The BMW M2 Is All the Sports Car We Need—and Maybe a Little More

It's everything you could hope from an entry-level BMW M car—and that might be its only flaw.

Aaron Brown

Leading up to the BMW M2's unveiling in October 2015, Bimmer enthusiasts would salivate at just the mention of its name. Before the M2 ever officially saw the light of day, word spread that it was a glorified state of BMW sports car perfection, a throwback to the simple days of the racing-inspired E30 M3, the perfect balance of performance and usability. Turns out that's not too far from the truth.  

Aaron Brown

BMW loaned The Drive a dual-clutch-transmission-equipped M2 to test as we pleased. As you may have seen in a recent Facebook Live video, we took the car to car to some of our favorite roads in the southern Catskill region of New York state to judge the capability of the new entry-level M car. 

Unfortunately, when we had the car, the temperatures were pretty low—like 25 degrees low—so we took an extreme amount of caution with its summer-rated Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. But that didn't stop us from tossing it around.

The BMW M2's motor pulls and pulls

Aaron Brown

The M2 packs a 365-horsepower turbocharged inline-six motor that feels like it wants to pull you and the 3,450-pound car through anything. According to BMW, with the seven-speed DCT transmission, the car manages 0-60 in 4.1 seconds. 

Digging deeper into the details, the M2 has BMW's N55 motor with a single twin-scroll turbo. The N55 can also be found in the M235i, but with upgraded crank bearings, pistons, a different forged-steel crankshaft, and a better oil cooling system. With all of those pieces tossed inside, the M2 feels quick as hell.

At no point while driving this car did I wish it had any extra power. 

With the M2's drive mode left in "Comfort," power was always readily available and the car remained happy to launch me for a highway pass or smoothly power out of a corner when I needed it to. It wasn't too boosty or overly aggressive. I wasn't mashing the right pedal, especially because of the low road temperatures, but when I needed the power, the car was ready and able. 

Its suspension is unashamedly aggressive

Aaron Brown

The M2 is an aggressive car. You might not be able to tell that from its appearance, or maybe not even from its grunty exhaust note, but if there's anything that will remind you just how hard this car goes, it's how its stiff suspension handles bumps.

Driving through New York City with this thing is not for someone who keeps a his-and-hers Ibruprofen container handy for regular back pains. But just because it was stiff, doesn't mean the car was easily upset over bumps while driving at speed. It kept together well, and with a performance-built machine like the M2, that's the most important thing.

The M2 is not something we would recommend as a daily driver—unless you're commuting on perfect country roads. 

This dual-clutch automatic transmission did its job, but the cheaper, manual option is our preference

Aaron Brown

The automatic transmission in the M2 is a quick-shifting seven speed. It launches the car quicker than the six-speed manual (with the help of launch control) and allows for a calmer driving experience. But who buys an M2 because they want to be calm?

While we had the car, we kept it primarily in the "Sport" drive mode with manual gear selection chosen. In "Comfort" the transmission felt too lazy for our liking.

The additional $2,900 that the DCT costs just isn't worth it. But if you need an automatic transmission for your M2, the dual-clutch that BMW will pack in there for you is fantastic. 

The way this thing pulls out of corners is like, woah...

Aaron Brown

The M2's trick electronic limited-slip differential that's stuffed between the rear wheels performs some real magic when it helps the car out of corners. Borrowed from the M3 and M4, the computer-controlled LSD manages how much power is sent to rear wheels depending on the corner the car is coming out of. From the driver's seat, you feel it working as you come out of a turn, and honestly, it takes some getting used to. But for us, it was a welcome feeling.

Its fuel economy is really not great

Aaron Brown

So yeah. Maybe we drive like lunatics, maybe it was the weather, maybe it's a combination of both, but while we had the car, we barely saw anything over 17 miles-per-gallon. And what also didn't help was this car's seemingly-tiny 13.7-gallon tank. The U.S. EPA rated the M2 for 20 MPG city and 26 MPG highway, but it was rare that our test car recorded those numbers. 

Refueling every 230 miles or so is not pleasant. 

Without nitpicking, the M2's driving position could use some adjusting

Aaron Brown

Everything in the M2—like on pretty much every other BMW—was familiar if you've driven any modern BMW. While that means it's all pretty plain, it also says that everything just works. 

Our main gripe with the M2's interior was its driver's seat position. No matter how we adjusted the seat, it always felt a bit too high up. Not a huge deal and we manage to live with it. 

Overall, the entry-level M car was easy to get acquainted with.

And, hey. The M2 even has a somewhat useable backseat. Though we wouldn't want to be stuffed back there while driving down a twisty road.

It's beautiful

Aaron Brown

The M2 is subtle beauty. It's compact, but not cheap. Its body is different and more aggressive than the normal 2-Series lineup in all the best ways—mostly the wider appearance. For some reason, those huge front air dams just do it for us. 

BMW nerds love it

While driving the M2, we were getting thumbs-ups from Bimmer guys in modified E46s, other M cars, and even during rare sightings of other M2s. The people who knew what this thing was about absolutely adored it—as they should. For enthusiasts, the M2 represents what BMW is known for as a performance car-creating company. To them, and to us, the M2 reminds us that BMW doesn't joke about performance cars. 

Contact the author: aaron.brown@timeinc.com