When BMW told us we’d be getting to go out to the famous Laguna Seca in California to test drive the new BMW M2, you can imagine we were more than excited. The 11 turn, highly technical Laguna Seca is the perfect place to test the M2, as the track prioritizes nimble handling and precision over power and speed.
However, because of how extremely technical and difficult Laguna is, we were instructed to follow either legendary BMW driver Bill Auberlen or Claudia Hürtgen, the 24-Hour BMW driver, for eight laps. The first lap was just a sighting lap, so we could get a chance to learn the track. Two more laps were to build up some speed slowly and get comfortable with the cars. Four more laps were at full speed, where we were really able to test the car. After that was a cool down lap.
After our eight laps at Laguna, we took the BMW M2 to the hills around Carmel Valley and on the Pacific Coast Highway towards Big Sur for some street driving. The BMW M2 on these gorgeous, scenic roads was exactly what car enthusiasts live for.
The BMW M2 is one of the more important sports cars to come out of Bavaria in a long time. It’s the answer to the call of so many BMW fans who wanted more from the, already brilliant, 2 Series chassis. The BMW M2 represents a return to form for the BMW brand, a brand once known for its small, lightweight and nimble sports cars and could be the most exciting car to come out of Bavaria in years. While the BMW M3 and M4 are excellent cars, the M2 could be the spiritual successor to cars like the E46 M3, cars that BMW fans love more than most others.
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The M2’s front end bites hard and changes directions with extreme precision
But just because the BMW M2 is designed to feel like its from a bygone era, it still has plenty of current BMW M DNA built into it. The new M2 actually uses the same steering rack as the M4 – electrically-assisted – but it’s obviously on a smaller chassis with different suspension geometry, making it feel more direct and precise, but with a very similar tactile feel to it. It does offer better feel through the road than the M4, though. There is an immediate sharpness and a great feedback just off center, while being extremely precised. It just never feels darty.
The M2 was really able to show off it capabilities at Laguna Seca, where the tight, technical corners and famous corkscrew are perfect for a car like the M2. The M2’s front end bites hard and changes directions with extreme precision. The car loads up incredibly in corners and stays planted throughout.
We had the chance to try the MDM mode as well which allows the M2 to really run free into mild oversteer. If you turn off the driver aids, the M2’s strong traction remains but you can turn the slip from mild to wild in a split of a second.
The M2s we drove were wearing racing brake pads and they felt amazing, with tons of bite and zero fade throughout both track and street driving. The M2 features four-pots at the front with 380mm discs and two-piston calipers at the rear with 370mm discs. M2-specifically designed 245 and 265 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are fitted to 19-inch wheels. The PSS tires are custom made for the M2 and BMW engineers said the front pair focuses on turn in and the rears on linear traction. A star on the tires it indicates that they have been tested on the BMW car.
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If we were to compare the M2 to another car, it’d actually be better compared to the BMW Z4 M.
M2 vs. 1M
Though the M2 isn’t the hardcore, tail-happy car that its BMW 1 Series M predecessor was, as it’s much too predictable. Yet, that isn’t a bad thing. The M2 grips better, is faster and is more controllable, even if it isn’t as exciting and hardcore as the 1M. However, that does make the M2 easier to learn and easier to drive quickly. It’s safer and far more friendly than the 1M – it’s less likely to bite you. If we were to describe the difference between the M2 and 1M in one sentence, it’d be “M2 is better than the 1M, but it’s not a 1M.” If we were to compare the M2 to another car, it’d actually be better compared to the BMW Z4 M.
The 1M was the wild child that would cause a lot of problems if unsupervised, while the M2 is that one more eager to please, more flexible in character – one that can go from wild to calm and reverse, in a split of a second. The 1M has a stiffer chassis, more responsive steering and it’s more geared towards the track, while the M2 can be your daily driver – without annoying your significant other riding with you – and able to quickly change into a track monster.
The M2 and 1M have different characters, yet the same DNA. Both are equally fun and rewarding when driven near the limit, and both will put a smile on your face. The M2 is the more modern car with the newest and best tech, and if you don’t own an 1M, then the M2 is a no-brainer.
BMW was quick to point out that the M2 runs the Ring in 7:58min, the 1M in 8:15min and the M4 7:52min. And that should just tell the story.
M2 vs. M4
In terms of power and performance, the M2 is very fast and pulls very hard from nearly every RPM. It has a linear power delivery, more linear than the M3 and M4. The BMW M4 is still faster than the M2, but the little car still pulls incredibly hard and is more than fast enough to be fun. It’s But the light weight and turbocharged punch allow it to pull hard in higher gears than you’d normally imagine. Gears 3 and 4 were perfect for most turns on Laguna Seca, as its torque curve allowed more than enough of a punch. Plus, the M2 was able to carry quite a lot of speed through the tight corners at Laguna. It also makes a lovely, growly sound, one that’s a bit deeper than the M4’s.
Equally as impressive is its ability to accept higher ratios at low revs – we’ve tried fifth and sixth gear at 1000rpm – with the car easily pulling once you hammer down the throttle.
The M2 is not a replacement for the M4 nor a poor man’s M car. The M2 was born to fill a gap in the M lineup and to offer customers a great, sporty compact car. The decision won’t be whether you can afford the M2 or the M4, the decision will be based on what type of driver you are and the type of fun you’d like to have. The M4 has that more raw power, while the M2 has the best balance between proportions and power. On a technical track, the M2 will be the fun car to drive, while on a faster track, the M4 will take you closer to the top speed.
The weight balance is very near 50-50 with either transmission and the manual-equipped car weighs in at 3,450 lbs. The DCT option adds 55 lbs. BMW claim the M2 covers 0-60mph in 4.3-seconds with the optional 7-speed M DCT or 4.5-seconds with the standard fit 6-speed manual. The optional M Drivers Package – not yet available in the United States – and the electronic limiter is raised from 155mph to 168mph.
Helping to send all of that 370 hp and 343 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels are one of either two gearboxes. The seven-speed DCT was incredible on the track, with rapid fire shifts allowing the car to get into the perfect gear faster than we could do on our own with a manual, giving us the fastest lap times possible. But the six-speed manual, which we sampled on some of California’s gorgeous roads, was the gearbox to have as it offered the most fun and best connection. The manuals short gearing and short throws, combined with its wonderful auto rev-matching, will make it the ideal driver’s choice, especially with the fact that most M2 owners won’t be tracking their cars. Even though we hope they would.
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Long Beach Blue is an amazing color that really comes to life in sunlight.
While BMW claims that this is a car that was born for the track, it’s the road where it will likely be driven the most because that’s where it’s the most fun. Twisty, scenic roads are the M2’s specialty. And, because it looks so good and is quite limited, owners probably aren’t going to want to track it too often.
The design is muscular, aggressive and, on such a small car, make the M2 look very athletic. The flared wheel arches are a sight to behold in person and really give the car an aggressive stance, very similar to the way the original E30 M3 stood.
Long Beach Blue is an amazing color that really comes to life in sunlight. It’s gorgeous and vibrant, really giving the M2 character. The Alpine White color is the one that’s said to be the classic choice and the one that looks best with BMW’s M Performance parts. But our favorite color was Mineral Grey. The dark color with the dark wheels looks positively menacing, but isn’t too flashy. It helps keep the M2 somewhat under the radar. It also looks amazing as the sun starts to go down. We also think that Mineral Grey best shows off the M2’s design and body lines.
Overall, the BMW M2 is an amazing car. It’s very fast, far faster than anyone will ever need on the street, has incredible performance and is possibly the most fun car to wear a blue and white roundel. It’s also the most fun BMW since the 1 Series M. The BMW M2 does an impressive job of walking the line between being thrilling and safe. It will allow you to have fun and be aggressive, but it’s safe enough to not let you kill yourself. It may not be the BMW 1M, but then again it’s not supposed to be. This is a new car for a new generation.
This is the BMW M2.
BMW M2 Test Drive Review
Exterior Appeal - 10
Interior Quality - 10
Steering Feedback - 9.5
Performance - 10
Handling - 10
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 9.5
Price Point - 10
Overall, the BMW M2 is an amazing car. It's very fast, far faster than anyone will ever need on the street, has incredible performance and is possibly the most fun car to wear a blue and white roundel. It's also the most fun BMW since the 1 Series M.