Awhile back, we did a speculative comparison of the Shelby GT350 and the BMW M2. Many felt that the comparison wasn’t the fairest, which was a valid concern considering we hadn’t driven either yet at the time. However, the comparison is apparently a good idea if Top Gear is doing it as well. Except, they went with the full-blown GT350R variant, the ultra hardcore, track-ready variant, of the Shelby GT350. So let’s take a look at how the two stacked up against each other.
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Pairing the BMW M2 against the Shelby GT350 is a pretty fair fight, despite them having vastly different power and performance figures, because their focus and price is so similar. However, using the GT350R changes things up a bit, as that car is far more hardcore, far more exciting and quite a bit more expensive than the M2. It’s also marketed to a different customer. But it’s still a fun comparison to do and no one is going to say no to doing it.
The GT350R packs the same 5.2 liter flat-plane crank V8 as the standard GT350, but is completely stripped out. For R-spec duty, it loses the back seat, air-conditioning, exhaust resonators and gets more carbon fiber bits, all in the name of saving weight. So not only is it more powerful than its more plebeian version, it’s also quite a bit lighter.
On the flip-side, the BMW M2 seems positively luxurious in comparison to the GT350R. It has a back seat, heated seats, standard air-con, navigation and can be perfectly quiet and comfy if need be. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t like to play, though, as it’s still one of the more fun and exciting sports cars on the road today. It’s just funny to see the comparison and how the M2 looks hardcore next to other BMW M cars but looks like a 7 Series compared to the GT350R.
So when they put rubber to road, the two cars behave very differently. The GT350R is a monster that makes a noise similar to a pterodactyl being shredded through a nitroglycerin-powered paper shredder. It’s insane. And without those exhaust resonators, it’s extremely loud. Wake your neighborhood loud. It’s also unabashedly track-focused, with suspension and steering that are so sharp they pick up and feel every groove and camber in the road. We felt some of this in the standard car, but probably not to the extreme of the GT350R. However, the steering feedback and chassis communication are incredible thanks to it.
The BMW M2, on the other hand, is very different. With its 365 hp 3.0 liter turbocharged I6, it lacks the fury of the GT350R’s V8, as well as the noise. But that doesn’t mean it’s boring. In fact, in isolation the BMW M2 sounds thrilling and exciting. It’s only in comparison to the monster Shelby that it sounds reserved. But what the engine lacks in noise, it makes up for with its desert-flat torque curve, thanks to its turbochargers, and typical BMW finesse. It’s the fitter athlete of the two, being able to clip apexes with slighter better precision than the GT350R, thanks to its smaller size and shorter wheelbase. Whereas the Shelby punishes the road into submission and makes the pavement bend to its will, the M2 dances over it with a light foot. If the GT350R is J.J. Watt, the BMW M2 is Odell Beckham Jr. Both incredible athletes, just very different in approach.
While it’s tough to say which car is the actual better car, as both are probably better than each other at certain things, Top Gear can certainly say which car thrilled them most. While the BMW M2 was said to probably be the better car to own and live with everyday, it’s the GT350R that stuck the most and made them fight over for the keys.
[Source: Top Gear]