Thursday, 14 January 2016

BMW M2: Back to Basics

As the M range moves higher up in price, the M2 puts its performance back in reach of mere mortals. Under the hood is a 3.0-liter turbo inline-six that makes 365 hp and 343 lb-ft. A six-speed manual and rear-wheel drive are standard; a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is optional. Weight is reduced wherever possible, including 19-inch forged wheels shod with specially designed Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Beefy brakes aid stopping; BMW says 60 mph comes in 4.2 seconds with the automatic.

There's a lot to love. The M3, BMW's legendary compact performance car, got bigger and bigger over the years, leaving room for a new model that captured the spirit of the original. The modern M3 and M4 — both more than 3,500 pounds — have strayed miles from the E30 M3 of the late ’80s, a revered model that tipped the scales at under 3,000.

But it's not just that the M2 is the spiritual successor to one of the best cars BMW ever made. There are also the numbers: this car will sprint from 0-60 as quickly as a $100,000 M5, if BMW's own specs are to be believed. (And BMW has a tendency to underrate, which suggests the M2 could have a 0-60 time under 4 seconds.) Power is provided courtesy of a turbocharged inline six good for 365 hp. And you can get it with an honest-to-goodness manual transmission, a rarity among modern performance cars.

And then there's the appearance. This car looks great in person, wide enough at the rear to look downright musclebound. It's impossible to mistake it for a garden-variety 2, which is good news for the few who get to buy one. List is $51,700, but the M2 is a limited-run car — and if the predecessor 1 M is any indication, these will sell out quickly and be worth more than sticker when they launch later this year.

The turbocharged N55 inline-six engine has been extensively tweaked to produce 365 horsepower at 6500 rpm. Maximum baseline torque is 343 lb-ft, available from 1400 to 5560 rpm, while an overboost function serves up 369 lb-ft from 1450 to 4750 rpm. Fitted with a single turbocharger, the engine redlines at 7000 rpm. By comparison, the M235i cranks out a maximum of 320 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. Besides the six-speed manual, there is an available seven-speed dual-clutch automatic—as opposed to the M235i, which offers an optional eight-speed torque-converter automatic. The cooling system is heavily modified to help the M2 deal with a track environment, and the dual-clutch gearbox gets its own oil cooler. The sprint to 60 mph is said to take 4.2 seconds with the automatic and 4.4 seconds with the manual; we achieved zero-to-60 times of 4.3 and 4.9 seconds from the automatic and manual M235i. Top speed is governed at 155 mph.

But the M2 is as much about cornering dynamics as it is about straight-line performance, and BMW has cut no corners with the M2. Under the taut sheetmetal of the 2-series, the company’s engineers have essentially packed the chassis of the M3. Compared to the M235i, the front track increases from 59.9 to 62.2 inches and the rear track from 61.3 to 63.0. With its larger fenders, the car itself is now 73.0 inches wide, up from 69.8 inches. Combined with a slightly lower height (55.5 instead of 55.8 inches), the M2 looks muscular and powerful.

The M2 is fitted with 245/35ZR-19 front and 265/35ZR-19 rear tires; an electronic rear differential (Active M Differential) will help you keep the car in an easily controllable drift. And the transmissions are programmed to play along: The manual transmission includes a rev-matching function for downshifts, while the DCT has what BMW actually calls a "smoky burnout function."

The aggressive styling of the M2 sharply differentiates it from the M235i; it features a unique front end, large air intakes, a rear spoiler, and four exhaust pipes that are as loud as they are impressive to look at.

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