The BMW M2 is the type of M that enthusiasts expect from BMW; that is, it’s not so quick around the track that it compromises driver engagement. It’s arguably the closest thing to the BMW 2002, the sports sedan that inspired enthusiasts in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Overall, performance from the M2 is superlative, and it’s got good base equipment, although its style isn’t universally loved.
Much of the M2 equipment is designed for performance, especially on the track. The twin-scroll turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 is the same engine used in the bigger M3 and M4, distinctly tuned for the track, including its pistons and iron cylinder liners. Its oil sump is designed to maintain oil pressure during hard cornering. It makes 365 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 343 pound-feet of torque between 1400 and 5560 rpm, with overboost to 369 lb-ft.
The M2 rockets from zero to sixty in 4.2 seconds with the 7-speed dual-clutch, 4.4 seconds with the 6-speed manual. Top speed is 155 mph, unless you want to spend $2500 more for the Drivers’ Package that frees it to go 168 mph. It’s a new option for 2017 BMW M2 models and includes a BMW drivers’ school, a fun option.
The aluminum suspension and axle systems come from the M3 and M4, with aluminum subframes and chassis stiffening. The electronic Active M Differential can lock one wheel in 150 milliseconds, repeatedly, to stop wheelspin when the wheel has no traction, for example on glare ice.
The 19-inch aluminum wheels mount Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, 245/35 front and 265/35s rear. Behind the wheels are perforated and vented discs, 15-inch front with four-piston M calipers, and 14.5-inch rear with two-piston calipers.
Fuel mileage is an EPA-estimated 20/27 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined with the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The 2017 BMW M2 ($51,700) comes as one model in the U.S. with the manual transmission or the M DCT dual-clutch ($2900). Standard equipment includes heated seats, navigation, adaptive cruise control, and electronic safety features, but not a rearview camera. An Executive package adds a heated steering wheel, plus park distance control, automatic high beams, active driving assistant, and that rearview camera. The Drivers’ Package ($2500) adds 13 mph to the 155-mph top speed. There are no stand-alone performance upgrades. They all come standard.
The stubby M2 clearly looks like it means business. Under the BMW twin-kidney grille, there’s a big air intake flanked by a pair of angular ducts. Flared fenders hold the wide stance.
It’s far from luxurious in the cabin. A $53k BMW doesn’t have the same interior materials as say a $75k one. It feels a bit stark inside, with lesser surfaces, even though they are special M surfaces; and not much design, even though there are M logos on the gauge cluster, shift lever, door sills, and steering wheel.
The seats are great, good bolstering for the twisties and easy on the back on rough highways. Road noise is mostly a mere whoosh.
The M2 brings the sensation back to the driver, having been lost in more uppity M cars. The driver settings are simple, for one thing. The Sport+ mode doesn’t feel artificial like it does in the M4, while sharpening the response of the transmission and steering, and backing off the stability control system.
The M2 is at its best driven hard, with precise body control, well-weighted steering, and powerful brakes. The engine sounds great, especially at redline 7000 rpm, thanks to an exhaust-flap system and piped-in induction noise.
The 7-speed dual-dual clutch automatic manual transmission does seamless shifts in the blink of an eye, with or without the steering-wheel paddles.
The 6-speed manual gearbox shifts nicely with tight linkage (it shifts like the M3 used to shift) and great clutch coordination. It also has rev-matching that turns off with the stability control. The 6-speed gearbox has its own oil cooler.
The ride takes hard impacts at the wheels in stride, but it can feel jittery on bumpy pavement. The firm suspension allows the correct amount of weight transfer in the corners, without using adaptive dampers. The Active M Differential controls torque to each rear wheel, to help make cornering nimble. By providing the optimum torque in corners, this system keeps the driver engaged (feeling it in the seat of his or her pants), compared to an electronic system that uses the ABS to control wheelspin.
The M2 is the nimblest and quickest BMW M sedan. With its almost-screaming 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine with twin-scroll turbo, tight 6-speed manual transmission, big brakes, stiff but not uncomfortable suspension, it almost brings back the M3.
Sam Moses contributed to this report, with staff reports by The Car Connection.