First Drive: BMW M2 in Phoenix, USA
Scorching performance and taut dynamics are givens in any car rolled out by BMW’s M Division, but the M2 arguably nails the sweet spot better than any other model. Fast, compact and agile, it recaptures the feisty spirit of past Bavarian icons such as the BMW 2002 Turbo and the much-loved E30 M3.
It’s no surprise the existing M2 has been the best-selling M model to date, with more than 60,000 examples built and sold during its lifecycle. However, time waits for no man or car; after six years, the time has come for a generational change.
Bigger in size
So, here we are, about an hour out of Phoenix, Arizona, eyeballing the new G87 M2, with its luminescent Toronto Red bodywork standing in stark contrast to the sandy, cactus-strewn surrounds of Tonto National Park. It’s immediately apparent the second-gen M2 is a more grown-up entity than its predecessor. Besides its expanded dimensions, the newbie also sports far more restrained styling.
A quick scan of the spec sheet reveals the newbie is more than 110mm longer than before, spanning 4,580mm from bumper to bumper. It’s also 33 mm wider at 1,887 mm, with front and rear tracks pushed out to accommodate beefy Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber – 275/35 ZR19 boots at the front and 285/30 ZR20 at the rear – wrapped around a tasty set of M-logoed multi-spoke rims.
BMW M2 engine specifications
The M Division engineers haven’t held back the firepower as stuffed under the M2’s bonnet bulge is essentially the same S58 3.0-litre twin-turbo six-pot motor you’d find in a current M3/M4. In this application, it’s tuned to push out 460 hp at 6,250 rpm and 550 Nm from 2,650 rpm to 5,870 rpm. These numbers are a nice increment on the 370hp and 465Nm outputs of the old M2, but you need to bear in mind the G87 is more than 150 kg heavier, tipping the scales at a beefy 1,725 kg. To put this figure in perspective, that’s about 70kg more than the V8-powered E92 M3.
The standard transmission is ZF’s excellent 8-speed auto, but BMW is also catering to three-pedal aficionados via a Getrag 6-speed manual ’box, which adds 500 euros to the M2 auto’s ex-factory price of €72,800.
Despite its weight gain, the G87 M2 is faster than before, dispatching the 0-100 kph sprint in 4.1 seconds when equipped with the ZF 8-speed auto (the manual takes two-tenths extra). Top speed is electronically governed to 250 kph, but specifying the optional M Driver’s Package bumps it up to 285 kph.
M Division hasn’t skimped on the rest of the recipe either, as under the M2 is essentially the same chassis hardware that underpins the M3/M4. The double-joint spring strut front axle and the five-link rear axle come with M-specific kinematics. Standard features include adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers, M Servotronic steering with variable ratio, and M Compound brakes with six-piston callipers at the front and single-piston floating callipers at the rear. The M2’s bodyshell also gains torsional stiffness via bespoke bracing, and the added tautness is reflected in its driving dynamics.
Although BMW isn’t officially communicating Nurburgring Nordschleife lap times, M Division insiders revealed to DriveArabia that the new M2 could lap the daunting “Green Hell” in just over 7min 30sec – around 10-15 seconds quicker than its predecessor.
BMW M2 Styling
The elephant in the room is the styling, which, at least to my eye, represents a backward step. Where the previous M2 had a delicious balance of visual muscle, aggression and elegance, the newcomer’s looks are distinctly underwhelming. There’s an overtly boxy theme as the front fascia has been squared off, and the profile has lost the voluptuous curvaceousness of the outgoing model. Even so, the new M2 has a don’t-mess aura, thanks to bulging wheel arches and a chunky derriere adorned by a purposeful-looking rear diffuser and quad exhausts.
Plenty has changed inside if you’re familiar with the old M2. The cockpit features BMW’s expansive new Curved Display, which incorporates a 12.3-inch digitised instrument cluster and a 14.9-inch infotainment screen. Among the info presented in the instrument cluster is a graphic with Shift Lights. At the same time, the central display enables you to scroll through various menus, including M-specific screens for vehicle setup.
The BMW Curved Display and the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant form part of the latest-generation BMW iDrive. The new BMW iDrive system enables personalisation with the BMW ID and My BMW App and allows a Personal eSIM to be used in the vehicle. Smartphone integration for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is likewise included as standard on the new BMW M2. There’s also a 5G antenna system for optimised connectivity.
But the real cabin highlights in our test car are the optional M Carbon bucket seats that use carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in the structural elements of the seat cushion and backrest and also feature cut-outs in the side bolsters and below-the-head restraints, thereby shaving around 10.8 kg from the vehicle’s weight. It’s not hard to conjure up a comfortable driving position, but in the usual BMW M fashion, the steering wheel rim is far thicker than it needs to be, which means you end up gripping it with your palm rather than your fingers.
BMW M2 driving impressions
We managed to score a 6-speed manual (we made a beeline for it as we love three-pedal cars), so we were keen to get underway and head for some winding roads. The 3.0-litre twin-turbo motor is mated to an M-specific exhaust as standard, and it’s pleasing to discover the familiar BMW straight-six howl has survived intact. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine driving an E30 325is.
The 6-speed manual proves a slight disappointment, though, as not only does the clutch pedal lack crispness, but gearshift quality also leaves much to be desired. Shifts are slow and balky, so any illusions of flicking from one gear to the next at lightning speed – as you would in, say, a Honda S2000 – are soon dispelled. Moreover, the brake and throttle pedals are far from ideally placed for heel-toe downshifts. That said, you can make the no-brainer choice and engage the Gear Shift Assistant auto-blip rev-matching function.
Although it’s redlined at 7,200 rpm, the S58 engine is decently flexible even at low revs, so you don’t need to constantly downshift to keep up with the cut and thrust of traffic. However, once we get out on the highway, there’s the realisation that the manual ’box isn’t geared for relaxed long-distance touring as the engine spins at 3,000 rpm-plus at a sedate 130 kph cruise. This is another reason for opting for the auto, as it has a significantly taller ratio in eighth gear.
These concerns dissipate once we hit the twisties, as these roads are a much better playground to showcase the strengths of the M2. You can immediately sense the inherent balance of the chassis, and near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution over the front and rear axles is just the start. The steering is accurate and well-weighted, even though it doesn’t convey as much textured feedback as one might have hoped for.
Turn-in is razor sharp, and grip levels are so high that you need to push seriously hard to even begin to get the car to slide. There’s also leech-like traction out of slow corners, and key ingredients here are the Active M Differential and fat 285/30 ZR20 rear tyres. The M Compound brakes also serve up strong, reassuring stopping power, showing no signs of fade after an extended thrash across the backroads of Tonto National Park.
It may be substantially bigger and heavier than before, yet the M2’s agility and fun factor remain largely undiminished. The payoff from the G87’s dimensional stretch is that the cabin has a greater feeling of spaciousness, and even the back seats are adequate for juniors. Moreover, the longer wheelbase (2,747 mm versus 2,693 mm for the oldie) results in marginally more settled ride quality.
BMW says the closest rival for the M2 is Porsche’s 718 Cayman S, and, in many ways, these two are well matched. Both are rapid and engaging, yet they’re comfortably useable for the day-to-day commute. The Porsche is ultimately the sharper and more tactile driver’s car, but the M2 counters this with the added practicality of four seats and a 390-litre boot.
We like most things about the new M2. If only it hadn’t lost the visual appeal of its predecessor…
BMW M2 SPECS
Engine 2993cc six-cylinder twin-turbo
Power 460 hp at 6,250 rpm
Torque 550 Nm from 2,650-5,870rpm
Transmission 8-speed Steptronic auto, 6-speed manual
Length 4,580 mm
Width 1,887 mm
Height 1,403 mm
Wheelbase 2,747 mm
Kerb weight 1,725 kg (DIN)
0-100 kph 4.1 sec (auto); 4.3 sec (manual)
0-200 kph 13.5 sec (auto); 14.3 sec (manual)
Top speed 250 kph; 285 kph with M Driver’s Package
Fuel consumption 9.6-9.8 L/100km (WLTP)
Price From Dh385,000
On sale May/June