Any BMW donning an M badge with light blue, dark blue, and red stripes means serious business. I got to test a few of these impressive cars at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand over a month ago, and one particular M stood out: the new M2.
The first-generation M2 which came out in 2016 immediately won the admiration of enthusiasts, and it looked pretty good. When I first gazed at the new model on the track, the front fascia instantly caught my eye. The design theme was more on the squarish side as opposed to its bigger M siblings sporting the new oversized kidney grille. It’s not a bad thing, in my opinion.
It also looks sharp from the side with flared fenders accommodating the staggered wheel setup of this rear-wheel-drive beast. The rear continues the squared design of the front with quad tailpipes showing you that this isn’t a common 2-Series sedan. There’s even an option of upgrading to diagonal tailpipes, but I’ll stick with stock.
One major change is the cockpit. Gone are the analog gauges of the original. The future is certainly digital, and the dash of the new M2 embraces that—basically following the features of the latest Bimmers.
It isn’t complex, and is quite intuitive in the short time I spent with the car. Getting on the saddle felt like wearing a perfect pair of sneakers. Bolstering was on point (without pinching my love handles in the slightest bit), and everything on the digitized dash felt where it should be.
I was glad this particular unit came with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. I’ve seen several reviews stating how the manual version felt rubbery and not as engaging as the automatic.
Prior to doing laps on Chang International Circuit, we began setting up the onboard adjustments as directed by our instructor. Though paddle shifters come standard, we were told to let the system do the shifting.
We just engaged Track Mode in the infotainment settings, and depressed the “M2” button (optimizing steering feel, throttle response, and suspension stiffness for circuit use) found directly above the right steering-wheel spoke.
The infotainment screen went black (meaning no distractions from it), and we were ready to rock. Exiting the pit area below 60km/h, I could already feel the slight rumble from the engine and the increased throttle sensitivity. Upon entering the track, we got the go to floor the accelerator. And just like that, my adrenaline switch came on.
The engine went from a deep hum to a throaty roar in a snap. Absolute music to my tito ears. It wasn’t loud, but it made me know that all 460hp from the 3.0-liter twin-turbo in-line-six was hauling ass—and haul ass it did.
As I began hard-braking approaching the first corner, it was satisfying to hear the exhaust crackle as the ECU made downshifts.
Powering out of the first few bends, I could instantly feel how precise and nicely weighted steering was.
On paper, the new M2 is somewhat heavy. Yes, you tend to feel it at times when plowing through turns, but you will also realize how engineers have used it to an advantage.
The rear can be playful, especially with traction control disengaged, but some sort of engineering sorcery still keeps it composed. It is confidence-inspiring. The 50/50 weight distribution is a plus factor together with the nimble handling.
I can imagine drifting the hell out of this car and myself smiling from ear to ear, but my mature sensibilities would rather just drive it intelligently hard while conserving the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires that came with it.
As we completed a hot lap, I already felt we could push the M2 harder and faster. Our lead car (an M4) set the pace slightly quicker, and the M2 had no trouble keeping up with its bigger brother.
I must say the ECU was on point, whether upshifting or downshifting, which made me focus more on my race line and braking as we went slightly faster. We ended up adding 20 or so km/h at turns, and the car remained planted. Braking power is well-tuned with the car’s weight and performance.
Overall, the M2 is a sound and solid compact sports coupe from the ground up. I’ve experienced a thousand-horsepower supercar on the track, and this latest M with less than half of that power satisfies just as much, combining great dynamics, an engaging drive, and a sensation that makes you feel like you’re a better driver than you actually are.
So, should you consider the latest M2?
I feel like I may not be the most qualified fellow to answer that question. Fortunately, my car partner for the day, Malcolm, had owned the previous model for some years already.
I threw the question at him toward the end of our session. What was his response?
Without a doubt, he was sure he was getting the new M2.
There you have it.