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Car reviews - BMW - 2 Series - M2

Our Opinion

We like
The fact it exists – fast, fun, almost affordable, the theatre of style, sound, and performance, M Division kudos
Room for improvement
Some rattles, firm ride, dullish dash, nowhere near enough time with it


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25 Apr 2016

IT IS slightly annoying when car companies launch a successor to what is always referred to as “a legend” or “an icon”, when said historic vehicle was never sold in Australia.

Volkswagen is guilty of this every time there’s a new Golf GTI, rolling out images of the 1976-1983 Mk1 original. Back in the day, we were clearly considered too unsophisticated by the Germans to enjoy that hot-hatch pioneer.

Audi still drags out the Ur-Quattro from 1980 like we’d be living in an alternate universe without it, never mind that none were brought here officially.

Now BMW is at it with that glorious hunk of an antidote to overblown M SUVs and tech-overkill M5s, in the pint-sized muscular shape of the gorgeous F87-series M2 Coupe.

At its local first drive in the Dandenong Ranges last week, the Bavarians kept showing images of the 1980s E30 M3, a left-hand-drive only four-cylinder firecracker that helped put the M Division on the path to tyre-shredding prosperity. Fair enough too, if you live in Munich, Minneapolis, or Marylebone, but nowhere in Melbourne or the rest of Australia could you buy one of those.

Is it a case of sour grapes on our behalf? Probably. Especially if the 2 Series flagship – spiritual E30 M3 successor and replacement for the crazy 1 Series M Coupe of 2011/2 – is any indication of the fun we missed out on.

Anyway, now it’s here, and so let’s rejoice, because the M2 Coupe’s arrival means that now M Division aficionados do not have to spend $150K plus on an M3 to get what may well be an even more fun and thrilling driving experience. In fact, $90K will do it. Bargain!With bulging fender muscles in all the right places, containing the latter’s rear axle and other potent undercarriage bits and bobs, the resulting purpose-built bodywork titillates the eyes and seduces the mind with equal and obscene totality.

Firing the 272kW/500Nm 3.0-litre single-turbo straight-six powerhouse is ecstasy for the ears as well, if not when trundling around town, but certainly when the tacho is flirting with the joys of 6000rpm and above. It’s the spine-tingling howls you want to drink in again and again.

OK, enough flowery prose, because it actually does the M2 an injustice. This is a raw and visceral driving weapon, evident from the weighty but perfectly calibrated steering that provides uncannily precise control, even at speeds beyond 220km/h (as we discovered at Sandown Raceway – 250km/h is the artificially limited V-max) with that beautifully rimmed wheel coming alive in your palms, making contact with your tactile senses like they’re connected via a tight set of jumper leads, the intimacy between M2 and you is palpable.

Because BMW has dialled in simple Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes, there isn’t an endless stream of sub-menu choices needed to make the most of your always-too-limited time in the M2.

Pick the latter, slot the light but right lever in first, drop the measured clutch, and enjoy the full-fat force of performance and control at hand. The tail will slide out for a time, before the traction overlords gently intervene, flattering the novice every time switch the ESC right off and the drift potential is probably limitless. And terrifying.

We prefer the manual, of course, but the M DCT dual-clutch auto is also speedy in every single sense, cosseting and caressing but still thunderous enough to make you want to sign up for one immediately.

Hammerhead performance, lightning-fast reflexes, exquisite dynamics, towering control… these are the things we long for from a BMW with an M badge that the M2 obliges so purely surely puts it among this year’s favourite automotive experiences. And it’s still only April.

But let’s not get carried away. The dashboard’s design and layout is now the very opposite of fresh. Both vehicles we sampled rattled and with no adaptive dampers to cushion our tush, we’re concerned about the Bavarian’s ride quality.

That’s for another day, but for now, the M2 Coupe is a supernaturally talented gift from the M Division that every fan of an Audi RS3 Sportback or Mercedes-AMG A45 must drive before signing any cheque. That you’re not being stung for the privilege is worthy of celebration.

Likewise, the fact that Australians can buy one is no longer surprising when – in terms of proportion of BMW sales – we’re the second biggest M car market in the world after South Africa. This will be very collectable someday, so it’s a no-brainer whether you’re thinking from the heart or the head.

Unlike that original M3, just be glad it’s available to us in the first place.

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