Well depending on your position, I have either come from the dark side or went to the dark side. I have just come off the back of 16 years of Mercedes Benz ownership (three new cars). I would have loved to have purchased the new AMG C63s, but in my research cycle none months ago, it seemed that there was little debate in the international community that the BMW M2 was A. The Best M car in a long time and B. more generally one of the best combination handing, performance and value packages around. I always wanted an M3 and perhaps now was time to consider a BMW.
When I was in market in May 2016, all M2s were sold for calendar year 2016, but I managed to find one open slot for November to arrive in January 2017. The options were fairly limited, I picked sunroof, split folding seats, DCT package and metallic grey. The heated steering wheel and alarm did not make any sense for me. The Long Beach Blue was a tempting option, but I felt that it was overly popular and a bit boy racer, whilst that’s me on the inside, I needed to maintain a more mature appearance in my circles.
I ordered the car sight unseen, which is very abnormal for me. All the M2s were sold out including demo cars, and those that had arrived in country must have been kept hidden from prying eyes. It was my friends who first sent me road pics when they were out and about. There was an option to get the only demo car at head office, but it would have taken weeks, and the only remaining factory slot would not have waited for me.
Seven months later with a 2017 compliance the car arrived. I picked it up with the usual fanfare at the dealership and drove into the office. I have been driving the car around now for the last 2 weeks and I thought I would provide some observations given they are fresh in my mind, it may be a little detailed apologies in advance, but I hope they help.Ok let’s get the basics out of the way, power, handling, braking, engine exhaust sound, and stance, OMG!!
Are we good?
Well there is little that I can add to the dozens of professional reviews already done. I will cover the things that I think have not been covered, the sorts of things that become important when you are bumper to bumper in traffic or pop up in your daily commute.
Given my 16 years of Mercedes Benz ownership, I think 2 things should be pointed out in this review. Firstly I love German cars, for their refinement, precision, build quality and reliability. Secondly most of my insights for the M2 come out of comparing my past Mercedes Benz ownership experiences, which for me have become the norm. So let’s get into it.
I have had Mercedes voice control in my last two cars which had little improvement in the last 10 years between the models, I had given up. I thought that they were a gimmick and perhaps I was spoilt with how Google does voice, and not long after I pushed the voice button I stopped using it. The systems required voice tuning, and structured based sequence of commands. If you got the sequence or command wrong, forget about it.
The voice control in the BMW M2 was a big surprise. It just works! I just told the system what I wanted, it did not need any training or setup, I spoke naturally and got what I wanted. Navigation was a breeze, sending messages, audio to text wow! And when the system was not sure, it gave me options to select from and most often my choice was from the selection. The only issues I found were with complicated street names. BMW have this sorted when compared to Mercedes and I find that I use it all the time, well done BMW !
The drivers instrument is quite difficult to see in the daytime and in addition with a set of sun glasses becomes almost impossible to read. Given the lack of heads up display this is a poor point, especially as the car (and driver) are really happy to be on the power it becomes easy to exceed the speed limit. The solution is to turn the lights on, but this becomes a pain as you need to pivot from the auto option to the fixed setting. I guess an updated firmware setting in the drivers menu could solve this to keep the instrument cluster lights as always on.
The adaptive headlights are a big improvement over the Mercedes. How? Two key reasons. Firstly they respond to driver input much more quickly. So as you turn the steering wheel the lights are already there. Secondly the light distribution covers a much wider area, particularly on the driver’s side, which in other cars has been suppressed to minimize dazzling oncoming drivers. I feel so well supported that the lights are always where you need them. With the cleaver tech it feels like a search and rescue helicopter illuminating the steps ahead just where you need it.
No front camera or parking sensors? Really? I have read two hypothesis.
1. BMW saving money and 2. They would not fit in the bumper.
I really struggle with both of these for a few reasons. Most cars considered premium either sport or luxury have parking sensors in the front bumpers, it is the norm. BMW saving money does not work for me either, as I would have paid for it if they were in the options menu, so that would not have cost BMW any money. A front camera would fit in the grill and there is plenty of visible space for that. My view is that it was for positioning purposes to differentiate the higher M models. Why is this important for me? Well sometimes my wife drives the car and getting into the garage can be tricky. The front bumper is quite low and will scrape in most shopping centers at the parking bay stop. I have investigated a few options for sensors and cameras all are quite expensive and I don’t really prefer someone hacking up the dash and engine bay. I guess the only work around for now is to ask my wife to reverse park everywhere…
21st Century tech:
In my wait for the car I had plenty of time to do research on the M2. I found three apps (Android) in the PLAY store, which I downloaded and installed. One was the owner’s manual, ok. The other 2 “BMW Remote” and “BMW Connected”. I must admit I had these apps installed four months before the car arrived, but obviously could not get these to work until it did.
When I picked up the car the BMW Genius asked what I wanted to cover. Given I had read the manual, all I wanted was help to connect the apps to my phone which took about 2 minutes. Overall the two applications are quite clunky, and have a few bugs, perhaps they were written by two different development teams at different times for different purposes. I hear that in the next 3 months there is a new app coming which combines the best features of both.
Parking the issues, the BMW Remote app I find really useful. Putting aside some of the geeky features, like range (based on the remaining fuel in the tank), open/close, and activate ventilation, the real stand out feature is the mapping integration. You can search a destination via the google maps and send the destinations to the vehicle, from anywhere. This can be really handy if you are planning your day out in advance or like me generally find that the GPS navigation User Experience is poor (all manufacturers). I recommend this feature and hope that BMW continue to invest down the mobile app path.
It was always my perception that when you purchased the M car it came with all the goodies. At least that was true when I purchased my top end Mercedes models. The M2 fell short here and it was in the little things where my disappointment lay. Ok, parking all the extra carbon stuff and a louder exhaust that does not offer any more performance? These options are clear upgrades, but you need to dig a little deeper to find the extra minor bits. M stainless steel pedals, M mats front and rear, M key cover, M torch, nope… you need to buy these too, a little disappointing after you have spent over $100,000. Perhaps these will turn up in my BMW welcome pack as a surprise?
The M2 has had a fair amount of criticism for its interior, being a bit dull and boring. I am not there yet. I think the interior feels solid and is well proportioned. Perhaps it has been around for a while and compared to the other German brands it is the last manufacturer to offer a refresh. I have a few other disappointments that are more functionally orientated. Firstly when opening and closing the doors from the inside, it is difficult to get leverage and control as the handle is so far forward. That makes fine control movements difficult in tight spaces or on a hill where you have more forces acting on the door.
The center console armrest is about one inch deep so you cannot store much there and there is a big blank under the CD player/AC controls which could have housed another compartment. There is no clear place to store your sunglass either. Overall the storage space in the M2 is low and I think it is more poor design as there are many hollow places/blanks. The seat belt is hard to reach over your shoulder as it is too far back. I guess this is likely due to the fact that it is a two door four seater car, and therefore a seat belt assistance mechanism would have been welcomed.
How did they do it? The fact that it does not have adjustable suspension is a non-event. I was expecting a harder ride around town, but for me I have to say the suspension it is perfect. Firm, confident and reassuring. You do feel the bumps through the chassis, but the overall, tyre, wheel and chassis setup rides over the bumps in confidence. I was expecting the car to crash over the poor road surfaces, but so far it is a pleasant surprise.
Steering Wheel Buttons
When compared to the Mercedes I remembered a Top Gear episode a number of years back that highlighted how Mercedes had invested time and research on how many newtons of force the optimal button press was. I had taken this for granted how easy the Mercedes controls where inside the cabin. The BMW M wheel buttons feel like they take 3 times more force. I have to man handle the buttons to get the outcomes I am looking for. The absence of a mute button is also really inconvenient and another disappointment. Perhaps one of the 2 blank steering wheel buttons could be programmed for this additional feature in future.
In all of the Mercedes I have owned they had a speed limiter function. The first generation limited the throttle and engaged the gearbox to slow the car down. The last 2 Mercedes also engaged the brakes, and you felt very confident that you would stay at the desired speed. Over the last 16 years this feature as an aid has become core to my driving. As I transition from school zones to road works, highways to suburban streets, with a quick turn style engagement I set the desired speed limit and then spent all my attention to driving and looking at the road rather than being fixated on my instrument cluster to monitor my speed. The BMW speed limiter function is the same as first generation Mercedes driving aid, where it won’t engage the brakes to control speed. That means the car will go over the set speed limit. Added to this, the instrument cluster is hard to see during the daytime this is another disappointment. I know all the tech is there as the car has collision avoidance and will actively brake the car, BMW can you code in the braking to engage with the Speed Limiter function please?
I think my assessment covers some more generic Mercedes Benz vs BMW features, but how this shows up for me is in my ownership of the BMW M2. I hope that you find this helpful.
Well, let me get to the crux of the matter. The power, handling, braking, engine exhaust sound, and stance OMG!
The fact that I can have all of that and fit my two kids in the rear seats, nothing else really matters. I love this car.