I was appalled to learn that my colleagues, the Mikes Roselli and Ballaban, did not like the 2017 BMW M2. Too hardcore, they said. Too harsh and crazy and ill-suited to daily driving! I called shenanigans on that, and I’m thrilled to say I’m right and they’re wrong.
The new M2 is exactly what you want from a modern M car, and from a modern BMW in general. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s capable and is fantastic to live with every day.
(Full disclosure: BMW needed me to drive an M2 so badly, they gave me one when I asked very nicely for it. I took it up to the Catskills for a weekend in August. I considered not coming back.)
I honestly wasn’t surprised by this. I’m an admitted superfan of the 2 Series. Every one I’ve driven, from the humble 230i (formerly the 228i) to the hotter M240i (nee M235i, try and keep up), whether it came in coupe or convertible form or had a stick or an automatic, was just a blast. It’s one of my favorite new cars on the market. It’s smooth, it’s powerful, it handles wonderfully, it looks good, and it’s premium and German without being stupidly opulent and in your face.
A 3 Series is for most everyone; a 7 Series is for millionaires. But a 2 Series is for people who know.
That’s because it’s the same kind of car BMW has always done since the days of the 2002. Trace its lineage further and you get the E30, E36 and E46 coupes, then the 1 Series. How could an M version of that be bad?
On paper, it certainly isn’t. The M2 boasts a turbo 3.0-liter inline six, an M-ified version of the old M235i’s N55 motor. (The M240i has a newer engine.) Here it puts out 365 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque.
That’s hardly some insane number by modern standards. A lot of cars in its class are putting out 400 HP or more. But the M2 was the ultimate (sorry) proof that you don’t need obscene numbers in a modern performance car to do a lot.
What M things did the M people do to this car? Besides the aforementioned bespoke engine, you get performance tuned suspension, much beefier brakes with cross-drilled rotors, a gearbox option unique to this model, flared out rear fenders, 245 front and 265 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, a quad-pipe sport exhaust, a more aggressive front fascia and the bragging rights that you own a real M car, unlike your friend in the M240i. (Which is dumb, but whatever!)
Inside, it’s nice. A bit dated compared to some of the newer BMW models, as the 2 Series has been with us since 2014 now. But the back seat is a decent size for small kids and small dogs, and in a pinch, adult humans. The trunk will meet many of your daily needs and then some. Like the 2002 before it, it offers sports car fun without many of the inherent compromises, which is the entire point of a BMW. (That, and keeping BMW techs in business. I kid! I kid.)
Zero to 60 mph happens in about four seconds but out on the road the M2 is quicker than nearly anything else you’ll run into. It’s quick, but it’s a total package.
It’s never overwhelmingly fast; it’s balanced, with its speed complemented by superb handling. Steering feel is generally excellent and, like the other 2 Series variants, it is everything good and right about rear-wheel drive, although with its wider tire setup it’s more prone to grip than drifting on command like an M240i.
In fact, I must say there was never some great “a-ha” moment in my mind where the M2 emerged as vastly superior handler to that car. I suspect my opinion would be different if I had had track time. It was just everything about the 2 Series, but better in every way—sometimes a lot better, sometimes just slightly. And that’s not a bad thing. Not when the base car is so well-rounded.
My tester came with the seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, which is a $2,900 option—the other one being a six-speed manual. In some ways it really embraces its dual-clutchiness, not moving after a full stop unless you give it gas. But shifts in both automatic and manual modes were remarkably smooth, indistinguishable from the ones in the ZF eight-speed automatics used in other 2s. We’re gotten to the point where these DCTs aren’t a pain to live with day-to-day.
I came away thinking I’d take this M2 over pretty much every other M car out right now. The fact is, I haven’t been wowed by the latest M3 and M4. I took a convertible version of the latter up the Pacific Coast Highway a few years ago, and to me it came off more like an M6 than anything else: a fast, luxurious and competent grand tourer, but one that was heavy and isolated.
After being in the M2 just as a passenger my wife made the same conclusion. “This is a lot more like what the M3 used to be,” she said. And she’s right.
Indeed, in terms of size and power, it’s around the same size and weight as the legendary E46 M3, as BMW Blog once noted. But here it comes with more power, vastly more torque and far superior technology, including an automated manual that won’t make you want to kill yourself.
Granted, if I were to compare the two directly, I’d miss the revvy character of the E46’s naturally aspirated engine to the drama-free punch of the M2’s turbo motor. But it’s great to know that one of the best cars ever made has a very close successor you can buy right now. That similarity alone makes the M2 worth it.
And I never found it to be too hard to live with. Very much the opposite, in fact. Size practicality aside, the ride isn’t too jarring for city living, and the back seat and trunk are more than fine for your average person or small family. It can meet your daily needs much better than a lot of performance cars can.
Now this question may be on your mind-brain: how does it compare to the now-famous 1M Coupe? I cannot answer that for you, dear reader, as I have never driven it. But I can tell you that whatever it was like—really good, I’m told—the M2 is strong enough that it stands on its own.
My tester came in at $56,845, about $5,000 in options over the base price. Not cheap but not truly expensive either, and with performance you often see in cars that cost tens of thousands of dollars more. It ends up actually being a decent value for all that is had here.
In short, you should never believe anything Mike Ballaban tells you about cars because his opinions are bad, whether they come to you through words on this website, online videos or, God forbid, some kind of mass medium like television.
Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that the DCT is a $2,900 option.