On paper, nothing comes close to BMWâ€™s first M2 when it comes to premium compact performance coupes. On sale now priced from under $90,000, it undercuts BMWâ€™s own M4 Coupe by $60,000 and is the only rear-drive turbocharged six-cylinder coupe on the market for less than $100,000. Of course, that excludes the M235i coupe on which itâ€™s based, but the M2 delivers considerably more engine and chassis performance, and comes with a host of other M extras for a little over $12,000 more. With an annual allocation of just 300 cars for now, no wonder the Australian M2 waiting list already stretches out to late this year.
BMW M2 Coupe 2016 Review
We lauded it after our first drive at the global launch at Laguna Seca in February and now â€” after more than 800km at the wheel of BMWâ€™s first M5, including 235km and 19 stages of this weekâ€™s Targa Tasmania tarmac rally (come back for our full feature and video later this week) â€“ all we can say is wow.
With no direct rivals and its closest competitors being $10K-cheaper all-wheel drive German hatchbacks in the Audi RS 3 and Mercedes-AMG A 45 (pr the similarly priced CLA 45 sedan), the M2 replaces the fast but flawed 1 Series M Coupe and marks a return to the compact rear-drive sports coupe with big six formula that gained a cult following for generations of BMW M3s.
Indeed itâ€™s the M2â€™s turbo-six engine and rear-drive layout that sets it apart from its rivals, with a higher-output version of the N55 3.0-litre twin-scroll single-turbo engine from the M235i on which itâ€™s based offering almost as much performance as the M4â€™s twin-turbo S55 3.0-litre six.
The M2 slams out 272kW of power and 465Nm of torque (with up to 500Nm in overboost), which is less than the M3 and M4â€™s 317kW/550Nm but enough to hit 100km/h in 4.3 seconds in seven-speed dual-clutch auto form and in 4.5 seconds for the six-speed manual.
Again based on official figures, that makes the M2 (which at 1570kg DIN unladen for the DCT, is just 2kg lighter than the larger coupe in the same configuration) only two-tenths slower to 100km/h and one-tenth slower over 80-120km/h in fifth gear compared to the M4, which has a 17 per cent better weight-to-power ratio â€” 4.4 versus 5.6kg/kW for the M2.
In the real world, however, the M2 not only feels a lot quicker than the M235i (which outputs 240kW/450Nm via an eight-speed torque-converter auto and hits 100km/h in a claimed 4.8sec) but feels just as quick as the M4 in a straight line â€“ with or without the DCTâ€™s launch control â€“ thanks to its minimal torque disadvantage and more linear power curve.
Thereâ€™s none of the abrupt top-end overload that makes getting the bigger M4â€™s power down out of corners cleanly and confidently a challenge either â€” just acres of accessible, controllable torque with which to exploit the M2â€™s agile, neutral chassis, which is wrapped around a taut, pumped-up body.
At the pre-event shakedown at Launcestonâ€™s fast Symmons Plains circuit, the M2 delivered effortless, predictable power oversteer on a platter with the stability control off in Sport+ mode, which has a far higher yaw threshold than the Sport mode in which we spent most of our time on the road.
Riding on a finely honed chassis borrowed largely from the M4 but packed with more usable engine performance, the small two-door was a doddle to drive on the throttle on both the track and road in Tassie, where the harder we drove it the more richly it rewarded.
With more torque than the previous-generation M3 on tap over a broad 1400-5560rpm (and with 500Nm available for short bursts over 1450-4750rpm), the M2 motor gallops forward almost from idle then grunts gloriously and with barely a hint of turbo lag right across its fat midrange.
But itâ€™s just as happy to shriek and bounce off its 7000rpm limiter, spinning up more quickly, responsively and happily than most turbo engines and dishing out more power at 6500rpm than the M3 had until 2007.
It also sounds the business, with a characterful BMW-six crackle from the quad exhaust outlets turning into a menacing metallic rasp at full-noise in Sport+, when it also barks faithfully on the overrun.
Yes, thereâ€™s enough torque to overwhelm the grippy, well balanced chassis, especially in the tight, off-camber hairpin exits common in Tassie, and ham-fisted throttle applications in lower gears will get the decisive ESC system really strobing.
The other 99 per cent of the time, the M2â€™s ability to simply grip and grip â€” at both front and rear â€” then slingshot you out of corners is devastatingly effective and enormously entertaining.
While its engine shares only its pistons, crankshaft, valvetrain and cooling system (including oil sump cover and extra water and oil pump for the automatic transmission) with the M3/M4, the M2â€™s suspension, steering and braking systems come almost exclusively from the larger coupe.
Thatâ€™s why its rear track is just 2mm narrower than the M4â€™s and why itâ€™s 80mm wider overall than the M235i, which runs on 18-inch wheels rather than the M2â€™s M4-sourced 19-inch wheels and tyres (245/35 front, 265/35 rear).
Positioned at the extremities of each corner of the car (which is about 120mm shorter in wheelbase but 200mm shorter overall than the M4, giving the M2 an even meaner stance), theyâ€™re wrapped by beefier, bespoke quarter guards featuring M â€˜gillsâ€™ up front. M-specific bumpers and side skirts add a bigger dose of aggression too.
The redesigned five-link rear suspension also houses the M4â€™s active M differential, which can direct 100 per cent of torque to either rear wheel, while M4-sourced 380mm front discs with four-piston callipers and 370mm rear discs with two-piston callipers are also a big step up on the M235iâ€™s 370/324mm rotors.
Running with standard pads and fluid, the M2 brakes did fade slightly after the most torturous downhill Targa stages and never regained the initial bite they offered beforehand, but outright braking power was always monumental and we actually preferred them not so touchy. Similarly, the grippy Michelin Pilot Cup sport tyres on some of the cars were heavily feathered, but ours still looked pretty new.
In line with its â€˜puristâ€™ ethos, the one thing available in the M235i and M4 but not the M2 is adaptive dampers. Thatâ€™s because the development program theyâ€™d have required would have pushed up the price â€” one of the M2â€™s key attributes â€” of all models including the base M2 Pure manual, but probably also to give customers another reason to pay more for the M4.
The M2â€™s precise, communicative and vice-free electric steering, rigid body and taut suspension tune made it nothing short of scalpel-like on all 19 Targa stages we drove. But itâ€™s non-adjustable suspension bordered on harsh over the bumpy, broken surfaces we encountered on many of the transport stages, and we suspect it will be hard to live with on most sub-standard urban roads.
Thatâ€™s unlikely to concern many enthusiasts, but the availability of adjustable damping wouldâ€™ve made the M2 far more liveable as a daily driver and opened it up to an even wider customer base, even if BMW will sell every M2 it can build for some time to come.
Similarly, the sub-$90K opening price â€” which is just $12,400 more than the M235i manual â€” applies only to the base Pure manual, which misses out on the top-spec modelâ€™s uprated alarm system, adaptive headlights with BMW Selective Beam, Comfort Access keyless entry, electric front seat adjustment with lumbar support and heating, and a 360-Watt 12-speaker harman/kardon surround sound system.
By special order, you can also get a top-shelf M2 manual with all the fruit, but if you want the two-pedal model it will cost the same $98,900 â€” $9000 more than the Pure manual and a whole $21,400 more than the M235i auto, but still $51,000 shy of the M4 manual or auto. Metallic paint costs $1485, but should be standard.
Heck, even the twin rear bucket seats are useful for adults. Cosy in terms of head and leg room, not to mention outward vision, but useable nonetheless â€” and the decent-sized boot is even augmented by a 60/40-split folding rear seat.
In fact, the only ergonomic complaint we have is pedal placement, with the brake pedal in both the slick-shifting, throttle-blipping manual and rapid-fire auto set way too far to the right. It makes for easy heel-toe action in the 40kg-lighter M2 manual, but wonâ€™t please DCT drivers who like to left-foot brake.
Nit-picking perhaps, because the M2 is everything we expected and then some â€“ better than the already-handy M235i in all respects, as well as quicker, more fun and easier to drive than the M4 for 95 per cent of buyers.
Disregard everything you knew about the Bavarian brandâ€™s previous compact performance cars too, including the feisty 1 Series M Coupe, because the M2 is even better than all the brilliant M3s, including the epic E92 M3 V8.
BMW Mâ€™s new baby is not only the new sub-$100K performance car benchmark, but the most engaging M-car you can buy today â€“ as long as youâ€™re prepared to wait for one.
2016 BMW M2 Coupe pricing and specifications:
Price: From $89,900 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbo-petrol
Output: 252kW/465Nm (500Nm in overboost)
Transmission: Six-speed manual, seven-speed dual-clutch
Fuel: 7.9L/100km (ADR Combined)
CO2: 185g/km (ADR Combined)
Safety rating: TBC
>> Audi RS 3 Sportback (from $78,900)
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