Comparison: BMW M2 vs BMW Z4M

BMW M2 | December 9th, 2017 by 3
BMW M2 vs BMW Z4M 830x553

Here is a personal impression after driving 25,000 km with my 2017 BMW M2 (on the street). There is an age difference of 11 years …

Here is a personal impression after driving 25,000 km with my 2017 BMW M2 (on the street). There is an age difference of 11 years between my Z4M and the M2. You can obviously see and feel the 11 years difference in the powertrain and onboard media.

The Z4M is rather old school in this area and the total car feels raw, uncomplicated and from a different generation when comparing it to the M2. I like the “slightly” raw old school feeling of the Z4M and I also like the more modern high tech feeling of the M2.

Mineral Gray BMW M2 With Vorsteiner Goodies Image 14 750x500

The M2 is a modern sports car, but not to the level that it gets too complicated with many features and settings or too artificial like the latest Audi RS4 or BMW M3/M4. You can feel that beside its artificial extras (like artificial sound and auto rev match), the M2 has some old school M-DNA driving pleasure hidden in its roots. It feels like the BMW designers were thinking: Let’s make this a really fun and not too expensive car with the current resources that we have at our disposal.

Both of my M cars have a manual gearbox, manual seats, sat navigation and audio system upgrade. I have no major complaints about the seating position on both cars or what the interior looks like. The look of the exterior of both cars is completely different and they are both beautiful and unique looking cars. They are different than most other cars on the street (especially my Z4M).

The M2 is an aggressive looking and sounding little grey beast. It makes no secret of its performance. My silver Z4M is more of a sexy, stylish sports car that is more subtle sounding and looking. In the looks department, my Z4M is more unique with the really long bonnet and the short rear. When driving the M2 or Z4M people always react very friendly, but for the moment the M2 receives more looks and way more thumbs up tha

n the Z4M.

Probably because of the more obvious exhaust sound and the car being rather new and a bit exclusive on the streets for now.

The difference in driving and usage between the M2 and Z4M is certainly big enough to keep the appeal of both and to have both in my garage (for the time being). The Z4M has better steering feel (hydraulic), nicer seamless naturally aspirated engine response, better clutch feel (certainly when comparing with the standard M2) and of course the possibility to drive with the roof down (when the sun is out).

I must say that for an electric powered steering, the steering feel of the M2 in Sport Mode is really nice. It’s one of the best “electric” steering that I have felt in a modern BMW (it is not at Porsche level, but miles better than the first generation F-models M3/M4 and any current Audi RS I have driven).

With the M2, the steering feel is more muted and you do not feel the little road imperfections or every inch of what the front tires are doing, like with the Z4M. It’s strange to notice this rather well when switching between the two cars. Around the center position of the steering there is also more of a feeling of a death spot with the M2, there is no such thing on the Z4M.

The turn in of the M2 is a bit slower than my Z4M which has more front camber and you have less feeling of what the front wheels are doing. The front-end grip and confidence that comes with it is amazing! It’s on a level above the Z4M. I think the grip of the M2 (on dry tarmac), in general, is also above my “modified” Z4M. The grip of the M2 is awesome! For reference; both my M-cars are wearing the same Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires in 19 inch, and the settings of my Bilstein PSS-10 suspension on the Z4M is on the softer side. The M2 suspension feels somewhat stiffer than my Z4M, but the damping is better. The M2 feels more balanced and more comfortable on a daily basis, but also more of a handful when driving the car really fast in to slow corners and all the torque (low end power) comes in to play. No worries, when you notice this, you need to be a little more easy on the throttle in slow corners than with the Z4M.

The M2 is a more comfortable daily car that is faster, more practical and more modern than my Z4M. I love some of the tech features, like Apple Car Play, good sat-nav and handsfree. Those are nice features to have on a daily basis, but I also noticed they can distract the driver with too much info coming on the screen or too much to think about. That is something you control yourself and I needed to get used to because my youngest car I own is from 2006 and rather low tech.

I love it when I get into my Z4M that is so simple and straightforward (for a modern car), not a lot of buttons or settings. Just turn the key and don’t think about were you put your remote (keys), which driver mode are we in, is my Apple Car Play connected, which source is going to play my music (iPhone, iPod, CD, internal HD, USB, etc). It would be nice if there would be a switch to turn off the artificial sound and to turn off auto rev match function without turning off the full DSC system. It’s not the end off the world and I’m already used to it, but it’s not something that you need on the street.

For the record, I turned off artificial sound in my M2 to make the sound inside the car less artificial and more natural sounding. I prefer it without artificial and I’m keeping the M2 this way.

The manual gearbox of the M2 feels that it is designed for people who are not used to driving manuals and in my opinion, it’s not the greatest clutch in standard form. The clutch feel of my Z4M is way better than on the M2. I can shift a lot faster with my Z4M than with my M2 – there is less delay! The M2 clutch pedal is somewhat sticky (and slow) when you want to release it fast, when going full throttle and wanting to change up gears. The pedal travel is also very long (and soft) with not a lot of feel and comes really high when you release the clutch (a clutch stop can not cure this). In my opinion, it’s a big difference with my Z4M and for me the clutch feel of M2 is the only relative big downside that is worth mentioning about the car. I tested two other M2s with a manual gearbox and they all have the same clutch feeling, so it’s designed this way and not a fault on my car.

I got somewhat used to the clutch feel after driving 2,500 km and I could certainly live with it, but for me it is the only thing they could actually really improve on the car, and I did improve it on my M2! After 3,500km I fitted the UCP replacement clutch pedal and it made most aspects I did not like about the standard M2 clutch go away. This modification is cheap and gives a night and day difference on how the M2 clutch feels. I love it! The gearbox itself feels good and is roughly the same in shift feel (slightly rubbery) as my Z4M. I like the shift feel of the Z4M gearbox a bit more than on the M2. It feels a bit more direct and less rubbery on the Z4M than on the M2.

So why did I not take a DCT/DKG gearbox instead? I don’t want to start this DCT vs manual discussion and you can find my reasons in other topics. It is a personal preference and I know every so called benefit of the awesome fast DCT. For reference, I tested both the DCT and manual M2, and I also lived with a DCT equipped M3 for a week.

I know the DCT is not the gearbox for me in this kind of car as my daily driver, I got bored with the DCT in the loan M3 after one week of street driving. If I would buy a new 330i, 330d, 530d, then I would probably spec a automatic gearbox, but not in a thrilling and nimble car like the M2.

In the end, I’m very happy I decided to order a manual M2, even that the standard clutch feel was not the best in the world for me. But now with the UCP clutch pedal modification I’m even more happy that I ordered the manual. The manual makes the car so much more fun for me and will keep me more entertained over time. Even if it means that I’m slower on track than the DCT cars. For a track car only I would maybe go for a DCT equipped car, but the M2 is 90% my daily driver that will also see track (mostly Nurburgring).

My Z4M is slightly lower than OEM (Bilstein PSS-10 suspension). I have to be really careful not hitting anything underneath the car or the front bumper when approaching garage entrees, speed bumps or holes in the road. The ride height of the M2 is higher than the Z4M and on a daily basis you can drive without worrying to much about hitting the front bumper or under tray of the M2.

I feel myself more relaxed when driving the M2 in city traffic than with the Z4M. But I need to be careful for the size of the M2. The M2 is a lot wider and bigger than my Z4M, it’s even slightly bigger than my E46 325i wagon. For me the M2 feels like a big car. I know it’s not a really big car, when comparing it to other cars, but I never owned big cars. The size of the M2 is just perfect for me, I don’t want a car any bigger than this and for daily usability I don’t want my daily any smaller than this.

The M2 is 100% the perfect size for my daily usage! The trunk size is also perfect! If I want to transport bigger items than I can use my back seats or fold down the rear seats. Rarely that I have more than two people sitting inside my cars (for example; the rear seats of my 325i wagon used to be always folded down), but it’s nice to have the option to fit two people on the back seats if needed.

The non-adjustable suspension of the M2 is somewhat the limit of hardness I find acceptable for a daily driver and I have no complaints about the suspension feel. The total M2 package regarding comfort and noise is somewhat right on the edge for my daily usage. I don’t like to show off; in city traffic the cold start and exhaust sound (even in comfort) could be a bit less loud for me. The M2 feels as the perfect compromise of a comfortable, everyday usable street car vs really exciting, fast, nimble sports car with a bit of a rough side. I love the best of both worlds and for me personally I don’t need my “daily” M2 to be louder, faster, much harder or generally more hardcore and more expensive. It’s just perfect in the middle and just awesome in what it does for this amount of money.

The adjustable Bilstein suspension of my Z4M is softer than the fixed M2 suspension but feels more uncomfortable (shaky). The grip and balance of the M2 is awesome on the street (dry weather), but the back of the M2 can sometimes feels a bit jumpy and the rear of my Z4M is more stable under full throttle. The standard M2 suspension feels like a good compromise for daily street use and occasional track use. Not to hard to use everyday and just one well thought through non-adjustable suspension setting.

The M2 is my first turbocharged engine car I owned myself. When I test drove the M4 in his first building years, I did not like the power delivery, hated the steering feel and disliked the sound. The fact that the M2 does not have the S55 engine is a plus point for me. It sounds so much nicer and power delivery is also better than with the M3/M4. The N55 engine is not a full blown M engine, but a “modified” M2 version of the normal N55 engine. The M2 engine is not that special and IMO it’s not going to be remembered as one of the great, iconic BMW M engines.

The S54 engine of my Z4M (also fitted in the E46 M3, in modified form in the E46 CSL and in the very last generation of the Z3M) is such a nice and characterful NA engine. The way it revs and sounds (OEM exhaust) is so nice and creates a unique feeling. If possible I would always like to have a car with a high revving NA engine in my garage. It’s so nice to pull all the way to the redline in this screaming metallic sounding beast. It’s something a turbocharged engine can never deliver, but those engines have other nice features, like the massive amount of low end torque and the feel of instant power on almost the full rev range. I never thought I would say this, but on a daily basis in traffic I like the turbocharged M2 engine more than my NA Z4M engine. The torque is so nice and fun in traffic, but on track or wide open mountain roads is nicer to have a high revving NA engine.

When accelerating really fast you can feel the turbo lag and the M2 engine needs a fraction of a second to get back on power. It is not as linear and seamless power delivery as in a NA engine. You also feel the turbo lag more with the 6 speed manual than with the faster shifting 7-speed DCT. Once you’ve got over the fun of the forceful, torque-rich power delivery of a turbo motor, a similarly powerful non-turbo engine is just more enjoyable to pull to the red line. The soundtrack, the way the rate of acceleration builds and builds in one seamless flow throughout the rev range, the drama of the delivery right at the top end. It’s no contest, a powerful high revving NA engine will always win the drama prize.

If I could only have one car, I would 100% take the M2 over the Z4M: it’s good and fun on track and it’s practical and fun as a daily on the street. To me, the Z4M is more of a special car for special occasions, that I don’t want to drive everyday. For me, the M2 can not replace my Z4M. My little coupe still feels special and unique to me. Honestly, I can not see myself selling the Z4M roadster and the only car I would ever sell it for is a Porsche GT4, GT3 or a Lotus Exige.

My Z4M was my first M car that I bought, it is modified and set-up exactly how I want it (CSL wheels, AP brakes, Bilstein suspension) and I’m emotionally attached to it. The M2 feels also special, it’s awesome to drive on a daily basis and it is still really useful. It is the perfect “more modern” addition, not replacement. I love them both very deeply and both deliver so much driving fun in their own way! I’m very fortunate and grateful that I have those two great M-cars in my garage and for the time being I will keep enjoying both of them.

Story by Wouter Frans