ARRIVING SIDEWAYS: BMW's M2 offers a deeply desirable premium performance weapon for under $100k...and it's just as much fun as it looks.
ARRIVING SIDEWAYS: BMW's M2 offers a deeply desirable premium performance weapon for under $100k...and it's just as much fun as it looks. Mark Bean

A legend is born: BMW M2 road test and review

BMW, you've still got it.

Who cares if you slap an M badge on seemingly anything these days; who even cares if you're giving us front-wheel drive people movers? You can do whatever you please as long as cars like the M2 exist.

For performance BMW fans the 2002 Turbo, E30 M3 and 1 Series M Coupe are sacred models. We can now add the new M2 to that list. Six-cylinders, rear-wheel drive, classic coupe proportions and a manual transmission, all at a price that undercuts its M4 big brother by up to a whopping $60k. Genuine bargain.

2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean
2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

With the M3 and M4 you have near endless ways to personalise engine and suspension setup, but BMW just gives you its best effort with the M2. You get what you're given, and really, they know best.

The M2 does score the M3/M4's higher-spec engine components, mighty brakes and as good as matches its M cousins performance wise. Hitting 100kmh in 4.3 seconds is plenty enough.

There's also the M2's delightful and playful chassis, muscular good looks and enough luxury and tech in the cabin to have you convinced you need no other car in your life. Seems plenty agree. Australia should score about 300-350 M2s this year, and the waiting list is already nudging into 2017.

2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean
2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

Comfort

Two versions are available: the M2 Pure for $89,900 and the M2 for $98,900.

Cabins are near identical with firm and grippy Dakota leather sport seats, and the pricier model (the M2 Impure?) scores electric adjustment and heating. It's dark and purposeful inside, but blue stitching breaks up the blackness. The manual gear shifter (DSG autos are available) is a retro treat showing that good design never grows old, but while the steering wheel is chunky and lovely to the touch, it does feel a tad big for this little coupe.

Touch points, especially the Alcantara door inserts and dry carbon trim, are sublime, while BMW's iDrive Touch Controller - to my mind the most user-friendly on the market - helps navigate through all your functions on an 8.8-inch screen.

2016 BMW M2 Coupe. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW M2 Coupe. Photo: Contributed Uwe Fischer

On the road (and track)

So much hype has preceded this car, simply because its dimensions, spec, performance and emphasis more on purity rather than over-complication hits the sweet spot on paper.

And BMW has delivered on the promise. We tested the M2 at Sandown Raceway's mix of twists and long straights, and the little coupe was a riot of noise, outright speed, nimbleness and brilliant driver feedback.

It's one of those cars that wraps itself around the driver, giving confidence in its grin-inducing blend of stunning handling and grip, then reminding you as you nail the throttle that it's almost supercar fast, and will twitch its bum in a brilliantly predictable way as you send the 272kW of turbocharged power through the rears.

2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean
2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

As standard is an Active M differential, and when Sport+ mode is selected, you don't need to be Ken Block to enjoy easy oversteer and Michelin-smoking drifts. Think modern driving is boring? The M2 is here to change that.

Buyers' most important choice is whether to go manual or automatic, but neither disappoints. Of course the manual is the purer of the two, and don't discount the three-pedal option as the clutch is surprisingly light, the gear change creamy smooth in its short throw, and the pedals perfectly set up for heel-toeing.

Stuck in Melbourne traffic the only complaint was you were always itching to accelerate into every gap, while general cruising gave a firm and noisy-ish ride, but this is quickly forgiven. A quite brilliant everyman's everyday road cruiser or track weapon.

2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean
2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

What do you get?

The M2 Pure gets Dakota leather, Professional navigation, DAB+ tuner, BMW ConnectedDrive concierge services and internet, lane departure warning, city braking, rear camera and non run-flat (good) Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.

Range-topping M2 throws in the double clutch auto gearbox (manual is a no-cost option), adaptive headlights, Harman/Kardon surround sound, keyless access and electric and heated front sports seats.

2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean
2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

Running costs

Count on the higher insurance and service costs thanks to the "M" badge, and serious users must stomach the cost of re-shoeing the rears in that Michelin rubber. Fuel economy at 7.9L/100km (auto) and 8.5L/100km (manual) is more than fair for such a performance beastie.

Practicality

BMW M cars are renowned for their everyday driveability mated to serious performance, and the M2 is no different. Having two perfectly useable rear seats, albeit adults are quite squeezed, gives adequate justification to the other half that it's a viable family car. 

2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean
2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

Funky factor

There's no chance of mistaking the M2 for a normal 2 Series. It's a purposefully wide and aggressive looking sports car with bulging wheel arches making it 80mm fatter than a 220i. Massive front air intakes and huge 380mm/370mm brakes behind 19-inch double-spoke alloys give sporting intent. It's a squat and small thing, helping it look more playful than its M4 big brother.

2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean
2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

Other options

Not a lot with this sort of rear-wheel drive performance. BMW's own M4 is an obvious alternative, but at $149,990 the larger ballistic M coupe looks very expensive up against the more accessible M2. There's Merc's CLA45 AMG with all-wheel drive for $89,500, likewise Audi's TTS Coupe ($99,900).

Don't need rear seats? Try the Porsche Cayman ($106,200), or for plenty of rear-drive grunt, without quite the sophistication, there's Ford's Mustang GT ($57,490). Told you there wasn't much out there similar.

The lowdown

The BMW M car many have been waiting for. With the M3 and M4 being seriously big (and expensive) performance weapons these days, the M2 harks back to BMW's heritage of offering small, fun, fast and hugely talented compact performance coupes.

Sure to attract a younger buyer at this price, the M2 Pure at under $90k lives up to its name and is a genuine performance bargain. Above all it's a fun, talented and thrilling steer. BMW, you've created your next legend.

2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean
2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

What matters most

What we liked: Magnificent blend of performance and everyday usability, stunning balance and grip but with a playful tail-happy nature in the right setting, wide "M" body styling, value.

What we'd like to see: Slightly smaller steering wheel, more colour choices and not having to pay an extra $1485 for anything other than non-metallic white.

Warranty and servicing: 3 year/ 100,000km warranty, with conditioned-based servicing.

2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean
2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

Vital statistics

Model: BMW M2.

Details: Two-door, four-seat, rear-wheel drive compact sports coupe.

Engine: 3.0-litre, TwinPower turbo six-cylinder generating maximum power of 272kW @ 6500rpm and peak torque of 465Nm @ 1400-5560rpm (overboost function boosts to 500Nm).

Transmission: Six-speed manual or 7-speed dual clutch auto.

Consumption: 8.5-litres/100km (manual); 7.9-litres/100km (auto).

Performance 0-100kmh: 4.5 seconds (manual); 4.3 seconds (auto).

Bottom line plus on-roads: $89,900 (M2 Pure); $98,900 (M2).

2016 BMW M2 Coupe. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW M2 Coupe. Photo: Contributed Uwe Fischer

The verdict

Driving experience 19/20

Features and equipment 18/20

Functionality and comfort 18/20

Value for money 20/20

Style and design 19/20

Total 94/100

2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean
2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean


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