Speed is not – contrary to the saying – always just a question of money.
Sometimes, you get to pay less to go just as fast. And get some other worthwhile things, too.
In the BMW M2 coupe, for instance.
It’s just as quick as the very similar in shape and layout but slightly larger (but not more roomy and much more pricey) M4 coupe, which starts at $65,700 vs. $52,695 for the M2.
Both have amped-up versions of BMW’s brilliant 3.0 liter straight six engine, heavily modified suspensions and will rip new ones around the race track or back road of your choosing.
But the M2 is smaller and lighter – which evens up the M4’s on-paper horsepower advantage (425 hp vs. 365 in the M2). And while the M2 – based on the 2 Series coupe – is classified a compact and the M4 – which is based on the mid-sized 4 Series coupe – is a bigger car on the outside, it’s not a much roomier car on the inside.
The M4 also has a much smaller (just 11 cubic feet) trunk (vs. 14 cubic feet in the M2).
Both of these two-door/four-seater power coupes have about the same room for people – which is realistically two comfortably up front and two occasionally in the back.
But having the extra seats does give them a leg up over two-seaters like the Alfa 4C and Chevy Corvette and the Porsche Cayman – which effectively require the purchase of another car if you need to carry more than just one passenger even occasionally.
None of those are Blue Light Specials, either.
A performance-equivalent Cayman GT4 (the lesser base/S and GTS models aren’t equivalent) starts at $84,600… which makes even the $65k to start M4 seem like a Blue Light Special.
And makes the $52k loaded M2 glisten gloriously in the moonlight.
WHAT IT IS
The M2 is the hottest-shoe version of BMW’s 2 Series compact 2-plus-2 coupe.
Like all BMW M series cars, the M2 is defined by its engine – a 365 hp version of BMW’s DOHC turbocharged in-line six – and its heavily modified chassis/suspension, wider stance and wheel/tire/brake/bodywork/trim upgrades.
It’s a total performance package.
It also comes just one way – loaded.
While not exactly cheap, it’s still a deal compared with the functionally (and cosmetically) very similar M4, which starts out $13,005 higher.
That sum would pretty much cover lawyer/bail bondsman and SR-22 insurance premiums for a year, at least.
The M2 was all-new for 2016; the ’17 carries over basically the same.
Almost everything the M4 offers – for $13k less.
More performance than a Porsche Cayman GT4 offers – for $32k less.
Plus you get back seats.
The straight six is vehicular Viagra. If its song doesn’t rouse you, there’s nothing else that can be done for you.
Integrated GoPro app lets you record shenanigans.
Upload to YouTube at your own risk.
Owning any car like this in these times – the Era of the Safety Cult and trigger-happy Hero Cops – is like saying unkind things in public about the Dear Leader in North Korea.
Bring lawyers, guns and money.
And, a gas card.
No one expects a car of this caliber to be a gas-sipper, but god almighty is this thing thirsty. Lay on the turbo and you can suck the too-small (13.7 gallon) tank dry in less than 200 miles.
That’s range almost as pitiful as an electric car’s.
But at least you can refuel this one in minutes – as opposed to waiting hours to recharge.
A truly different engine is one of the intangible things that makes a car more than just a function of whatever its stats are.
Brief segue… I own a mid-1970s Pontiac Trans-Am, which is very similar to its same-era Chevy cousin, the Camaro Z28. With one critical, functional difference. My car has a Pontiac V8, which is very different than the Chevy V8 in the Camaro. When Pontiac lost is unique engines, people stopped caring about Pontiac. It ceased to exist not long afterward.
BMW has its straight six.
To the mechanical connoisseur, it is something special. In part because it is unusual (no one else is making or selling straight sixes any longer, in part because the engines are hard to fit in a car sideways, which is necessary in a FWD layout and almost all new cars – though not BMW cars – are FWD-based these days).
But also because it is a purposeful design.
In-line six cylinder engines are inherently balanced engines. This means they don’t need the heavy counterweights other engines need to be vibration-free. And it also means they are freer-revving, because the mass of the reciprocating assembly is less.
This is a 7,500 RPM engine.
And, there is to horsepower consider.
It makes 365 at 6,500 RPM – which is a lot of horsepower for 3 liters’ worth of engine.
There is also torque: 369 ft.-lbs. under “overboost” – a momentary full-throttle uptick in turbo pressure, when you need just that little bit of an edge.
The M2 with six-speed manual transmission weighs 3,450 lbs. vs. 3,565 for the M4 coupe with manual transmission.
Which results in a dead heat, quickness wise – even though the M4’s version of the BMW 3.0 six is 60 hp stronger (425 vs. 365). Both cars can get to 60 in about 4 seconds flat (the manual six-speed versions of both cars are slightly less quick than when ordered with their optionally available automated manual seven-speed transmissions).
Either way, this is serious speed.
More speed than the base (and $52,600 to start) Porsche Cayman (5.8 seconds to 60, 275 hp) the Cayman S ($64,100 to start, 4.5 seconds to 60 and 325 hp) and all the way up to the Cayman GT4 ($84,600, 385 hp and 4.2 seconds to 60).
You could of course move up to a 911. But now you’re looking at $89,400 … to start.
Not exactly a Blue Light Special.
How about on the Nurburgring?
This of course is Germany’s famously challenging road-race course.
The M2’s best lap time around the Ring is seven minutes, fifty-eight seconds. The M4 did it a little quicker, in seven minutes, fifty-two seconds.
Both times are damned impressive for a street car that’s also not a six (or seven) figure ultra-exotic car.
To give you some idea…
A mid-engine/887 hp Porsche 918 Spyder posted a seven minute, 13 second lap time back in 2013.
Base price for a 918?
Just 918 were made, too.
This made it hard to buy one, even assuming you could afford one. Same goes for cars like the Nissan Skyline GT-R and Lexus LFA.
Might as well ask Paul McCartney to play your kid’s graduation party.
Scan the roster of record holders and you will find very few cars running seven-something minute lap times around the Ring that are priced anywhere near either the M2 or the M4’s orbit. One of the few that is, interestingly, is the Chevy Camaro Z28 – which posted a seven minute, thirty-seven second (and four tenths) time in 2014.
But the Z28 is no longer available – and when it was, it started at $72,305.
It was also – let’s be blunt – a street legal Nextel Cup stock car. Air conditioning was optional (to cut horsepower-robbing parasitic drag). Sound deadening insulation was removed (to save weight). The radio came with one speaker.
The M2 comes standard with climate control AC and a 12 speaker Harman Kardon audio system. There are heated seats, as opposed to heat radiating into the cabin from the engine/exhaust through uninsulated floorpans and cowls.
It’s the difference between a street car and a street legal race car.
You can drive a Z28 on the street. Kinda sorta. The BMW is a car that you can drive on the track and on the street. To work and back, in traffic.
And love it.
The twin-scroll turbocharged inline six is fully modern but has managed to escape modernity’s homogenizing tendencies. V6s abound. They are powerful, some of them (GT-R) more so than the BMW’s six. But nothing else sounds like a straight six and in a car of this type sound and other such intangibles are arguably as critical as tangibles like horsepower and lap times.
To experience these differences you must drive the car.
The straight six clears its throat through a specially tuned M-specific exhaust system ending in four tips. From idle to 7,500 RPM (redline technically begins at 7,000 but the computer is set up to allow another 500 or so) it is a Stradivarius of internal combustion. With a range – both torque and horsepower – worthy of a mechanical Caruso.
Full torque (all 369 ft.-lbs.) on tap from 1,400 RPM – so frequent downshifts to keep up the power aren’t necessary. This is an extremely traffic-friendly supercar. But when traffic clears or you need to make a hole in it – a downshift will more than do it. Horsepower meets torque, both curving upward together. This is achieved via the twin-scroll turbo system, which avoids low-end lag and maintains boost literally from idle to near redline.
The result is an extremely tractable powerplant that you will come to love like a wife who’s both hot to look at and not also a pain in the ass to live with.
The optional seven-speed automated manual has a quickness advantage over the standard six-speed because it shifts faster and more precisely than you can (and it has seven speeds, so tighter spacing between gears) but the manual six-speed, like the straight six, harkens back to a “better managed time” when the object of the exercise was to hone your skills rather than rely on the skills of a computer.
Besides which, there is a cheat of sorts: The manual manual does double-clutch/rev-matching throttle blips for you. Each gear change sounds like Michael Schumacher’s doing the legwork.
But it’s you behind the wheel.
In addition to their very special engines, all M series BMWs are defined by their special bodywork.
They look the part.
Park the M2 next to a standard 2 Series coupe. Note the wider squat – the result of a widened track (by 3.2 inches vs. the regular 2 Series) and adjustments to the chassis necessary to accommodate the huge (and staggered size) 19-inch wheels and ultra-performance Michelin Pilot Super Sport “summer” tires. The rear and front quarter sheetmetal is gorgeously rolled outward to tuck it all in.
Up front, an M-specific front clip with air intakes that look big enough to feed a pair of afterburning Tumansky turbojets – the ones powering the Mach 3.2 capable MiG 25 Interceptor. Defusers in the rear to smooth the shock waves.
But it is hard to run a low profile in a four-wheeled MiG 25, afterburners lit.
Especially if the car itself glows, as my test car did in Long Beach Blue metallic. To run around in this car is to feel like Nixon probably did in ’73… enemies are everywhere. Especially if you’re running without a radar detector – as I did the first day I had the car, having forgotten to transfer it from the Honda Ridgeline that hadn’t been picked up yet.
So I did the speed limit. Which – in this car – is not unlike going to a top-drawer steak house and ordering a salad.
Luckily, this problem is easily fixed. The next day, I had the V1 running interference. The Fun was back on!
I mentioned early on that the M2’s packaging is superior to that of the M4. You tell me. In the M2, you have 41.5 inches of legroom for the driver and front seat passenger; 33 inches of legroom in the back and a 14 cubic foot trunk… vs. 42.2 inches of up-front legroom in the M4, 33.7 inches in the rear … and an 11 cubic foot trunk.
So, about the same (neglibile difference) driver/passenger accommodations in the M2 and a much more generous trunk (almost a mid-sized sedan’s trunk; the current Toyota Camry’s trunk is 15.6 cubic feet) and about the same performance… for a whole lot less coin.
You tell me.
BMW is sometimes a little chintzy with standard features. Given what they charge. Last year, for instance, I remember being startled by a $33k to start 3 Series that did not come standard with satellite radio.
While the M2 is extremely well-equipped (including real woven carbon fiber trim plates and handsome crushed velour) there is one such and similar cheap-out here. They charge you $300 extra to get AppleCarPlay added to the infotainment system.
One extra that’s worth buying is the $2,500 M Driver’s Package. It doesn’t add anything to the car in terms of equipment but you do get a ticket to learn how to drive the car. A full day’s track time and instruction at a BMW Performance Center (they have two, one on the East Coast and the other on the West Coast).
Also, your M2’s ECU (the computer that runs the show) will be told to allow 168 MPH on top vs. the otherwise standard 155 MPH.
The other item worth a mention – and heavy praise – is that the M’s various electronics do not generate radar clutter – false alarms that make it harder to suss out the real threats. And the GoPro app is extremely cool. It lets you create high quality videos – though don’t be a dumbo and post these in any traceable way on YouTube. Use proxies and such – or expect trouble.
THE BOTTOM LINE
BMW made the M2 so good it almost makes the M4 look bad.
But I wouldn’t kick either out of my garage.
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[…] the M2’s numbers (zero to 60 in four seconds flat … for $52,695) makes it a Mike Tyson (in his prime) […]
“The straight six is vehicular Viagra.”
Is this an L design like the Chrysler 225 or something along the lines of a Ford 300?
Back in the days before Viagra, I remember calling BS on a Slick 50 commercial showing the L225 running without an oil pan.
Those engines didn’t need any oil to cool them, the antifreeze was plenty.
It would be very refreshing to see something similar in the dealership today.
And RWD you say? Seems I learn something new on this site everyday. Kudos
That’s a really nice review – almost makes me want to come out of retirement and order one! But, nahhh…. still too much money. I’m trying to downsize my “consumer footprint,” along with my “tax footprint.”
But, a great review – you are really evoking the glory days of C&D lately, Brock Yates, Sam Shepherd, et al. Whatever you are paid for those reviews, I can tell you they’re getting a real bargain. Do you have any way to generate metrics on how many cars you sell for the makers?
And: My aim is not to sell anyone a car; it’s to give information that will – hopefully – help you decide whether this car might be right for you.
Always checking out the competition for an upgrade but see little reason to trade my 2012 Infiniti G37 coupe. Performance: 330hp (V6), 0-60 5.3, quarter mile:13.9. Seven-speed automatic. And for reliability, no turbos or direct injection. Fuel tank 20 gallons.
But, I’m looking for a Chevy VoltSS with 290hp 🙂
Thanks for the review. That’s probably my #1 most wanted car right now. Realistically shopping for the new Civic – 4-door or 5-door that hits showrooms next month, but always dreaming about something a little more fun.
You bet, Wally!
Need AWD for those of us that live in the mountains etc. Otherwise I’d have one right now.
Damn. That looks like fun.
Just for grins, I did a build and lease estimate. Only $877/mo! I’d probably have some trouble justifying it as a business expense, though…
Hi again, Yeti –
It is fun!
Especially because I didn’t have to buy it to drive it!
I, sir, am in the wrong line of work!
Hi Brother John,
Test driving the cars is easy; writing something about them that’s both entertaining and informative isn’t! 🙂
How different are the engines between then M4 and M2? I seem to recall that the M2 is running a higher boost N55 with single turbo, twin scroll, and the M4 is running an S55 with twin turbochargers? I ask, only because the first thing I thought of when you said that both “have amped-up versions of BMW’s brilliant 3.0 liter straight six engine” was how difficult it would be to step up the M2 engine output to match the M4 (easy if the M2 is a detuned version of the M4, not easy if it’s a stepped up version of the standard six).
I’ll look into the differences WRG to the turbos. But I am betting it’d be no big thing to increase the output of the M2’s engine to 400-plus hp, probably just with some ECU tuning work.
Ok, from the BMW press kit:
3.0-liter BMW M TwinPower Turbo technology 365-hp inline 6-cylinder engine. Combines a twin-scroll turbocharger with variable valve and lift control (Double-VANOS and Valvetronic) and high-precision direct injection.
3.0-liter BMW M TwinPower Turbo 425-hp inline six-cylinder engine. Combines two mono-scroll turbochargers with variable valve control (Double-VANOS and Valvetronic) and high-precision direct injection
That tells me you could use a larger twin scroll turbo on the engine and do the same thing as the dual turbo since they would be using the same 3 cylinders with less reversion to each other to power each turbo……. but it should be the same difference using a twin scroll of a larger size. Probably the main difference is injector size.
Very cool, many thanks!
My pleasure, John!
Don’t quite understand how/why a 6cyl engine has a 4-tip exhaust. They run 1.5 cylinders through each tube?