Road Test of the Year 2016: BMW M2 Review



Wales' unpredictable weather is playing nasty as the light morning mist gives way to rolling fog. With visibility reduced, confidence in your car is key, and thankfully that's the M2's trump card.

Where its bigger brother, the M3, can feel a bit big and unwieldy, the M2 feels much better suited to real-world driving. Its dimensions mean that you can place it between the white lines at speed without ever worrying about getting things wrong – and on a day like today that's exactly what I need.

That doesn't mean I'm taking things easy. Far from it. Despite the conditions, the M2 is still weapons-grade good. In Sport, and the needlessly over-responsive Sport+ modes, the rear wheels squirm and chirrup under acceleration or during full-bore upshifts, yet it's still intuitively manageable.

To help keep the body in check, the suspension is firm. Not too firm for British roads like those we're tackling here in Wales, but tough enough to remind you the road surface is far from pool- table smooth. It's a sublime car and one with confidence-inspiring handling.

The BMW M2 is based on the 2-Series – the coupe version of the 1 Series – and it gets a 3.0-litre turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine that makes 365bhp. There's the choice of a six-speed manual or the seven-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission found in our test car – a welcome option in an automotive world that's seemingly phasing out manuals.

It's the same engine used in the M235i, but with a few choice upgrades to move the game on. The M2 gets a larger intercooler and the M3's pistons and forged crankshaft, as well as a modified sump. It takes just 4.1 seconds to complete the 60mph dash, but that sort of performance figure isn't what this car's all about.

The M2 is all about handling, making it the perfect companion here in Wales, home to some of the best B-roads in the world.

BMW M2

BMW M2


It's not all rainbows and butterflies, though. We'd hoped the automatic would woo us with its quick, smooth shifts, but it's frustrating. Gear changes in sportier modes are too aggressive, causing the car to become unbalanced, and it's a bit too slow to respond if you leave it in full auto. We'd recommend the manual on the basis that it improves driver involvement, but neither are particularly memorable.

Looks-wise, BMW has implemented the usual M Division recipe. The 2-Series is already a pretty car, but the M2 mimics the flared body ethos of the old E30 M3.

There are subtle bulges everywhere, most noticeably above the wheel arches, but they're less obvious in our Black Sapphire car.

Those bulges aren't purely cosmetic. The M2's track is 58mm wider at the front and 45mm wider at the rear compared to a standard 2-Series. It's also 8mm lower and the wheelbase is 3mm longer.

Out in deepest, darkest Wales where every road feels like it could host a World Rally Championship stage, those numbers add up to a lot. The steering is silky smooth and gives you the confidence to really lean on the tyres.

Enthusiasts are calling the M2 the return of the true M3, and they're almost right to do so. The entry-level M car is a brilliantly capable coupe, but it's just not particularly exciting.

It's incredibly accessible and easy to drive fast, but sadly it doesn't leave you itching to get back behind the wheel.

And in a car with an M badge that's very worrying indeed.

THE KNOWLEDGE
BMW M2
Price: £46,580
Engine: 3.0-litre, turbo petrol
Power: 365bhp
0-60mph: 4.1 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 35.8mpg combined
Emissions: 185g/km