2016 BMW M2 Review and Road Test

2016 BMW M2

BMW’s pint-sized 2 series gets the M treatment. We like the results



No one does fender flares quite like BMW, do they?

Nope. Park an M2 next to an M235i and the difference is stark. The flares fore and aft give the M2 a needed dose of attitude without looking contrived. We’ve always liked the 2 series but when the conversation would turn to styling, we’d murmur something about it looking a bit too upright and how its butt looked awkwardly truncated. Those gripes melted away when we strode across BMW Canada’s parking lot over to our Long Beach Blue ($895) tester. It’s got the beguilingly swollen hips, yes, but its front end of gaping air inlets, trademark quad exhaust pipes out back and manhole cover sized brake rotors peeking out behind those smoked wheels add a suitably nasty degree of menace to BMW’s littlest M offering.

So…a true M car like the M3/M4 or more like the cobbled-together-from go-fast parts like the 1-sereis M?

The M2 leans more towards the hotted up 1-series M in the sense that it doesn’t use a bespoke engine crafted by the engineers of the M skunkworks. Like its predecessors, the M2 borrows from big brothers M3/M4. It uses the trick Active M electronic differential, the massive brakes and calipers as well as various suspension components. Under the hood, the same pistons and crank bearings are employed to good effect allowing the 3.0 inline six to produce 70 more torques than the E92 M3’s V8 and allow it build revs almost as voraciously. There’s even an overboost feature that cranks the boost for short periods to deliver a crushing 369 lbs/ft. of torque, an increase of 26 from the standard 343 on tap. Like the 1-series M, all the cherry-picked parts all work harmoniously to deliver what might be the most distilled M car experience you can get today.

Better than the M3 and M4? Really?

Not better necessarily, just a bit more…authentic. The M3/M4 have become a bit serious since the F80 platform versions were turned loose a few years ago. Don’t be misled- the two remain performance icons of the highest order, and are seriously, properly fast whether you’re passing a slower car (mostly all of them) on the highway or setting to work at setting fastest lap at a track day. With the bar set high to achieve this impressive performance envelope, they lost some of their friskiness and have become a little too austere. They’re much more at home trying to set fastest lap than they are out for a zesty cruise on early mornings. Let’s put it this way: during a little stretch of hooligan inspired driving, the M3/M4 feel a little cold and you feel like they might be telling you to wipe that smile off your face and to concentrate on scavenging a few tenths here and there. The M2 lets its hair down, seeming to giggle as you squirt from apex to apex, goading you to go even faster. BMW says that the M2 has a family link to the 2002, and we see a stronger case for that lineage than with any other of the company’s offerings.

What’s it like inside?

The M2’s is not going to urge you to run your fingers over every surface and pour over every detail the way the 750i we drove a few weeks back would. It isn’t even that much different from regular 2 series fare, save for some splashes of Alcantara here and there and the M logo embossed into the seats. If you’re looking for luxury flourishes and tons of doodads, move along. BMW spent the money where it counts: on the oily bits. We’ve come to expect comfortable but supportive seats and a perfect driving position and relationship with the controls, and the M2 is no different than any BMW in that respect. You can check email and your Facebook timeline, but with a car like this why would you want to when you could be driving?

How does the M2 fare as a commuter?

Not so good. There probably won’t be many folks out there who select an M2 as an errand runner or means to get from home to work every day. You could ask it to perform the same mundane tasks as a Smart car and it would happily oblige all day long; it’s just that it doesn’t feel right doing so. First of all, that lofty performance envelope you should be chasing would basically be unused. When we subjected the M2 to picking up the kids and restocking the fridge with groceries it felt almost strangled, practically begging us to spin the tach or tackle an onramp at giggle inducing speeds. In addition to that, the City of Toronto’s streets aren’t exactly smooth by any stretch, and traversing the tarmac around town would constantly jiggle our flabby bits. Hitting frost heaves or utility cuts would send a cringe worthy shockwave through the structure, but it’s rock solid. Nothing ever squeaked or rattled in protest. Do yourself a favor and point the M2’s nose towards some sinewy roads or a local track day facility and everything falls into place. You don’t notice the starched ride, the steering works in concert with a very capable chassis in real time so you always know what’s going on at the contact patches and it dawns on you why the world’s motoring press has reached the frothy consensus that the M2 is one of the best high performance machines to come out of Munich in quite a while.

What might go wrong?

That steering we just mentioned works best when you’re really flogging the M2 but most of the time it’s aloof. BMW would rather isolate the driver from kickback and those subtle tugs during cornering that let you know what the front tires are up to but are ostensibly off-putting to the majority of the population. The M2’s default driving mode is Comfort, but we found ourselves yearning for a Comfort+ setting that would do wonders in taking the edge of some of the unpleasant bumps it’s sure to encounter every time you drive it. The last thing we’d address is the music coming from the quad tailpipes, or lack thereof. The soundtrack is typical BMW inline six, which means it is sweet from idle to redline. But this is an M car, and the audio should be a bit more special than a 340i with a dash of attitude. None of these picked nits are deal-breakers, however. Think of it this way- if you are still convinced the M3/M4 are the only M cars you should be considering, remember that the M2 starts at a not insignificant $15,000 cheaper than its bigger brothers. Does that make it a better choice? That’s up to you; both are incredible cars. When you factor in all the smiles-per-mile and wad of cash that stays in your pocket, we simply wouldn’t be able to pass on the M2.

2016 BMW M2- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $65,795
  • Body Type: 2-door, 4 passenger sports coupe
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic (M-DCT)
  • Engine:  3.0-litre turbocharged inline-6, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  365 @ 6,500 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 369 @ 1,450 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,592 kg (3,510 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 11.6 L/100km (20 mpg)