While other M cars have sacrificed driver engagement for track times, the 2017 BMW M2 gets back to the basics, and makes it the type of M car that enthusiasts expect from BMW.
It earned a 7.2 on our ratings scale thanks to superlative performance and good base equipment. We weren't in love with its style and, predictably for a sports car, its fuel economy isn't all that great. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
BMW M2 performance
Power is derived from a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6. The direct-injected, twin-scroll-turbo inline-6 is distinct from what’s used in main-line BMWs and the current M3 and M4. It gets some upgrades oriented toward track duty, including pistons and gray cast-iron liners from those other M cars. The oil system adds an oil cooler for DCT M transmission oil, while the engine oil sump has been redesigned for higher lateral Gs.
Output is 365 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 343 pound-feet of torque between 1,400 and 5,560 rpm. An overboost function raises torque to 369 lb-ft between 1,450 and 4,750 rpm. That's 60 less horsepower and 37 less lb-ft of torque than the M3, but BMW notes that it is 70 more lb-ft of torque than the last-generation M3.
Much of the rest of the equipment was designed for pure performance. The lightweight front and rear axle systems come from the M3/M4. That means the control arms, wheel carriers, axle subframes, and stiffening plate of the double-joint spring-strut front axle are all aluminum, and aluminum is also used in the strut assemblies and the tubular anti-roll bar. In addition, BMW added a stiffening plate to the underbody to provide another bolted connection between the axle subframe and the body sills.
An Active M Differential resides at the rear. It is a multi-plate limited-slip differential that’s electronically controlled. It can fully lock in just 150 milliseconds, helping prevent excess wheelspin when one wheel is on a slicker surface.
The wheels are lightweight forged aluminum 19s that mount Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, 245/35s up front and 265/35s at the rear. Those install over big M compound perforated and vented disc brakes. The front 15-inch front rotors are clamped down on by four-piston fixed calipers, while the 14.5-inch rear discs get two-piston fixed calipers.
There’s plenty of evidence that BMW has worked hard to keep the M2 simple and its price under control—and to bring back some of those coveted driver’s seat sensations.
BMW hasn't outfitted the M2 with the dizzying array of performance settings that you’ll find in the more uppity M cars. There is a Sport+ mode that engages some sharper settings for powertrain responsiveness, the dual-clutch 7-speed M DCT transmission (if so equipped), the steering, and the stability control system, but it doesn't create the somewhat artificial feel you might get in the M4, for instance.
All the performance equipment creates a car that is at its best being driven hard. Precise body control, well-weighted steering, super-strong confident brakes, and a nicely coordinated 6-speed manual gearbox are all here, as are all the right performance-car sounds.
The 3.0-liter's redline is 7,000 rpm, and it sounds great thanks to an exhaust-flap system and some piped-in induction noise. It rockets the M2 from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds with the M DCT transmission, or 4.4 seconds with the 6-speed manual. The top speed is 155 mph for most models, but a new M Drivers package for 2017 increases it to 168 mph and gives buyers the opportunity to attend a BMW track school.
BMW's M DCT carries out seamless shifts in fractions of a second without ever upsetting body control or the friction at the tires. Shifts can also be chosen manually via a pair of steering wheel shift paddles. The manual-gearbox M2 has great clutch coordination and a linkage that reminds us of past M3 models. It comes with a rev-matching feature that can't be turned off unless you turn off the stability control as well. Purists won't like that, but it makes better drivers of most of us amateurs.
The M2’s firm suspension allows just the right amount of predictable weight transfer through tight corners without fancy adaptive dampers. The Active M Differential helps precisely control the torque allocation in corners, right up near the limits of adhesion, in a nuanced way that an open differential and purely brake-based stability systems never could. In corners, it helps keep the inside rear wheel from spinning too eagerly, without stepping in with the brakes. That keeps understeer at bay and helps the car feel more nimble in the tightest esses.
The big brakes haul the car down from big speeds without pedal pulsation or fade.
As charming as the M2 is during performance driving, it doesn't try to charm everyone. Its ride can feel jittery on mottled surfaces, even though it seems to take some of the hardest impacts from the pavement in stride. And road noise is an ever-present whoosh on smooth highways, more of a boom as the surfaces are coarser.
M2 styling, safety, and features
The M2's styling announces its intentions. The nose features the familiar twin-kidney grille that rests above a big air intake flanked by a pair of angular ducts that also take in air. Compared to the standard 2-Series, the fenders are flared to handle the M axles and wide tires. The overall effect is a somewhat stubby coupe that looks like it means business.
Inside, the M2 is far from luxurious. It is, after all, engineered to a price point. The materials are bit stark, without much design flare or the high-quality surfaces expected in a BMW. It does, however, have special M surfaces, and M logos for the gauge cluster, shift lever, door sills, and steering wheel. And the seats are great. They're not just strong in side support for the twisties, but also pleasant on the back over those pockmarked two-lane highways.
The 2017 BMW M2 is available in the U.S. in just one model that starts around $53,000. It comes with an impressive set of daily driver items like heated seats, navigation, and adaptive cruise control. It also gets worthwhile safety features such as forward collision warning, pedestrian warning with city braking, and lane departure warning. Options are extremely limited, there are no factory performance upgrades, and it doesn't offer a carbon fiber roof like the M4. An Executive package adds a heated steering wheel, a rearview camera, park distance control, automatic high beams, and an active driving assistant.
Fuel economy is no better than decent at 20 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined with the M DCT and 18/26/21 mpg with the manual.
- 2017 Chevrolet Camaro
- 2017 Ford Mustang
- 2017 Volkswagen Golf
The BMW M2 competes in a class by itself, though there are competitors with similar missions. The Chevrolet Camaro SS offers most of the performance of the M2 in a larger package for a smaller price. Same goes for the Ford Mustang GT. The Volkswagen Golf R is based on a front-wheel-drive platform, but it uses all-wheel drive and 300 horsepower to deliver excellent track performance as well as a comfortable ride on the street.