(Image Credits: Andrew Collins)

For all the hype heaped on 2017 BMW M2 at its launch, the car sure has flared some nostrils since. “Garbage gearbox,” my colleague said. “Too fast,” another test pilot told me. “The damn diff keeps exploding,” an owner confided. I had a different experience with the M2. Then again, this one was a monster on a tight leash after $28,000 in upgrades.

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(Full Disclosure: This “Series 2” M2 was built to show off BMW tuner Dinan’s entire catalog of M2 enhancement parts. They lent it to us so we’d tell you about it and all the things the company makes. We put about 200 miles on it and returned it with a full tank of fuel.)

Who is this Dinan cat and what’s he done to our precious M2?

Today Steve Dinan (say “die-nin”) runs a network of automotive shops in California called SD Auto Tech, and before that worked at the Chip Ganassi Racing Team which, among other things, is currently running the Ford GT’s competitive program. But he’s still better known for his last job- putting his name on the back of BMWs as one of the German brand’s preeminent U.S-based tuners.

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Today Dinan’s namesake company is still going strong under new management, making some of the most-respected, and factory-warrantied, upgrade parts for BMWs and Minis.

If you have a BMW, Dinan can pretty much set you up with every shiny toy you’ve ever dreamed of bolting on: intakes, exhausts, shocks, suspension components, forced induction and perhaps most famously, ECU tuning chips.

This M2 is pretty much what would happen if you were left alone with Dinan’s catalog and a stack of stolen credit cards. It’s a showcase of basically everything the company makes for this vehicle, and the result is one angry little M car.

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Besides the muscular bulges every BMW M already struts around with, the only thing that aesthetically betrays this particular car as something special is the Dinan badge on the trunk lid. To true Bimmerdorks, that actually means something: Dinan won’t even let you have those five little letters unless you spend serious money at its store.

But don’t worry, this one’s earned its badge alright. Ready? Take a deep breath. It has:

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  • A DINANTRONICS Performance Tuner Stage 4: $1,801
  • A Dinan stainless steel free flow exhaust: $1,849
  • A Dinan big turbo kit: $1,499
  • A Dinan dual core intercooler: $953
  • A resonator delete kit: $259
  • A Dinan carbon fiber cold air intake: $617
  • A Dinan high-performance adjustable coil-over suspension system: $1,350
  • Dinan rear suspension toe links: $1,235
  • A Dinan adjustable tubular sway bar set: $926
  • A Dinan tension strut ball joint kit: $514
  • Dinan adjustable camber plates: $617
  • A set of Forgeline 19-inch wheels: $ 6,580
  • Staggered Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires: $1,468
  • A badge and a serial number: Free (woo!)
  • And the grand finale, a “Dinan by Brembo” big brake kit: $8,690

To break it down a little further, that’s about $11,000 to get this car where it is on power and suspension and about another $17,000 for the rolling stock- wheels, tires and brakes. All up Dinan values the car, with this entire list of upgrades, at $82,358.

A 2017 BMW M2 starts at about $52,000 and is good for a factory claimed output of 365 horsepower and 343 lb-ft of torque. Dinan says it read 360 horsepower and 404 lb-ft on a stock car in its own testing, which went up to 446 horsepower and 458 lb-ft of torque once the goodies went on.

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Dinan’s car doesn’t have any significant weight reductions to mess with the claimed curb weight of 3,450 pounds.

Let’s drive it then

The M2’s cockpit feels familiar almost immediately. Buttons are plain and intuitively placed. It’s easy to see out of. It feels short and squat and the pilot’s position seems to be almost exactly in its middle. And speaking of balance, the first thing you notice about Dinan’s coil-overs and suspension situation is how mercifully compliant it is over pocked city streets.

Ever see a lowered car that looks like it’s riding on pogo sticks? That happens when somebody makes a half-assed stiff suspension. Cars like that are theoretically more responsive, absolutely less comfortable. Dinan’s setup is aggressively taut but still smooth enough to keep daily driving from sucking. Remember, you’ve still got to get through traffic to get to the canyons.

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The aura of the car is confident. Those massively wide performance tires steamroll their way around corners and hang heavily where you want them to be, even as things heat up when the turbochargers start to spool.

Dinan’s “big turbo kit” is a rebuild of BMW’s factory snails. The compressor wheel is enlarged to make more pressure at speed while retaining efficiency at rest. According to the brochure. According to my ass, the car has a very direct but not overly dramatic sensation of acceleration.

Roll your right foot into the throttle and this M2 builds steam steadily, deliberately, indefinitely, until you steal a glance at the speedometer and ho-ly hell you better reel it in before you enter orbit.

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And actually, for all the tuning and turbos this car has, slowing down is its most impressive move.

Step into the brake pedal and those Brembo calipers clamp down with the finality and authority of a priest slamming a heavy tome shut. It’s like a divine power wills the car to stop, and no matter how moronic your speed may have been a moment ago, the vehicle is miraculously mollified and under control immediately.

For $9,000, this brake kit damn well better feel like a gift from heaven. But, yeah. It totally does.

Whipping the car into a frenzy and then slamming it back to a stop is a fun way to make your passenger sick, but real speed only comes when you find a flow. That, too, takes frighteningly little time.

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Dinan’s M2 is so smooth it’s easy to pick up more speed than you mean to, and even hold it through a few corners. With traction control still on, you might start feeling like you’re up for Top Gear tire-smoking heroics after a few hours in California’s canyons. And therein lies the danger of cars this dialed- your speed snowballs more quickly than talent, and I’m sure if I’d been brazen enough to chase my limits I would have found them at the bottom of a cliff off Angeles Crest.

The dual-clutch transmission stays snappy as it gets hot, and the barely-muffled inline-six sings its heart out at the top of the tachometer. The noise is pure and proud and with the windows down, and I dig it. If you grew up worshiping Supras and sportbikes, you will too.

So it’s good, but...

This car makes you mean.

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The sharpness in the way it steers and abrupt braking abilities provoke an angry, binary driving style—you’re either on or off. You just wanna, ugh, mash the gas, and HRRR, crush those brakes! Dinan’s M2 is a devil on your shoulder, egging you on to be faster, harder, rougher, while the high RPM exhaust wail antagonizes the hillsides into avalanching.

That exhaust note also gets old when you run out of adrenaline and just want to pick somebody up without embarrassing them.

And of course, there’s the $80,000 price tag. Man, you could have the best E30 M3 and E39 M5 and money to maintain both to become a BMW hero for that kind of scratch. Or just get a Jaguar F-Type and instantly turn your garage into an art museum.

Verdict

Ghost car!

The full Dinan treatment on the M2 does create an undeniably exciting car. The driving experience, as a visceral sensation, legitimately rivals true exotics. It’s distinctive, aggressive and will probably stay valuable since Dinan has been officially tied into BMW for so long.

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The Dinan M2 goads you into driving hard, tugging you toward your limit like a magnet of evil influence. It’s fun and it’s exhausting.

But since an M2 is so capable out of the box, you could probably create an impressive package with one just piecemealing parts from Dinan’s book. And if you want my advice: start with the brakes.

(Correction: This article previously stated Steve Dinan was currently working with Chip Ganassi Racing, which is incorrect. He formerly worked there, but now runs his own set of shops called SD Auto Tech. It is not related to the BMW tuner that still carries his name.)