BMW M2 review – a last hurrah for the small rear-drive M-car
The last of its generation, the M2 is a throwback to a golden age of small, rear-wheel-drive performance models from Munich
The BMW M2, a last bastion of BMW’s illustrious history of building two-door saloon cars powered by a six-cylinder engine powering the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. Where once that combination of elements was the norm for performance car enthusiasts, 2020 is a different era – except for the BMW M2.
The small two-door saloon (although plenty will prefer it to be called a coupe) has been on sale since 2014, and in pre-Competition form its lukewarm reception was pinned on its somewhat wayward handling and uninspiring non-M Motorsport engine.
That all changed in 2018 though, when the Competition arrived with the proper S55 engine, revised suspension, and a host of other detail changes that aimed to finally make the M2 a real successor to not just the excellent BMW 1 M Coupe, but its historical predecessor the E30 M3.
But the M2's ultimate swan song has come in the £75,320 M2 CS, a last-of-the-line variant that has elevated the M2 over and above its direct predecessors to become one of the M Division's true greats. It's not cheap, but the CS really is something special, and a fierce statement that behind the X5 Ms and M8 Cabriolets, the M Division still knows exactly what it is, and how to build one hell of a performance car.
BMW M2 in detail
- Engine, gearbox and technical highlights > Now sharing an engine with the blue-blooded M3 and M4, the M2 finally has a powerplant to match its badge and chassis.
- Performance and 0-60 time > A DCT equipped M2 will hit 62mph in an impressive 4.2sec, beating the manual by 0.2sec. Thanks to the meaty torque delivery, the M2 feels fast at any revs.
- Ride and handling > The M2 differs from its bigger M3/4 siblings by being more accessible in its performance and handling. It’s not ultimately as fast, but it’s arguably more rewarding.
- MPG and running costs > Being the entry-point to the M car world, economy is decent with the DCT equipped model rated at 30.7mpg. Manuals do a little worse thanks to a shorter top gear.
- Interior and tech > Pretty much stock 2-series inside, but the M2 does now get the M4’s high-backed seats and the option to individually tune the steering and throttle maps.
- Design > Unlike the interior, the M2’s body has been drastically altered from the standard 2-series. Pulled and stretched to fit over the wider axles, it looks tough, squat and brilliant, like all the best M cars.
Prices, spec and rivals
Should you refrain from ticking any options, you needn't worry about the M2 Competition feeling sparse, as it comes with plenty of kit as standard. Only five no-cost paint options make it somewhat limited in the colour department, but the marque's 'individual' programme will likely encompass the M2 at some stage to give you free rein.
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We much prefer the manual ‘box, too, so you wouldn’t have to splash out on the £2645 DCT alternative to have the best experience. Although not carbon ceramic, an additional £1350 will get you BMW’s M Performance brake package, increasing disc size to a respectable 400mm.
Rivals come in the form of the Audi TT RS, Alpine A110, Porsche Cayman and the Mercedes-AMG A45, although we feel the TT RS is the best match overall. Even so, the cars certainly have their differences. The TT RS is a four-wheel drive, two-door coupe, capable of putting all 394bhp to the tarmac in an impressively efficient manner. Perhaps a little too efficiently, though, as it’s less involving than the M2 for it. The TT RS is also a more expensive machine, starting at £52,500 as opposed to the BMW M2 Competition at £51,425.
Our recent triple test between the Alpine A110, Porsche 718 Cayman S and Audi TT RS put some of the M2’s biggest rivals head-to-head with the Cayman narrowly beating the Alpine. In terms of cost, the M2 Competition sits between the Porsche 718 Cayman and Cayman S, but is significantly more powerful than both as well as having rear seats. However, although the BMW’s six-cylinder engine is a paragon of aural pleasure compared to the 718’s cacophonous flat-four, the Porsche’s perfect mid-engine balance makes it the purer driving machine, if not the more exciting.
If that line-up is all too Teutonic for you, perhaps you could consider the Ford Mustang. It beats the M2 in terms of all-out power, and is almost £10,000 cheaper. However, the BMW is worlds ahead in terms of poise and driver engagement.
The M2 CS is an altogether more serious proposition, with forged wheels, carbonfibre styling additions and a bespoke carbon bonnet that’s vented like you’ll see on the M3 and M4 CS. Beneath the more aggressive skin is also the same 444bhp M4 Competition-spec engine, which is able to be matched to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. These extras don’t come cheap mind, with a £75,320 starting price for the CS. We’ll get to drive that model later this year – something we’re very much so looking forward to.
Prices for the M2’s predecessor, the 1M Coupe remain strong and are currently still over £40,000, irrespective of age or mileage. It may not quite have the same power or the same poise as the M2, but it’s similar in size, looks better and, as they were built in small numbers, more exclusive. If you’re looking for an M2, don’t discount a second-hand 1M Coupe as a real alternative.
There are a selection of M Performance upgrades you can make to your M2. Most of them are just cosmetic carbonfibre body additions and, as the M2 already looks aggressive enough, they seem pretty superfluous. However, a sportier exhaust, which can be turned on or off by a Bluetooth controller in the car, adds a bit of drama while a set of coilovers lower it without changing the car’s balance or behavior greatly. There’s also the possibility of an Alcantara steering wheel and interior trim; they might not be essential, they do look and feel great.