BMW M2: Welcome to the wild side

BMW M2: Welcome to the wild side
The BMW M2

BMW brings the compact M2 to the rave party to revive the magnificence of their legendary 'M' performance cars of the past



By George Kuruvilla

Published: Fri 21 Oct 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 21 Oct 2016, 2:00 AM

This week, we take a look at the 2016 BMW M2, the most anticipated performance car from the German manufacturer in recent history. BMW 'M' cars came into being in 1986 and, ever since, have been revered like few others for their exceptional power and unparalleled chassis dynamics. However, recent generations of their performance cars, including those wearing the coveted 'M' badge, have been toned down quite a bit to capture a greater audience - and that meant a lot of that much-loved edginess had somehow dissolved. This M2 though is something else.

DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The BMW M2 is based on the blueprint of the very endearing 2-Series coupe, which (to be frank) is a much better looker than the 1-Series it replaced. And that is a good place to start! It is still a tiny car - and when I say tiny, I mean it's only 4,468mm long and 1,948mm wide, making it somewhat of a throwback to the original M3. Again, that is a reason to rejoice, especially considering that cars these days have been outgrowing their predecessors so much that we have ended up with mammoth pieces of machinery we call sports cars today, which require more energy to propel themselves and make them harder to place in traffic or track - both of which are against sports car philosophy!
But, at the same time, it is nothing like the 2-Series. It has been beefed up, it is ripped and ready to rumble. Underlying the classic kidney grille with double slats are very large air inlets in the front apron, with sharp blade-like dividers that will dissect and distribute air to the engine and other parts, lending the car an aggressive front-end. The wheels have been borrowed directly from the M3 and they are twin 5-spoke, 19-inch alloys with a dark tone that look the part of a racecar. The M2 also gets wider track for better dynamic stability and wider fenders. The sculpted rear end gets a deeper valance to bring it closer to the ground; to be explicit about its power reserves under the hood, the look is finished with - not one, two or three - but four large tail pipes, that send out an explosion of sounds every time you blip the throttle. You will love the available Long Beach blue paint scheme regardless of whether you like blue or not. It's reminiscent of the deep blue pearlescent paint on Volkswagen's R-performance cars, only better.
The M2 is a beautiful beast set on a miniature scale - and we think it should be used as a reference for all performance models that come out of Bavaria. It is the sort of car that gets a thumbs up from other drivers.
The compact interiors of the M2 Coupé is a sporting place to reside for both the driver and front occupants. The seats are draped in resilient, but supple, leather, in a colour that BMW refers to as 'Dakota' Black. And black is the general theme of the cabin, with only the signature orange lighting on the instrumentation - which, according to research, is softer on your eyes - and a few metallic trims to break the Darth-Vader scheme. All seats have the 'M' logo embossed under the headrests to remind occupants of the kind of car they're in.
I found that the driver's seat - although slightly angled - provides a comfortable accommodation for most frames and body sizes. This, combined with good outward visibility - thanks to it being a small car - makes it a good vantage point to make those split-second, high-speed decisions. Plus, the beautiful thick-rimmed 3-spoke steering wheel comes to your hand very naturally and so do the pedals to your feet. essential to the sporty driver.
The other highlights of the cabin are bits of open-pore carbon-fibre on the dashboard and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen that sits atop the dash like a freestanding tablet. They've even retained those classically analog circular dials with sporty red needles and aluminium bezels in typical BMW 'M' fashion, which we all love. One small gripe, however: there is evidence of lighter, cheaper plastic on the door and under the handbrake, but it is something you will ignore once you get to the driving part.
As for the rear seats, this may have a 2+2 configuration, but my heart goes out to any of you friendly folks who need to contort bodies into what is essentially a shelf for your bag or briefcase. And getting in there is a bit of a task - so you might as well add barbed wire and call it a military routine!

POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
The M2's engine specifications start off by stating its 3.0-litre displacement and inline 6-cylinder arrangement, which by itself would make a decent sports car of something that weighs just 1,570kg. But BMW wanted to make this legitimately 'M', so they strapped on a twin-scroll turbo to make things interesting. The numbers it makes at the crank are laughable - 365bhp at 6,500rpm! Just for comparison's sake, that's some 30bhp more than the 1-Series 'M' it replaced, 20 more ponies than what its rival the Porsche Boxster S makes, and almost twice that of the cheaper Toyota 86. But that is just the tip of the iceberg! The force-fed nature of the engine allows it to compress air and add equivalent fuel, giving it the twisting force of an efficient 5-litre engine. Yes, you get a healthy dose of torque, specifically 465Nm, which is not just accessible at one point but all the way from 1,400rpm till 5,560rpm; and with the overboost function, that number rises to an incredible 500Nm. From a numbers' perspective alone, it's obvious that the M2 is a thing of speed. With launch control engaged, BMW claims it will crack the 0 to 100 km/h dash in just 4.3 seconds with the quicker, more efficient and, quite frankly, more convenient 6-speed DCT or dual clutch transmission that is best suited for traffic-stricken cities like ours! You can also mate it with a 6-speed manual, which, for many purists, is the ultimate tool in today's boring autonomous world.
The engine starts up with a deep bark, and the decibels rise as the engine rpms gain. Open up the throttle and off you go - you're thrust forward with an ever-growing velocity. It certainly is a powerhouse. If anything, there is a tiny bit of turbo lag, but switching to the Sports mode or Sports Plus mode will kill that completely.
There is so much power going to the rear wheels that, while negotiating a corner, even the slightest of throttle inputs will let the tail step out and slide, but in a controllable manner. It is as much a frightening experience as it is fun. And if you dare switch off the ESC or traction control, this becomes a tyre-shredding machine that builds a cloud of smoke in a matter of seconds.
But it's not all about showmanship - the M2 has real racing DNA embedded in it. It is your perfect partner at the track, carving that intended driving line and clocking lap times hard to challenge. Much thanks to the precise steering and the Active M Differential that variably distributes the drive torque between the two rear wheels and keep the car steady all the way.
You may want to compare the M 235i to this, but besides the power upgrade which, at 325bhp, is a lot, you don't get much more. Here, you get the massive 380mm disc brakes upfront and 370mm discs at the rear - clamped by 4 and 2-piston callipers direct from the M3 - that will help it stop on a dime. You also get the suspension from the M3 and a lot more vocal charisma. As for ride quality, let's just say I didn't need that appointment with my chiropractor. It rides fairly well.
BMW claim that the M2 will return 7.9L/100km, but we find that optimistic, even amusing, considering that you'd have to drive it like a grandparent, if you want to eke every single kilometre out of it. The M2 begs to be driven hard from the get go, and you should be happy if you get at least 15L/100km - that much we can vouch for. If you manage to do better, tell us how!

FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
The rear seat may be a bit of a joke but the boot is of a credible capacity. It can swallow two suitcases, one large and a medium-sized trolley with ease; even then, you are left with space for groceries.
Over the years, has the iDrive infotainment system improved or have we gotten used to it? I don't know. Either way, we found the infamous twistable-knob an easy way to access the on-screen menus; the colours and fonts are bright and pleasing to the eye too.
You get a ton of apps essential to a car of such character, such as the BMW M laptimer app that records GPS position, speed, acceleration, G-force and lap times - which can then be shared on social media or sent via email. And being the BMW that it is, it also comes with a host of online functions such as the ConnectedDrive Services through which you can also open/close the car remotely. It is equipped with the Intelligent Emergency Call feature that makes a call to the nearest police or fire station in the event of an accident.
The M2 comes with a host of active and passive safety features - 'invisible co-pilots' as BMW calls them - that uses a camera-based system for lane departures and blind spot warnings. You get a rearview camera with enhanced visibility when reversing at speeds below 15 km/h, such as when parking.
Last, but not least, the air-conditioner didn't give up on us even when we put it through its paces under the hot summer sun.

VERDICT
The 2016 BMW M2 is the return-to-form car for the luxury German automaker's performance 'M' division. The aggressively toned body panelling will get you the looks and, when on the road, it will keep you enthralled and engaged with its driving experience, the prodigious power at the rear wheels, the playful chassis that loves a mid-corner dance and the loud and obnoxious exhaust note that will sing to your ears. This is the M car we have finally been waiting for - one that will make you love the act of driving again!
FUN FACT    
BMW actually produced two prototype M3 pick-up trucks - none of which went into production.

SPECIFICATIONS  
Body type: 2+2-seater; 2-door premium high-performance coupe
Engine: Front-engine; turbocharged 3.0-litre inline 6-cylinder; rear-wheel drive
Transmission: 7-speed DCT (automated manual)
Peak output: 365bhp @ 6,500rpm; 465Nm @ 1,400-5,560rpm; w/OverBoost function 500 Nm @ 1,350 - 4,500 rpm
0 to 100km/h: 4.3 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 250 km/h (electronically limited; claimed)
Price: Starting at Dh275,000

Pros: Personable size; aggressively styled; proper M power and chassis dynamics
Cons: Can seem pricey; has shelf-sized rear seats; fiddly shift lever doesn't have a 'P' mode
Author's rating: 8.5/10 stars

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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