Confession time: I wasn’t thrilled after driving the BMW M235i. Yes, it was a fast BMW coupe, but something was missing.
Engine: 3.0L turbo inline 6-cylinder
Power: 365 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual clutch automatic
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 18 city, 26 highway (manual)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 12.7 city, 9.2 highway (manual)
US Price: Starts at $52,695, tops out at $57,545
CAN Price: Starts at $63,859, tops out at $68,654
It just didn’t feel like a proper M car. It felt like a faster, more expensive 2 Series, it didn’t have a lot of personality, and it made compromises everywhere. This seems to be a reoccurring issue with modern M cars from BMW. They’re faster, fancier and more expensive, but they are missing that essential element of being as engaging to drive as the older M cars.
Fortunately, it seems like I wasn’t the only one thinking this. The 2016 BMW M2 is everything I wanted the M235i to be and is a true return to form for BMW’s M division. For starters, it’s a 2 Series that’s been updated to be faster and more fun at every turn. The engine has more power, the brakes are bigger, there’s a fancy limited slip differential and the interior is focused and frill-free. It’s exactly what you want in a fast coupe with the roundel badge.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Same Engine, More Power
It’s interesting that the M2 feels so significantly different from a regular 2 Series, even though BMW made minimal changes to the engine. Thanks to pistons and bearings from the bigger (and more powerful M3/M4) along with beefier spark plugs and a turbo designed to be integrated into the exhaust manifold, the 3.0-liter turbo inline six-cylinder engine’s output is bumped up to 365 ponies in the M2. In comparison, the old M235i made 320 hp, while the newly updated M240i makes 335. It’s not a huge jump, signified by the fact that in many cases, the BMW M division usually makes enough changes to give the engine a whole new name designated with the letter S, but that isn’t the case here. The N55 is what BMW calls the engine in the M2 and the M235i.
But those details aren’t what you care about. You want to know how it drives, right? “Fast” is the one-word-answer to that question, and it’s hard to argue with zero-to-60 mph times in the four-second range. For a car of this caliber to be priced under $55,000, it’s a bargain compared to base 911s. But the M2 feels even more exhilarating than that, though. Power delivery is intense, and peak torque is a whopping 369 lb-ft, thanks to an overboost function. That twist hits at 1,400 rpm, and winding the M2 all the way to its 7,000 rpm redline is an addictive, awesome experience.
What will help enthusiasts feel a real sense of connection to the car is the six-speed manual transmission, which is standard equipment. But for the speed junkies out there, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is the real deal. It snaps off shifts quickly, and is the essential element in getting that 4.2-second 60 mph sprint time. The paddle shifters also help put control in the driver’s hands and are fairly responsive, but one complaint I have regarding the automatic transmission is the lack of a dedicated park button. To put it into park, you simply turn the car off (even if it’s in drive, neutral or reverse) and pull the parking brake, just like a manual car. It’s fine, but just a bit confusing at first.
To ensure the car gets power to the road in a manner that results in more speed, BMW’s M division has crafted up a trick differential. Unlike e-differentials that utilize brakes to achieve the locking effect, the Active M Differential in the M2 uses an electric motor to ensure that there’s always traction when you need it. Alternatively, it can lock the rear wheels so that if you wanted to, you could make an impressive smoke show on the track.
Track Inspired, Track Ready
The M2’s track-honed genes show up with the car’s extremely stiff suspension. Unlike the M235i before it, the M2’s suspension is not adaptive, meaning it’s always in its sportiest setting, which is harsh. In the case of this car though, the stiff suspension is appreciated, as past M cars have ballooned in weight by trying to accommodate both the sporty side and luxury side of things. Instead, this car stays pretty light, coming in at around 3,500 lbs.
The M2 barely makes any compromises in its mission to deliver an engaging drive. The only thing that can be improved is the steering, which doesn’t provide any feedback, something that is fairly critical in a sports coupe of this nature. In contrast, the enormous brakes on the M2 are absolutely brilliant and beautiful, putting a stop to any speed you’re carrying faster than you can say, “What seems to be the problem officer?”
The M2’s interior is fairly focused, lacking many expensive add-ons that distract from the driving experience. That doesn’t mean the BMW’s M division didn’t touch anything up; rather they were conservative in the changes they made. Alacantara is found on the door panels, with contrasting blue stitching. Unique side sills and etched emblems can also be found in the cabin, but the open pore carbon fiber trim will really stand out. The car comes standard with an upgraded harman/kardon sound system, navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats and rain sensing wipers, and only one option package is available: the $1,400 Executive Package, which adds things like rear parking sensors and camera along with a heated steering wheel.
Starting at just $52,695 including destination, the M2 is an awesome performance-per-dollar bargain. The dual-clutch transmission adds a whopping $2,900, while the metallic paint finishes add $550. Fully loaded, the M2 will run you $57,545 including destination. A Mercedes CLA 45 AMG starts a bit cheaper than the M2 at $50,425, but a Porsche 718 Cayman S will run you nearly $10,000 more.
The Verdict: 2016 BMW M2 Review
My impressions of the M2 are overwhelmingly positive. This is exactly what an M vehicle should be — it is uncompromised and focused on one thing: pure performance.
Discuss this story on our BMW Forum