Fresh off the 50-year celebration of the BMW M division, the Munich-based brand launched not one but two new M cars in the picturesque village of Franschhoek in the Western Cape. Road Test Editor Kyle Kock first jumped into the XM SUV, and now he recalls his time with the M2.
What are we driving?
The BMW M2 is the range-topping 2 Series. But don’t mistake it for being just a hopped-up M240i. Think of this as the spiritual successor to the legendary 2002 Turbo and the iconic turbocharged 3.0 CSL art car penned by Frank Stella that raced at the 1976 24 Hours of Le Mans; small coupes with strong turbocharged engines looked unique and went hastily.
Sat side by side with an M240i, the M2 shares the same profile, but there are significant visual changes that set it worlds apart from its lesser brethren. You don’t even need to be eagle-eyed to see that square is the theme. The entire front bumper is unique to the M2, from the square kidney grilles, square front air dam and square vents that flank the central one. Its wide front and rear wheel arches give the impression that it’s wide-shouldered. Fat, quad tailpipes and bulky corners make for an unmistakable rear end.
Why is the M2 significant?
It’s a small coupé with a large turbopetrol six-cylinder engine nestled under a long bonnet, with drive sent to its rear axle – the kind of combination that made the 3,0 CSL a hero abroad and gave the homegrown 333i and 325iS cult status here in Mzansi. Unfortunately, it’s also the last time we’ll see a rear-wheel drive BMW M car that can be ordered with a manual gearbox and which won’t use any electrification in the powertrain.
The 3,0-litre turbocharged straight six under the bonnet is 66 kW up on the M240i and while the M2 shares some of its underpinnings with the more senior M4 coupé, it is also 214 mm shorter in overall length and has a wheelbase 110 mm shorter. On the launch of the model, I spent some time in an M2 finished in Zandvoort Blue, which is the launch colour alongside Toronto Red. This particular example also had the carbon roof fitted, which saves six kg overall from a M240i.
What does the BMW M2 cost?
The M2 is yours for R1 512 000, but in reality you want to tick the M Race Track package option, which adds another R100 000 to the asking price. What do you get for the extra money? Well, it comes with the aforementioned carbon roof, interior finishes in carbon fibre, and the M carbon bucket seats, which are electrically adjustable and also heated. Oh, and let’s not forget the M Driver’s Package, which raises its top speed from 250 to 285 km/h.
What’s it like to drive?
On the road, the M2 can be as docile as the most mundane grocery getter or as vicious as a junkyard dog. There were no manual cars on the launch, but for hardcore enthusiasts, it must be nice to know that you can at least have one. Not that I was left wanting by any means as the eight-speed M Steptronic auto is more than up to the task of lightning-fast shifts at the tug of the shift paddles thanks to three Drivelogic settings. Also, BMW claims that the M2 equipped with a manual gearbox can hit 100 km/h from rest in 4,3 seconds, while the version I drove should be capable of a 4,1-second sprint.
Considering that the 3,0-litre motor can spin up to 7 200 r/min, it can sound quite demure with the exhaust valves closed, but open them up via the double pipe button on the centre console and prepare yourself for an assault on the ears. Before you set off, configure the steering-wheel-mounted M1 and M2 buttons to the drive settings you prefer, with varying degrees of stiffness, response and aggression from the engine, transmission, suspension, braking system and traction control. Considering the M2’s outputs, its squat stance and fat Michelin Pilot Sport rubber allow it to corner with a lateral grip that beggars belief.
What are the BMW M2’s rivals?
The closest competition is actually from the Toyota Supra, which is also available with a six-speed manual gearbox (R1 480 400) or eight-speed automatic (R1 520 400). The five-cylinder turbopetrol Audi TT is the last quattro superhero (R1 259 700) and then there’s also the Porsche 718 Cayman GTS (R1 808 000). Unfortunately, the Nissan 400Z with its turbo-petrol V6 motor has still not been greenlit for release in South Africa.
Is the BMW M2 in contention for performance car of the year? Definitely! Is it worth the asking price? Of course it is. Sure, the looks might not be to everyone’s taste and you can’t call the M2 beautiful. But the M2 doesn’t want to be an Italian-style icon. It’s a Bavarian brute and is proud of it too.
BMW M2 Fast Facts
Price: R1 512 000
Engine: 3,0-litre, turbopetrol, straight-six
Power: 338 kW at 6 250 r/min
Torque: 550 N.m between 2 650 – 5 870 r/min
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
0-100 km/h: 4,1 seconds
Top speed: 250 km/h (285 with M Driver’s pack)