BMW harks back to historic heroes with the M2 Competition. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
BMW's M2 is descended from a distinguished line of small, high performance two-door saloons. A stylish alternative to the market's highest-performing hot-hatches, the M2 aims to be both a luxury coupe on the road and an accomplished racer on track. Especially in this 410hp 'Competition'-spec form.
The performance model that most stands out in BMW's history is the M3. In its original mid-1980s form, this car was fun, ferociously quick and relatively understated, while proving to be highly competitive on track. Over the years though, as this model line grew larger, safer, more refined and more expensive, it began to lose some of the character that made those early cars so special.
When, in 2010, BMW's entry level model, the 1-series coupe, was given a light sprinkling of M enhancements, the company seemed to be on the verge of launching a worthy 'back to basics' successor to earlier M3s. That 1 series M Coupe was well received and this car, the M2, launched in 2015, was its direct successor, now offered here only in uprated 410hp 'Competition' form. In many ways, it's what an M3 really should be. Will it take its place in BMW's heritage?
Putting a turbocharged 3.0-litre six cylinder engine into a small rear wheel drive coupe will always grab a driver's attention. The engine is basically the same as that used in the lesser 340hp M240i model but the 410bhp 'Competition' state of tune here is bespoke to the M2 and delivers monumental performance, charging to 62mph in just 4.4 seconds in manual form (0.4s faster than the M240i). That challenges the Porsche 911. There's a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed M DCT paddleshift auto that gets to 62mph 0.2s quicker.
'M,' essentially, stands for 'Motorsport', so the M2 has to be capable of performing on track and to enable that, some ruthless weight shedding has had to take place. Many steel components, particularly in the steering assembly and chassis, have been replaced with aluminium parts in an attempt to make the M2 much more responsive. Boy racers will be delighted to hear that there is even a 'Smokey Burnout' function when some gratuitous show-boating is required. M Sport brakes, an M Sport exhaust system and M specific suspension with the brand's Active M differential all come included with 'Competition' spec. If you want to go even faster, there's a rare limited edition M2 CS variant available with 450hp.
Design and Build
'M' could just as easily stand for 'Muscle' as the clean lines of the 2-series are here bulked up and pumped out to give the M2 the look of an athlete. The front end carries the low gaping front bumper and splitter assembly that immediately sets this model apart as an M car, while at the back four exhaust pipes give the game away if the distinctive M badges aren't enough. The M2 has a far more aggressive style than its predecessor the 1-series M Coupe, which reinforces how much more seriously BMW's M division have taken this project.
You get the sense that this is a thoroughly well thought out car, thanks to the attention to detail that has been paid to the little things. Engineers have spent time making sure the M2 sounds like a high performance model, incorporating an electronically controlled exhaust flap that acts like the reed in a carefully tuned musical instrument to deliver the distinctive BMW engine note. Inside, there is even a knee-pad on the side of the centre console to keep you comfortable during quick changes of direction and 'M' logos litter the leather interior, should you need reminding that this is no ordinary 2-series. For something even more exclusive, try the M2 CS, which is distinguished by a carbonfibre roof and bonnet, plus further carbon elements for the rear spoiler, the mirror caps, the rear diffuser and the front splitter.
Market and Model
The BMW M2 costs around £52,500 in the only version that's now on offer, the M2 Competition. That's for a manual: you'll pay another £2,000 more for the M Double Clutch auto version most customers choose. Which seems a lot when you consider that the M240i is just 0.4s slower to 62mph, has basically the same engine and costs around £11,000 less. Still, you could also argue that you're getting the same performance here as you would from a £83,000 Porsche 911 Carrera: it's all a question of perspective. You'd certainly need M2 money to get yourself a decently specified version of a uber-hot hatch like, say, the Mercedes-AMG A45.
The M2 Competition comes with BMW's signature Xenon headlights as standard. Sat Nav is included along with BMW's 'Professional Media Package' which is, in essence, an enhanced infotainment system with the kinds of apps and travel related services you might find on your smart-phone. One app that stands out, is the M Laptimer, letting you benchmark your performance on track. These details remind you that this competent road car is also a pocket racer.
Cost of Ownership
BMW have found innovative engineering solutions to deliver outstanding performance while keeping a check on the fuel economy and emissions. By using four specially designed exhaust pipes to help the exhaust gas escape more easily and by clever positioning of the turbochargers inside the exhaust system, the engine is able to run more smoothly and efficiently. The manual version of the car returns 28.2mpg and emits 226g/km CO2 (about the same as an M240i), while the M DCT automatic is more frugal, returning 28.8mpg and emitting just 220g/km. All figures are WLTP-rated.
BMW offers a 12-year bodywork warranty, a three-year paint warranty and two years for parts and accessories, so new car buyers will have reasonable peace of mind. Servicing, as with any premium brand, will be expensive at main dealerships and approved body-shops, but BMW's reputation for quality means mechanical failures should be very rare. If the Munich maker has got its mix right, and it looks like it has, the M2 has the potential to remain a desirable car for a very long time, so residuals should be strong. The previous model, the 1-series M kept its value well.
BMW may make a little bit of history with the M2. A well built, rear-wheel drive four-seat coupe with a powerful, efficient engine and lightweight engineering makes a compelling case, even at well over £50,000. It features just enough luxury to merit the premium price, but is focused completely on its role and an ultra-involving performance car.
It looks aggressive, is breathtakingly quick and handles like it belongs on a circuit. With online connectivity, a 'Smokey Burnout' feature and a specially tuned engine sound, driving the M2 will never be less than entertaining. While BMW are targeting a generation who may not remember the original M3, the ingredients that made that car such a hit back in the 80's are the same ingredients that should make the M2 sell well today. Whether or not it will ever be considered a classic only time will tell.
BMW's 2 Series coupe flies the flag for the rear wheel driven part of the 2 Series range. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
BMW coupes used to be all about compactness, lightness and rapid responses. The 2 Series coupe still answers the call and still features a classic rear-driven drive configuration. At the top of the line-up, the potent M2 variant remains but you don't need one of those to get really satisfying performance, thanks to revitalised 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre petrol models further down the range.
For as long as many of us care to remember, if you wanted a well-built coupe that was fun to drive, the path was well-worn one to your local BMW dealer, where you would be inserted into a 3 Series coupe and all was good with the world. Then things changed. The 3 Series grew up a bit and, like that friend of yours who was the life and soul of the party but these days just chases around after his kids making sure they don't spill their Fruit Shoots, lost a bit of its joie de vivre in the change to 4 Series guise. Fortunately, its madcap little brother, the 1 Series Coupe, was still bringing the fun. That car was replaced by the 2 Series Coupe in 2014, a car that's been significantly updated since.
The key changes began late in 2015 when a flagship M2 high performance version was announced boasting 370bhp from its 3.0-litre six cylinder petrol powerplant. Then, in the early Summer of 2016, BMW announced an all-new 340bhp TwinPower 3.0-litre straight six petrol unit with 14bhp and 50Nm more grunt than its predecessor, this inserted beneath the bonnet of an M240i variant that replaced the previous M235i model. At the same time, a highly efficient new Baukasten 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine was added to the lesser 184bhp 220i model, while the 245bhp 228i derivative used the same unit in its evolution to 252bhp 230i status. In the early Summer of 2017, the Bavarian brand built on these changes with styling updates, both inside and out.
Rather encouragingly, BMW has given the 2 Series line-up a serious dose of engine in recent times. Even the entry level models aren't going to hang around. Drive on all models is directed to the back wheels and you get to choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or the quite brilliant eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. The range kicks off with a 1.5-litre 136hp three cylinder 218i petrol variant. Diesel options include the 150hp 218d and the 190hp 220d. The 220d diesel variant will be the most popular of the trio, serving up a tall stack of torque, with 380Nm available from just 1,750rpm. The key developments in recent years though, have centred around changes to the petrol line-up thanks to a redesigned Baukasten 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and a revised 3.0-litre straight six. The base 220i 2.0-litre variant develops 184hp.
Pride of place though, goes to the six cylinder petrol versions, the M240i these days offers 340hp, while the fearsome M2 Competition model fronts up with 410hp. Even the M240i variant is very quick indeed. If you specify it with the eight speed automatic transmission, it'll get to 62mph in a mere 4.6 seconds. Press the Sport button and you'll immediately notice the steering weight up and the throttle response sharpen. Press the button once more and you'll find Sport+, which partially disengages the stability control and offers an even spikier throttle pedal. The chassis balance is a good deal more benign than the occasionally malevolent old 1 Series Coupe and it's a better driver as a result. Expect to be mercilessly harassed by these cars on foreseeable UK track days.
Design and Build
The 2 Series coupe has always been a very cohesive piece of penmanship and that effect has been further improved by recent styling changes.
Exterior updates include piercing LED headlights that come as standard, complete with hallmark four corona ring LED daytime running lights. All models gain enlarged kidney grilles with a more prominent chrome surround. In addition, all standard range variants get LED front fog lights as standard and offer a re-designed front bumper with a smarter air-intake design. At the rear, smarter LED tail lights with redesigned LED light bars now feature, while 'Sport' models get a re-styled bumper with sculpted design and high-gloss black trim. As for the interior updates, well, there's a re-designed instrument panel, plus a smarter centre console with a sliding cup holder cover and pearl chrome accents. On M Sport and M240i models, the instrument cluster features a Black Optic display with 3D effect dials - an option with other variants in the line-up.
BMW's much-improved iDrive system features and delivers the latest-generation iDrive software on the standard BMW Navigation and BMW Professional Navigation set-ups. The large 8.8-inch screen on the latter navigation system is also equipped with BMW Touch Control for the first time, offering drivers the choice of iDrive with Touch pad, voice control and touchscreen to interact with the system. Practicalities remain as before. Rear seat space isn't bad for a smal coupe and the boot is a useful 390-litres in size.
Market and Model
It's slightly odd that a car that looks so instantly a winning proposition comes with so few direct rivals. What else is there that offers this sort of punchiness, in a coupe body that sends drive to the rear wheels? Nissan's 370Z is a bigger, heavier thing, the Toyota GT 86 and Subaru BRZ twins more delicate and without the same options the throttle pedal in the 2 Series will afford. Prices are quite reasonable, with the 218i starting at around £30,000, which is similar to the amount required for a rival Toyota GT 86 but the BMW features much greater torque fitted as standard. Trims run through SE, Sport and M Sport.
BMW wants around £45,000 for the M240i, but that still makes it one of the better performance car bargains. An M2 isn't, costing the best part of £53,000. We think an M240i is all you really need. Equipment here runs to a Nevada leather interior, both AUX-in and USB as well as a stereo that can play MP3s from CD, a multifunction steering wheel with a speed limiter mode, air conditioning, door sill finishers with M240i designation, a short-shift gear lever and a whole host of safety kit including DSC+ stability control, xenon headlights, a tyre pressure warning system and dynamic brake lights. That excellent ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox is offered as an option.
Cost of Ownership
It's hard to argue with BMW's efficiency measures, the Baukasten 2.0-litre petrol powerplant enabling the 220i to record 37.7mpg on the combined cycle and 170g/km emissions. Go for the 220d diesel and you'll see up to 48.7mpg and up to 151g/km with the manual transmission. Those are quite some numbers from a vehicle that can still justifiably wear a performance coupe tag.
The M240i also records some impressive efficiency data. It'll squeeze up to 32.5 miles from a gallon (combined) and will emit up to 197g/km in auto form. EfficientDynamics, BMW's suite of energy-saving features, is responsible for making those vaguely implausible looking figures. The 2 Series is fitted as standard with an Auto Start-Stop function available on both manual and automatic transmissions. An ECO PRO mode, activated using the Drive Performance Control, is a new feature on BMW's that adjusts various on-board systems to maximise efficiency. When in ECO PRO mode, the throttle response is adjusted to encourage a more economical driving style. The extra economy created in ECO PRO mode is fed back to the driver, with the in-car displays showing the additional number of miles achieved.
BMW used to be a company with an unerring ability to zero in on the bullseye. That was fairly easy when your range consisted of 3, 5, 6 and 7 Series cars. Today though, the brand has its 1, 2, and 4 Series models, plus X1, X3, X5, X6 and Z4 series cars, as well as the various Gran Coupe and Active Tourer options. The range has ballooned and the quality in depth is inevitably a little more variable. There are some great cars and some not so brilliant model lines. This 2 Series Coupe might well be right near the top of the tree. It's an inspired piece of product development and it's just been executed so well.
Compact proportions, low weight and good performance were the design parameters for this car and BMW has nailed all three. If you feel the 4 Series coupe is a car that no longer knows how to let its hair down, this Munich maker has just the answer in its fun-size sibling.