With the introduction of the M3/M4 in 2014, BMW had painted itself into something of a corner. First of all, its absolute heartland performance coupe – the M3, which had been on sale across four different variants since 1986 – had been rebadged to M4 (the M3 brand was reserved for the saloon). And secondly, the introduction of turbocharging had changed the M4’s remit: now it wasn’t so much an affordable performance coupe for the masses, but more of a shrunken GT with an inflated price tag to match. To compensate, BMW looked at its product portfolio and reasoned that the smaller 2 Series Coupe family might be the willing recipient of M Division’s know-how… and thus, one of the best BMW M cars of all time was born, in the stocky shape of the M2. It’s a thrilling, compact and fast road machine.
The BMW M2 model range is very simple to understand. From 2016 to 2018, there was just one version, the Coupe, which came with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed M dual-clutch transmission (DCT). Fitting the M DCT cleaned up the M2’s emissions and economy numbers slightly, but also trimmed the official 0-100km/h time from 4.5 to 4.3 seconds. All M2s are rear-wheel drive and are four-seat coupes; the back seats are actually surprisingly accommodating for such a small, short car, although taller occupants wouldn’t want to travel too far in them. The original M2 came on 18-inch wheels as standard, with 19s as an option, and there were only four body colours to choose from: Black Sapphire, Alpine White, Mineral Grey and then the signature shade of Long Beach Blue. However, there was one criticism of the original M2. It used a 3.0-litre single-turbo straight-six petrol engine, delivering healthy figures of 370hp and 465Nm (500Nm on overboost), but – to true BMW M aficionados – this engine was denounced, because it was essentially the same engine as in the M240i model lower down the range, only fitted with some of the technical highlights (such as the pistons) from the M4. Thus, towards the end of 2018 and in readiness for the 2019 model year, BMW launched the M2 Competition. This replaced the 370hp M2 in its entirety and, thanks to emissions legislation, saw the old engine replaced by exactly the same engine as in the M4. This is still a 3.0-litre straight-six, but now it has two turbos instead of one and peak outputs of 410hp with 550Nm, enough to trim the 0-100km/h times to 4.4 seconds for the manual M2 Competition and 4.2 seconds for the M2 Competition M DCT. The Competition also gained two new metallic body colours, Sunset Orange and Hockenheim Silver, and it saw a comprehensive range of chassis updates thrown in, as well as gloss-black exterior detailing, 19-inch forged lightweight alloys and black ‘M2 Competition’ badging.
The M2 Competition is undoubtedly the better car to buy but it will be ferociously expensive on the used-car market due to its relative newness, so look for a manual version of the older 370hp M2. You simply won’t be disappointed.
BMW M2 manual
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six petrol
Maximum speed: 250km/h (limited)
0-100km/h: 4.5 seconds
Fuel consumption: 8.5 litres/100km
• Steroidal looks
• Wonderful performance and handling
• Surprisingly practical
• Not cheap
• Hard to find in Ireland
• No body variants beyond the Coupe
It might be what many would term the ‘baby’ M car, but the BMW M2 is an absolute delight to drive in all its incarnations. The Competition is worth seeking out if you’ve got deep enough pockets, as it’s arguably one of the all-time great performance cars from any manufacturer, but the ‘regular’ 370hp M2 will be more than enough street speed and desirability for most people’s needs. Perhaps the best news is that the BMW M2 is possibly a vehicle that will only appreciate in value in the near-future.