When BMW began using the tagline “The Ultimate Driving Machine” decades ago, it was not referring to over-wrought luxury models like the X5 and 7-Series that have become the brand’s recent hallmarks. No, it was referring to spirited little coupes like the 2002 and original 3-Series – cars best represented by today’s 2-Series. It’s a model best sampled in M2 guise and with the Competition package. Let’s go drive the car that sets BMW straight.
Unlike the old 2002s, the M2 comes stoked with enough power to embarrass several supercars from the 1990s. Behind the twin-kidney grille pumps a twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine dishing out 405 horsepower and 406 lb.-ft. of torque. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but opt for the double-clutch “automatic” for quicker shifts and easier commutes. Press into the throttle to see 0-60 mph in a scant 4 seconds on the way to a 174 mph top speed. Fuel economy is rated 17/23-MPG city/highway.
I like that you can adjust the steering and throttle separately. Steering feel adjusts from lighter Comfort to Sport and Sport+ settings, progressively gaining perceived heft. The throttle sensitivity adjusts from Efficient to Sport, each more aggressive. In no mode does the car feel harsh. Unlike some BMW M models, the suspension does a good job of soaking up rough roads while maintaining competence during track days. I’ve read complaints the electric power steering doesn’t feel precise, but only professional drivers will notice. This is a well-balanced car.
Standing on the curb, the M2 recalls those classic BMWs from the ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s distinguished by an aggressive lower front facia, black twin-kidney grille, 19” wheels, and LED headlamps, but the more formal roofline on the two-door coupe is much like the earlier coupes. Around back, quad exhaust outlets and a thin lip spoiler are wholly appropriate. It gleams in Sunset Orange Metallic paint.
A deceivingly simple interior takes us back too. All of the modern technology is present, but the focus is on the deeply bolstered heated sport seats, perfectly sized heated three-spoke steering wheel, and simple analog gauges. Look close to notice orange stitching in the seats, suede on the doors, carbon fiber on the console, and M stitching on the steering wheel and seatbelts.
The M2 suffers with BMW’s infernal iDrive infotainment system, but this version seemed to annoy me less and allowed unfettered access to the Harman Kardon audio system, navigation, Wi-Fi hotspot, and Apple CarPlay connectivity. The center armrest contains the wireless phone charging pad with spring-loaded clip to keep it from sliding – nice touch. Safety is enhanced by forward collision and lane departure warnings.
BMW is conflicted. I keep trying to pinpoint the moment BMW decided it wanted to be Mercedes-Benz or Cadillac. Perhaps it was the same time Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac decided to become BMW, but I prefer the days when BMW wanted build ultimate driving machines. Hidden here in plain sight is the kind of BMW the brand once solely built and it is a delight. A base price of $58,900, or $67,045 as-tested, puts it against the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45, Ford Shelby GT350, Porsche Cayman, Toyota Supra, and Audi RS 3.
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