2017 BMW M2 Coupe Road Test

Strangely, I can recall almost every moment from behind the wheel of a Canadian-spec 1994 M3 that I drove nearly 20 years
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
The M2 is one hot looking compact super-coupe. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
ago. In actual fact it was one of the Euro-spec BF91 cars that BMW Canada had imported and sold instantly (3 days) to just 45 rabid fans thanks to a raucous and high-revving 282 horsepower (at 7,300 rpm) S50B30 3.0-litre inline-six conjoined to a five-speed manual that drove the rear wheels of a more rigidly constructed and lighter weight E36 coupe body shell (halted by vented brakes with floating rotors no less). A few years later an example came up for sale with just a handful of kilometers on the odometer, and the reseller, a trusting friend, threw me the keys.

These were pre-auto journalist days when I actually had to buy most of the cars I drove, so therefore my sequential bevy of personal BMWs (5), a Jaguar XJ, and countless beaters before these, had been powered by much less potent engines. That
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
There’s nothing subtle about it from either end. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
M3 was the most awe-inspiring car I’d driven to that point, with handling to match the intensity of the powertrain, the memory of which was indelibly stamped upon my much younger, more impressionable mind. Hence my surprise and delight at experiencing similar elation decades later after being thrown the key to the new M2.

You could say the umpteen thousands of test vehicles from 18 years of auto writing has left me somewhat non-phased when getting behind the wheel of a new BMW, or anything else. Certainly my adrenaline still piques when testing a particularly good driver’s car like the Bavarian brand’s previous V8-powered M3 (the new one is better but the engine is more NASCAR than F1), the lovely i8, brilliant
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
The M2’s headlights don’t bleed into the grille like most new BMWs, but their LED corona rings are brilliant, literally. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Mitsu EVO X, nutty Nissan GT-R, fabulous Porsche 911 Turbo, or most anything from Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, etcetera, all of which have happened on occasion, but nothing new could ever emulate an enthusiast’s first-ever serious super coupe.

First off, there’s nothing I don’t like about the new M2’s styling. It may not be BMW’s latest design language, without headlamp clusters bleeding into the grille like the current M3, M4, et al, but it still looks sharp. Next to BMW’s twin kidney grille is an angular set of headlamps boasting the brand’s usual corona LED rings, these more traditional BMW influences set atop one of the most aggressive lower front
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
Almost as complex as an F1 car’s front wing, the M2’s lower front fascia delivers serious aero. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
fascias ever fused under a blue and white roundel. It includes a centre-mounted “dog catcher” ahead of a visible oil cooler and sharply angled brake vents to the right and left, while around the sides a nicely sculpted set of beltlines initiate by wrapping around tiny fender-mounted engine vents before visually disappearing at the bottom curve of the rear deck lid and top edge of the taillights.

The side rocker mouldings are also extended, swelling dramatically as they bend upward and overtop bulging rear fenders, while the trunk gets a tiny lip spoiler on its trailing edge before the car’s hind end gets finished off by a totally unique bumper cap highlighted by vertical rear fogs and an aggressive rear diffuser sporting a quad of chrome-tipped tailpipes.

2017 BMW M2 Coupe
Able to fly past the radar without getting noticed? Not. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
twinned five-spoke machine-finished alloys with black painted pockets are encircled by 245/35 front and 265/35 rear ZR19 Michelin Super Sport rubber, supporting the car’s aggressive look. It’s hard to believe, but those sizeable rims were just big enough to fit some of the largest cross-drilled ventilated front and rear disc brakes the industry offers, these finished with blue painted M Sport calipers just in case you forgot this wildly provocative BMW is actually an M car.

The previous entry-level M wasn’t, but instead was dubbed M235i similarly to how BMW dresses up its X5 into M guise. I tested 2014 and 2015 M235i models and was duly impressed, but as good as the car was its twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-litre I-6 with 322 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque could never match the new
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
The M2’s 19-inch alloys frame cross-drilled ventilated front rotors that are larger than some cars’ tires. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
M2’s identically sized albeit much more potent 365 horsepower six with 343 lb-ft of torque available from 1,400 to 5,560 rpm, the twist increasing to 369 lb-ft on overboost (at least the fabulous little 1 Series M Coupe, or 1M that preceded it had the same 369 lb-ft of torque on overboost); but engine output is just part of the M2 story.

Depending on personal choice, mated to that engine will be one of two brilliantly reactive transmissions, my tester incorporating the 35-kilo (77-lb) lighter seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission (M DCT) with Drivelogic, featuring traction-optimized automatic gear selection for much more intelligent shifting than most drivers could come up with on their own. It also benefits from automated launch control for the quickest standing starts possible. So engaged the new M2 scoots from standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.3 seconds, its rev-matching six-speed manual requiring 0.2 seconds more.

2017 BMW M2 Coupe
Stylish 2 Series taillights incorporate fast-reacting LEDs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
23 kilos (50.7 lbs) lighter than the M4, which is considerably lighter than the V8-powered M3 Coupe it replaced, and 35.4 kg (78 lbs) lighter than the M235i, the new M2 is still a substantive 130 kilograms (287 lbs) heavier than the 23 year-old M3 that wowed me so long ago, yet the two cars are almost exactly the same length with nearly identical wheelbases at 4,468 millimeters (175.9 inches) and 2,693 mm (106.0 inches) respectively for the M2 and 4,432 mm (174.5 inches) and 2,700 mm (106.3 inches) for the 1994 M3 Coupe. Changes in modern car design come into play when comparing width and height, however, with the M2 measuring 1,854 mm (73.0 inches) at the front wheels and 1,984 mm (78.1 inches) at the rear wheels, with a 1,579-mm (62.2-inch) and 1,601 mm (63.0-inch) front and rear track, plus 1,414 mm (55.6 inches) in height, to the old M3’s
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
The quartet of M2 tailpipes sound blissful at full song. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
1,796-mm (70.7-inch) width, 1,422-mm (56.0-inch) front and 1,445 mm (56.9-inch) rear tracks, and 1,336-mm (52.6-inch) height.

Certainly 78 mm (3.1 inches) of added height is never a good thing unless we’re talking headroom and outward visibility, but 157-mm (6.2-inch) wider front and 156-mm (6.1-inch) wider rear tracks, not to mention the new tires’ lower profile and thicker contact patches can only be seen as a positive, enough so to even overcome the new car’s heavier curb weight. Truly, if I’d driven this car instead of the old M3 way back in the ’90s I might’ve been completely overwhelmed by its outrageous performance, its dash to 100km/h some 1.7 seconds quicker and just 0.2 seconds off the mighty M4’s sprint time. That’s right, the little M2 can nearly keep
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
The M2 mixes high-grade luxury materials with low-rent entry-level plastics, but any refinement shortcomings are forgivable as soon as you hit the road or track. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
up to its big brother and comes even closer to matching the 560-horsepower M5 off the line with just 0.1 seconds separating the two, while it nudges out the big M6 Coupe by the same tenth of a second.

No doubt the M2’s meaty rear rubber plays an important role in straight-line performance, but as I learned when first driving my dad’s ’76 VW Scirocco and then comparing it to mom’s ’76 Chevy Malibu (long before ever getting behind the wheel of the aforementioned M3 Coupe), a powerful engine doesn’t help in the corners. Fortunately, BMW builds on the 2 Series’ inherently adept handling by bolting on a lightweight aluminum M Sport suspension that includes aluminum front and rear axles from the M3/M4, as well as aluminum control arms, wheel carriers, axle subframes, and the stiffening plate to the double-joint spring-strut front
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
This is the place you want to be, and the M2 rewards courageous drivers with impressive power and handling skills. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
axle, plus the suspension struts, tubular anti-roll bar, forged aluminum control arms and wheel carriers of the five-link rear axle. BMW goes to even greater lengths designing each component, the beauty of this advanced engineering and reduced mass allowing the M2 to work its magic more freely.

It’s a car that rewards the brave with just enough rear wheel spin for oversteer-squealing glee, yet near unflappable control when reeling it back in. I’m not a drifter, having spent most of my track time trying to maximize traction and therefore achieve the best lap time, but sometimes letting the rear rubber break free before gathering it all back up again is just too much fun to ignore. The rear-drive-only M2 would be a suitable companion for any drift-meister. Simply switch on M Dynamic Mode (MDM), a sub-function of Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), and enjoy the immediate loss of grip.

2017 BMW M2 Coupe
These seemingly analog dials float above a purely digital background. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
you’re at the track you may want to engage M Dynamic Mode Sport plus mode for even greater rear tire smoking fun, but be forewarned that tire replacement is pricey. Of course, the same performance modes are best for maximizing traction and therefore speed around the track without burning through the brake system’s ABS, and while this takes more expertise than doing so with active safety systems engaged it’s a helluvalot more rewarding.

The M2 is perfect for such outings, but don’t be concerned if your driving skills aren’t a match for the likes of BMW’s 2017 DTM driver lineup, which incidentally consists of 2016 (and 2014) champion Marco Wittmann, plus Timo Glock, Augusto Farfus, Maxime Martin, Tom Blomqvist, and Canada’s own (2012 champion) Bruno Spengler. The M2’s Active M Differential has
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
The multi-tiered centre stack is well organized for fast, efficient application. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
been designed to make skilled amateurs feel like pros thanks to variably distributing drive torque between the two rear wheels, especially helpful in slippery situations like snow, gravel and ice. It was actually developed for motorsport, and works in harmony with Dynamic Stability Control to make the most of available grip.

Likewise those massive drilled and ventilated brake rotors mentioned earlier deliver superb stopping power. They measure 380 mm up front and 370 mm in the rear and include four- and two-piston calipers apiece respectively.

As good as all this is, the firm suspension setup and short gear intervals that make the M2 a thrill on the track may not be ideal for daily driving if you’re more used to the backside pampering of any non-M-tuned BMW road car. In other words, it’s a purist’s delight, but a poseur’s blight.

2017 BMW M2 Coupe
A well stocked infotainment system is infused with a really useful performance app. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
M2 is also negatively affected by the 2 Series’ humble roots. This is often the case with outrageously tuned and therefore pricey compacts such as Subaru’s WRX STI and Mitsubishi’s now defunct EVO that I noted earlier, but in those cars’ cases the lack of premium improvements is more glaring than with the M2. At least the 2 Series starts life as an entry-level compact luxury model, so high quality synthetics, genuine metals, carbon-fibre inlays, fabric-wrapped roof pillars, and plenty of leather and psuede surfaces are part of the upscale mix, but those used to spending $63,500 on a BMW sports coupe (which might otherwise buy them a nicely outfitted 4 Series), might balk at the generous use of pedestrian plastics torso height and below.

In detail this means the dash top, each side of the centre stack, the top edge of the lower console, and the door uppers are finished
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
You can set up your M2 exactly the way you like it. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
in nicely padded pliable composites, while the armrests are done out in beautiful blue contrast-stitched leather to match fabulously contoured sport seats. The door skins feature soft Alcantara psuede inserts, also with blue contrast stitching, while BMW surfaces the dash and lower console inlays in a textured, unvarnished carbon-fibre. That’s the good stuff. The not-so-good stuff starts with a hard plastic glove box lid, similarly rinky-dink hollow plastic console sides and lower door panels, which really aren’t much better than a regular economy car’s, like the insides of STI and EVO mentioned a moment ago. To be fair, this is mostly par for the course in this entry luxury class, but some brands do it better.

BMW does in-car electronics very well, however, and the M2 fully benefits. Ahead of the driver, traditional-style analog dials float above a fully featured colour TFT multi-information display, the latter also incorporating
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
Need to find your way to the track? BMW navigation is extremely accurate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
the ancillary gauges, while the widescreen iDrive infotainment system is amongst the richest in colour, sharpest in resolution, and most feature-filled in the industry with all the expected kit such as a rear parking camera with dynamic guidelines, navigation, downloadable apps, etcetera, plus two stock apps that will appeal to weekend track stars. The first is BMW’s M Laptimer app that times your lap and much more, such as providing GPS positioning and forward acceleration, lateral acceleration (G-force), and acceleration up to a given speed (0 to 100 km/h for example) via an integrated accelerometer, while the second app lets you control your GoPro camera from the infotainment display whether you’ve attached it inside or outside the car. Advanced Real Time Traffic Information (ARTTI) has come
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
The M2’s iDrive controller is easy to operate and surrounded by handy quick-access buttons. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
a long way too, whether using it to find the best driving roads with the least traffic or just trying to get to work on time.

The switchgear used to modulate the multi-info and infotainment displays is superbly designed and crafted, those on the steering wheel especially nice. I’m also a big fan of BMW’s rotating iDrive controller along with its well-organized quick-access buttons. It’s ultra-easy to find and use while driving, and provides fast, precise selection of functions. Also appreciated are the floating side buttons on the dual-zone auto HVAC interface, and the same on the audio system and optical drive interface, but more so for materials and production quality plus style. Together with the two vents just above, BMW has created an agreeable three-tiered visual approach to the centre stack that’s both smartly laid out for ease of use and appealing to look at.

2017 BMW M2 Coupe
I would’ve rather had a manual, but this 7-speed dual-clutch auto is about as advanced as transmissions get. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
noted, the M2 only just arrived for the 2016 model year so there haven’t been many changes for 2017. Then again, if you’ve got a smartphone that can be recharged wirelessly you’ll probably want to opt for the $750 Smartphone Connectivity Package that adds wireless device charging, Wi-Fi, simultaneous dual-phone Bluetooth connectivity, and Apple CarPlay. That’s the only option group available, with its standalone extras limited to my tester’s $3,900 automated dual-clutch transmission, a $3,500 M Performance exhaust system with carbon tips, a $1,500 moonroof (in M tradition the sunroof is left off the standard menu to save weight), and $895 for metallic paint-my tester’s finished in beautiful Long Beach Blue.

Its lack of options comes down to BMW equipping the M2 very well from the get-go.
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
These fabulous sport seats provide superb support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Everything already mentioned is standard, as well as auto on/off HID headlamps with washers, plus LED welcome lights, proximity access with pushbutton ignition, a universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, dynamic cruise control, a heatable multi-function steering wheel, heated power-adjustable front seats with two-way driver-side memory, great sounding Harmon/Kardon audio, satellite radio, rear parking sensors, an alarm, BMW emergency assist, speed limit info, BMW’s ConnectedDrive remote smartphone app, all the expected passive and active safety kit, plus enough unexpected standard items from the active list to earn all Canadian-spec M2 trims an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating, these including adaptive cornering headlights with auto high beams, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, emergency autonomous braking, and lane departure warning.

2017 BMW M2 Coupe
Even the rear seats are more accommodating than you might expect. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
start/stop that shuts the M2’s engine down when it would otherwise be idling is standard too, helping the car achieve a reasonable 11.8 L/100km city, 8.8 highway and 10.4 combined with the manual, or 12.7 city, 9.2 highway and 11.1 combined with the auto (although understanding that many would rather hear the M2’s lovely engine note at idle, BMW made sure auto start/stop can be defeated).

Speaking from a pragmatic point of view, I can’t see the M2 causing 911 owners with growing families to give up their rides, even considering the BMW’s slightly quicker sprint time, but those looking for a high-performance sports coupe with reasonable rear seat room should consider BMW’s smallest. It offers more rear headroom than the CLA 45 AMG I drove last year, and the more potent ’18 Audi TT RS’ rear seats aren’t much better than the 911’s. If we’re simply looking for the
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
Cargo space is quite generous and the M2’s 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks are very flexible. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
most rear seat practicality in a performance-oriented compact luxury car the four-ringed brand’s S3 sport sedan is probably your best bet, but it’s so far off the pace and price point that it’s in another league entirely. In this respect I like the M2’s balance of two-door styling, rear seat roominess, and even sizeable trunk space at 390 litres (13.8 cubic feet).

As for which M2 I’d choose, despite not getting opportunity to drive the six-speed manual yet, and being thoroughly impressed by the paddle-actuated dual-clutch autobox, I’d probably still lean toward the DIY transmission, especially being that BMW hasn’t adapted the car to an electromechanical parking brake. This ruined my last experience with a manually equipped Porsche 911 that was nearly impossible to launch from a steep uphill standing start without stalling (the auto brake holder bogged down the engine so much it kept cutting power until I was forced
2017 BMW M2 Coupe
M engines aren’t as pretty as they used to be, but they’re more powerful than ever before. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
to flog the engine at takeoff and therefore burn through costly clutch material). BMW still uses the traditional handbrake for its 3 and 4 Series models as well, and I hope they continue to do so into the future as it’s the optimal sporting e-brake.

In summary, there are a surprising number of entry-level sport coupes vying for your attention, and fortunately they’re all very unique and therefore should appeal to differing design tastes and performance expectations. For me, however, still forlorn over a certain silver ’94 M3 that’s much harder to acquire in pristine condition, the M2 would be my first choice. And that it can be purchased for considerably less than a well cared for version of the much older car (that’s now a revered collector’s item) is just icing on the cake.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)