In the past five years, BMW has launched more than 20 new or redesigned products and variants, from electric pods to crossover coupes. There was worry among 3-Series purists that the ultimate driving machine had devolved into everyones everyday appliance.
It is a classic growth conundrum, like your favorite local band finally hitting it big.
Worry not: The all-new M2 coupe is the most intimate of sports car performances. Everything about it feels right, cruising along the highway or slinging the stick in and out of corners on the track.
It is a joy to drive.
The M2 is inspired by BMWs first turbo for the masses, the beloved-but-rare 2002, which launched in 1974 and helped the German brand gain worldwide notice. Some drivers compared its pure feel to the M3s of yesteryear but this small, power-packed coupe stands on its own.
The M2 stacks up between the M235 and the M3 in both price and output.
The M2s performance profile is subtle, with no wild wings or radically raked windshields. It is undoubtedly a sports coupe but the subtle styling is refined enough to fit in at the school drop-off. But its broad shoulders and wide hips are low and ready to pounce. The lower front is all air intakes, promising that this twin kidney grille is about combustion, not comfort. The low-slung body widens, with flared rear-wheel arches that house 19-inch wheels wrapped in super-sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires specially made for the M2. The tucked rear and the quad exhaust pipes complete the power portrait. Our tester came in cool blue, or Long Beach Blue Metallic, for $550 that popped in sunlight and blended into the night, letting the engine noise earn the attention.
Ignite the 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder turbo engine to snap, crackle and pop. Its a hungry growl that is quiet enough to blend into the neighborhood but explosive enough to draw admirers.
Hitting the on-ramp in sport mode lights up a smile that must be tempered, because that 343 pound-feet of torque at just 1,400 rpm ratchets you up to illegal velocities in an instant. On the track, that whirling, warbling, popping blends into a soundtrack this car deserves.
The six-speed manual transmission is meant for drivers who like driving. There is a seven-speed dual clutch automatic that Im sure is wonderful it hits 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, a tick quicker than the manual but this car is meant to be mated with a manual. Hitting the gears is effortless, and short throws make shifts seamless. It feels great, even in traffic.
The steering wheel is chunky without a flat bottom. The electronic steering might not be as taut or immediate as a Corvette, but there is an overall balance to the car that lets you find lines and stick to them.
Part of that is due to the superlative braking, perfect weight distribution and the tires. On a limited track run at Road America, the grip enabled us to enter a corner much harder and maintain speed in a way that overcame any slight shortcoming in steering. You can swing the rear-wheel-driven end out but it never felt like it was swinging me. The M2 made me feel like a better driver than I am.
The M2 delivers on BMWs proud performance history and is the best car in and around this range.
2016 BMW M2 at a glance
As tested: $53,500 (excluding $995 delivery)
Mpg: 18 city, 26 highway
Engine: 3.0-liter turbo in-line six-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Parting shot: Performance coupe puts BMW back on track