ‘entry-level’ M car?

Carspeak shorthand says the ‘2 is the entry-level M. And on face value, it is: the smallest, least powerful and cheapest model in the true M line-up.

But is a £65k car ‘entry level’? We’re talking about something that costs £900 a month (according to BMW’s own finance calculator). A car with 460 horsepower. Those are big numbers.

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Couple of things. Firstly, when the much-worshipped E46-gen BMW M3 went on sale in 2003, it cost £38,000. Guess how much, adjusted for inflation, that works out as today? Yep, £66,000. The current M2 costs the same equivalent buck, but offers a much torquier bang. And more comfort, equipment, safety and refinement. I’m not saying it’s a better car, because it’s from a different era. But it’s quantifiably more car for your money.

And secondly, just because BMW says this is the place where your love affair with a punchy but daily-driveable rear-drive entertainer should begin… doesn’t mean you can’t flex your imagination and go for something older. Just like Simon from the Top Gear office, or Matt – my little brother.

Last year, Simon bought an M3. Usefully under £30k for a very smart F80-gen saloon with the DCT gearbox. That’s less than BMW currently charges you for the disappointing M135i hot hatch, and he’s bagged himself a proper, pukka, 420bhp thriller. Lawd it looks good next to the lumpy M2.

Meanwhile, my little brother decided that buying a car from this century was exactly what the Germans would expect him to do, and instead spent £12,000 on a 50-year old 2002 with an interior full of straw. A true barn find. Many months of self-taught restoration later, it’s now a solid runner, and just about waterproofed in time for what you can see was a lovely British spring day.

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I’m not saying for a moment these are M2 rivals. But it’s fun to broaden your mind when it comes to car shopping, right? Which of these is more ‘you’?

I asked their owners why they went down the road less obvious.

“I wanted a good all-rounder,” says Simon, unconvincingly pretending he’s a sensible old man these days. “Truth be told I’d started with the idea of a 340i Touring and got carried away. Whilst it’s not exactly Jekyll and Hyde, it can do the commute as ‘a normal 3 Series’ then raise a smile when you want to play Timo Glock."

Kew Junior knew he was in for some pain. “I desperately wanted to scratch a classic car itch but had zero mechanical experience. I thought, if I’m going to make this mistake that will massively test the patience of my better half when she comes home to find oily parts on the kitchen table, let’s go for something bolder than an MG B or Porsche 924.”

So let’s not pretend that running one of these is going to be as trouble-free, as, say, a baby blue M2 which hasn’t missed a beat. As you’d expect.

“A windscreen wiper spring broke, so it mocks me by merely hovering over the passenger side glass clearing nothing,” says Matt, gesturing to the damp 2002. “Oh, and water occasionally dribbles into the electrics, so turning left automatically turns on the wipers. But they, plus the indicators, headlights, and horn didn’t work at all when I first bought it. So, I guess that’s progress. Touch wood, it's never left me stranded. The trick is to top up all the vital fluids quicker than they leak out.”

BMW 2002 / M3

The M3 is a tad more weatherproof, and just about foolproof. “I have picked up on some rear diff clunk, which is likely to be a cracked diff bushing, so I’ll be getting that checked out,” Simon grins. A man who spanners Land Rover Defenders for fun, he’s secretly wishing it needs an engine-out rebuild. The sadist.

Mind you, the previous owner nicked his fun by taking care of the M3. “They did me a favour sorting replacement turbos and crank hub preventative maintenance, totting up to a few grand a few months before I bought it. Do your research on both of these as they’re the potential big bills. Tyres set me back £397 for a set of rears fitted. I went with Conti Sport Contact 7s and they’ve been transformative.” I splash down the B660 and concur, due to the fact the notoriously spikey F80 doesn’t in fact end up in the sopping roadside verge.

Best bit about daily-ing a 60,000 mile M3? “The configurability gives the M3 such a broad range of capabilities. Choose three ranges of damping, steering, throttle and gearbox response. And actually, by today’s standards, the S55 straight-six in this feels somewhat raucous. It feels mechanical. Even fairly analogue. There’s theatre when you want it,” said Simon.

I’m inclined to agree – immediately afterwards the M2’s legislation-strangled exhaust note and rounded-off gearchanges feel incredibly sanitised. I can see why a turbo M3 fan might sneer at the M2 for going a bit soft.

BMW M2 / 2002 / M3

It's closer to a Rolls Phantom in character than ye olde 2002. Shared DNA? Erm, if you squint, through rose-tinted glasses. I suppose they both get a heap of attention – the M2’s paintwork is routinely showered with compliments while Matt crows “people of a certain age remember their parents having a 2002 and I make a point of offering their kids a poke around to keep the classic car fever alive".

But is it actually any good to drive, or is it just an object d’polish? “The fruity exhaust makes 3,000-4,000rpm sound damn exciting.” Smells nostalgically rich too. “There’s also an enormous amount of satisfaction in tinkering – I’m quite proud of improving the cooling system so it now copes with a fair bit of stick on twisty back roads. It’s got some trick dampers and springs, which makes it properly fun.”

And it’s not the money pit doom-sayers would expect. “I’ve been a bit too scared to tackle the biggest of oily and bodywork jobs so far,” Matt admits. “I shelled out £200 for two new inertia reel seatbelts and a modified bracket to fit them (the original mounting was covered up by a previous owner’s rust repair job). But I won’t be able to put off shelling out for new piston rings too much longer.”

Happily, it doesn’t miss a beat all day meeting its ancestors. I pootle away in the M2’s heated seat, warming my hands on its heated steering wheel while my phone syncs effortlessly with the screen multiplex. Simon heads home in the other direction. Sideways. Matt will need ten minutes to pat down the condensation inside the windscreen. I wonder if, when this M2 reaches its 52nd birthday, it will have an equally enthusiastic, passionate keeper, ready and willing to keep all of its systems and features alive?

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