Has BMW over-gilded the M2′s lily?

Its power and poise are sublime, but has the 460hp M2 just become too much?


Let us consider the humble scone. Ah, not so humble at all, really. Not when you consider the sheer effort, the deftness of a baker’s touch that must go in to make a truly exceptional scone. Judging the mixture and mixing just right to ensure that, a few moments in the oven later, you get the perfect balance between light fluffiness and filling satisfaction.

And then, as is the way of the world, complications ensue. Raspberry and white chocolate scones? Blueberry and ginger? Walnut and date? All have their temptations, but for my money, they’re needlessly over-complicating the wonderfulness of a perfectly made, simple scone. With jam, then cream of course (never cream, then jam …).

So it is with the BMW M2. In the previous M2, BMW had created just about the perfect scone. While the rest of the BMW M line-up got all fat and bloated (the M3, the M4, the M5 as long as we’re not talking about the M5 CS, and don’t get us started on the elephantine X5M and X6M) the M2 was a deliciously simple throwback to the M-cars of yore.

Launching initially with a 376hp turbo straight-six engine, and later upgrading to a 400hp Competition-spec motor, the M2 was unquestionably the best M-car. It had performance and poise to waste, but wasn’t so overly-powerful that it was going to get you into too much trouble, and not so beastly in its styling that people were going to tut with derision as they walked past. Not to put too fine a point on it, the old M2 was basically perfect.


This gives the new M2, as we are driving here, some rather big (but actually small and light) boots to fill. On the face of it, BMW seems to have succumbed to the raspberry-and-white-chocolate side of things when it comes to making this a better car than its predecessor — just keep adding ingredients.


For a start, it has more power. Quite a lot more. 460hp is damn near 100hp more than the last M2 had when it first launched in 2016. It’s still rear-wheel drive only, which is probably a good thing from a weight point of view, but BMW has given it a standard-fit eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Now, this is both good and bad. It’s good in that it changes gears briskly, and comes with gorgeous carbon-fibre paddles behind the steering wheel to allow you to take manual control. It’s bad that it’s an automatic. Yes, you can have a manual gearbox as a cost option, but surely it ought to be the other way around. This is an M-car, after all.

Next, we need to discuss the bodykit. The little two-door 2 Series Coupe (not to be confused with the front-wheel drive 2 Series Gran Coupe) is one of BMW’s most attractive current cars, and therefore surely presents a perfect opportunity to prove that Munich can still make cars that are classically pretty.

Unfortunately, whatever sporty-looking bodykit BMW ordered for the M2 from its suppliers, it seems to have thrown out the kit and instead fitted the box that it came in. Those weird, square air intakes below the headlights are really … awkward.


The massive sill extensions, that span the gap between massively inflated wheel arches, also look a bit clunky. It’s only from the rear that the M2 looks really good — the little boot lip spoiler is neat, while the quad exhausts on either side of a menacing black diffuser prove that BMW is shopping for parts in its nearest branch of Howitzers R Us.

At least it’s more successful inside. The front bucket seats, multiadjustable, are wonderfully comfortable and supportive, the way the cabin is built is excellent, and if the big sweeping touchscreen is a little fiddly to use at times, then the gorgeous M-bespoke digital instruments and the lashings of shiny carbon fibre compensate. Is it too tight for adults in the back seats? Yes, but who cares about them? This is a selfish car.


The straight-six petrol engine — the S58 B30 for BMW code anoraks — settles to a lumpy, grumbling idle once you’ve thumbed the bright red engine start button on the centre console. The driving position is pretty much perfect. I’d prefer the seat to go a smidge lower, but the steering wheel is lined up with the centre of the seat and you feel cocooned and low-slung.

The 3.0-litre engine, producing 550Nm of torque to go with that 460hp, uses two turbochargers but there’s so little lag that you’d almost swear it was a naturally-aspirated engine. The M5 CS’ mighty V8 pulled a similar trick a couple of years ago. Brush the throttle with your right sneaker and the M2 leaps ahead, so much so that it can be a little tiring around town. As can the lumpy ride quality.

Thankfully, both of those smooth out considerably once the road opens and you can get down to driving in a proper M-car fashion. The M2 is, as you’d expect, bonkers quick. Because it’s rear-wheel drive, the 0-100km/h time is perhaps not all that impressive — 4.1secs with the auto, 4.3 seconds if you’ve done the right thing and gone for the manual — but once you’re rolling it feels viciously quick. The engine’s sound is artificially amplified in the cabin, but it never sounds less than raspy and angry — a proper racer’s symphony.

Even on roads left greased by passing showers — like well-buttered baking trays waiting for those dollops of scone dough — the M2 feels supreme.

With the clever electronic M-differential sat between those fat rear tyres, drifts are there for the taking, but what’s almost surprising is how well-planted the M2 feels. It rarely ‘squirrels’ under hard acceleration, even on these slippery roads, and the steering — bursting with feel and chattiness, compared to most modern cars — is unerringly firm with the reins at the front, allowing you to pick and line and stick with it, or adjust and re-aim if you need to. The M2 delivers a consummate dynamic performance, one just slightly spoiled by the fact that its weight — 1,800kg at the kerb — does start to tug at the edges of the tyres at times, in a way that can be momentarily unsettling. The brakes, though, have no peer.

However, the biggest impediment to enjoying the M2 is its width. It’s not actually all that massive a car, but those swollen arches, the massive side-skirts, and the fact that you sit so low down means that it can feel utterly huge on a narrow road, and that does impinge on your fun. As does the knowledge that this car costs a whopping €115,000. When the previous M2 was first launched seven years ago, it was a €75,000 car. How’s that for inflation?


That price exposes a potentially fatal chink in the M2′s otherwise impressive armour. You see, the 2 Series Coupe already has an M-model; the M240i. Now, of course, the M240i isn’t as powerful nor as fast as the M2. How could it be? But it does have the same 375hp that the original M2 launched with. It gets to 100km/h a bare couple of tenths of a second behind the M2. And it costs €80,000 which is still lots, but still lots less than the M2.

This new M2 is a truly awe-inspiring car. It’s fun, fast, and frolicsome almost beyond measure. But like the rest of the M-car range, it’s evolved beyond the public road. To experience it properly, you really need to take it to a race track (mind the warranty…). At normal speeds, on normal roads, an M240i would do the job pretty much as well, and be prettier into the bargain. Scones don’t need excessive complication to be tasty and satisfying, and so it turns out, neither do small BMW coupes.

Lowdown: BMW M2:

Power: 3.0-litre straight-six turbo petrol engine with 460hp and 550Nm of torque driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox;

0-100km/h: 4.1 secs;

Emissions (motor tax): 218g/km (€1,250);

Fuel consumption: 9.6l/100km (WLTP);

Price: €115,5392 as tested. M2 from €114,060;

Our rating: 4/5;

Verdict: Still the best M-car you can buy, and ludicrously good fun in the right circumstances, but the cheaper M240i is possibly a better all-rounder.

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring