New BMW M2. DRIVEN. Dubai, UAE

July 11, 2016

Such is the demand for the new BMW M2 that we’ve been waiting with barely baited breath for a spin on home turf. It goes well. To begin with…

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EnginePowerTorque0-100kphTop speedWeightBasic price
Inline 6cyl, turbo, 2979cc365bhp @ 6500rpm500Nm (369lb ft) @ 1450-4750rpm4.5 secs250kph1495kg (248bhp/ton)$62,200

Through the windscreen, dusk has settled firmly into night, the only light – save the beam from my headlamps – being the slightly off-neon blue of the infotainment system, and THAT orange light on screen in front of me. As the wheels finally crawl to a halt, it’s burning so brightly, I swear it’s mocking me.

I thumb the hazard warning light, more out of instinct than actual necessity before deciding against pushing it. I seriously doubt there’s anybody on this road at this time. We haven’t seen another car, or another person for that matter, for well over two hours.

I’m finding it difficult to contain my frustration. I’ve waited semi-patiently for several months for this car and this road, contenting myself with reviews and glowing articles about the new BMW M2’s handling, engine performance and all-round sense of character across both South California’s bustling B-roads and highways, and, naturally, Laguna Seca during the car’s official launch.

Laguna. Freaking. Seca. A personal favourite of mine after innumerable IndyCar races and Playstation 2 laps. Added to that is the homage being paid by BMW’s latest track weapon to the original E30 M3 from 1986, arguably M-division’s greatest achievement and another personal favourite. It’s a heady mix of contemporary tech and design with just enough old school clout to make the new M2, easily, one of the most highly awaited and sought after M-cars in recent memory.

Seriously. The model I’m sitting in is the only example BMW Middle East itself could source so soon after the California launch, so quickly have regional customers scrabbled for the 1M Coupe’s successor. After all, it’s an M car many predicted would, or even ‘should’, be better than the M4 that came before it. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. And it’s all come to this.

Through the partial darkness, there’s a crackle over the radio by my right elbow. It’s the guys in the camera car, now well out of sight up ahead:

“You think you can make it?”

“…nah, I’d say it’s game over…”

“…stay put…”

Those last words resonate as I switch the headlamps off. Fortunately there’s less cloud and more light from the half-moon than I previously thought. Anybody who might happen by should at least be able to see the car. It does make the rock faces around me rather eery though, the shadows bouncing off them at perfect angles to play tricks with my mind. I could swear there’s a face looking at me over there…

“Here is an M car, inspired by the original E30, that many predicted would, or should, be better than the M4”

In truth, my frustration is aimed squarely at the berk staring back at me in the rear-view mirror. The tank isn’t quite dry yet, but there’s 40km to go before the next petrol station, and there’s no way even the M2’s (claimed) 6.4L/100km stands a chance against that. We have no jerry can either, meaning the guys will have to do the 80km round trip while I stay with the BMW, memories of the drive playing back in my head.

It seems glibly funny now that the isolation of this road on the outskirts of Fujairah is one of the main reasons we chose it for today’s test drive and photoshoot. That, plus a spectacular combination of low speed uphill corners that twist their way around the rocky outcrop and further into the mountain range, beyond which lie several dozen kilometres of fast sweeping turns and throttle testing straight-line stretches. On both sides, jutting into the sky, are ever-more auburn rock faces ready to rebound high-pitched engine notes back towards us.

In short, perfect M-car terrain.

And while it did take a while to drag my eyes away from that admittedly beautiful bodywork, it had been the turbocharged six-cylinder that first struck. Don’t let that TwinPower nomenclature fool you, since this is actually the single turbocharged 3-litre ‘N55’ six-cylinder lifted straight from the M235i (or X4 m40i if you’re a frequent wearer of cardigans). Granted the new heart has been given some Steve Austin treatment courtesy of cranks, pistons and turbo nous from the M4. That does technically make this a non-M specific engine powerplant – calm yourselves chaps – but there’s nothing even remotely entry level about the performance. Zero to the ton is taken care of in a Cayman S-rivalling 4.5 seconds courtesy of 365bhp and 343lb ft of torque, the limited 250kph top speed a Germanic hallmark.

Injections from the M4 continue across the board, the lightweight aluminium axles, Active M differential and stouter brakes having also been lifted straight from big brother. And while the M2 shares the M235i’s short-wheelbase chassis, there’s additional bracing at the front for better structural rigidity, and larger 19in alloys clad with grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sports. That, plus a wider rear track with yet beefier bodywork that heaves over those gorgeous twin spokes for a more squat stance. Ideal, hopefully, for perfect balance through the corners. But more on that shortly. Back to the engine.

EnginePowerTorque0-100kphTop speedWeightBasic price
Inline 6cyl, turbo, 2979cc365bhp @ 6500rpm500Nm (369lb ft) @ 1450-4750rpm4.5 secs250kph1495kg (248bhp/ton)$62,200

On start-up, there’s a deeper and slightly more wild engine note simmering quickly into an almost menacing cadence compared with the more muted sounds of the M235i. There’s also the insane degrees of speed this mini-nuclear weapon is capable of achieving. Barrel-chested levels of torque low down mean initial pick-up is punchy straight out of the traps, continuing to rise with authority before delivering a sizable blow as the needle ticks past the 4000rpm mark, finally running out of steam before the 7000rpm redline. With an empty road in front of me, I’d been keen to see how spirited the M2’s internal organs could be in the higher reaches, and must admit to being slightly disappointed. Whilst the donor M4’s six-cylinder continues to gnash at the bit with twin-turbocharged fury, the M2 does feel a little strained in the final few hundred revs, a slightly anti-climactic end to a euphoric build.

“This is actually the single turbocharged ‘N55’ lifted straight from the M235i. or the X4 M40i if you’re a frequent wearer of cardigans”

If though you think speed suffers as a result, you’re forgetting the M2’s sub-five second 0-100kph time and my non-too-rare dalliances with idiocy. The delivery is direct but builds with surprising ferocity. It’s a delivery eased forward by tight, punchy shifts through the dual-clutch seven-speed M box, and while perhaps not as volcanic as say a Mercedes-AMG A45 – which you’ll also find loitering around this price range – the delivery is certainly sweeter.

Little compares to the manner in which the M2 dives into the corners. It’s incredibly impressive. The M235i’s body control, by comparison, feels more inconsistent. The M2 meanwhile feels so much lighter and sprightlier on its feet, the front and rear wheels in almost perfect harmony under direction change. Turn-in is sharp and grip extraordinary, but the widened rear quarter – ironically designed to keep the rear wheels in check – is quick to break loose when we’re into the more energetic heights of Sport+.

Surprisingly, oversteer isn’t as snappy – nor as unpredictable – as it was in the 1M prodigal son, the transition more fluid and thus more engaging to temper. The steering’s rate of response is similarly well-judged, and the balance close to perfect. By comparison, I doubt the more weighty M4 could match the M2’s composure on these roads.

One crest after another is passed before the road finally starts to level out, the six-cylinder barely out of breath and almost daring the mountain to continue its rise into the clouds. Here though the road starts dropping down again into an internal valley before another, far steeper climb to the summit. The tight switchbacks are replaced almost entirely by long-sweeping off-camber turns, a much more flowing collection of turns that put heavy demands on the M’s massive brake callipers. Again, the M235i is just a passing reference, the additional beef giving me the confidence to really harry the front end. Travel through the pedal is short but the response is commendable. Even though I’m really leaning on the nose – mostly using that wide, hungry berth of torque between third and fourth gears – the rears continue to jink occasionally as one corner after another bottoms out before dropping once again. I’m suddenly very grateful for the consistently weighted steering in Sport+. Only then do I look down from the head-up display to check how far the temperature has dropped, and see the fuel gauge staring back at me. Crap…

“One crest after another is passed, the six-cylinder barely out of breath and daring the mountain climb to continue”

It takes a while for the camera car to catch up, by which time I’ve pulled a quick u-turn and am short shifting my way back up the hill, that previously rapid throttle response now being coerced as gently as I can. It’s to no avail though, and as the road mercifully begins to flatten out, I pull the plug on my efforts and admit defeat. The orange light is on, and only if I get out and push will the M2 make the final 40km stretch to the pump.

Nearly two hours have passed since we entered the mountains to begin with, and almost 30 minutes since the guys disappeared up the road on their rescue mission. The air is still, the ticks from the cooling engine are now a distant memory in the crisp night air. Though it’s not the scenario I would have chosen – this will be an embarrassing phone call to BMW in the morning – I’m relieved that my time on the climb was not in vain. Without doubt the M2 has been one of the most eagerly-awaited cars of the year, and it hasn’t disappointed.

Punchy, dramatic strikes from the six-cylinder mean the M2 has a real hunger, and while it may not champ at the redline bit quite as menacingly as I’d expected, the body control and deft balance under direction changes are still mighty.

“The orange light is on, and only if I get out and push will the M2 make the final 40km stretch to the pump”

But there’s more to it than that. There’s a lightness, an added dimension of agility to the M2 that the M4 had been lacking, and only now with a spirited drive through the mountains has that become clear. It hasn’t knocked my enthusiasm for the M4 – it’s still a great car – but there is a very subtle shift in character away from the outwardly lairy and feisty larger coupe to the slightly more restrained yet exploitable nature of the M2. It’s superbly fast, absolutely, but somehow more exciting when speed takes a step back and allows that back end to dance.

These same thoughts continue to bounce around my head until the guys finally arrive with a very full jerry can, enough to get me a further 90km. Behind the BMW M2 lies the same mountain range we’ve just destroyed.

…one more run wouldn’t hurt…

*Images courtesy of Arun M. Nair and Awesome Group. 

Technical Specifications

Engine: Inline 6cyl, turbo, 2979cc

Power: 365bhp @ 6500rpm

Torque: 500Nm (369lb ft) @ 1450-4750rpm

Transmission: Seven-speed M Double Clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive

Front suspension: MacPherson struts, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar

Rear suspension: Multi-link, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar

Brakes: Ventilated, 380mm (front), 370mm (rear)

Wheels: 9 x 19in (front), 10 x 19in (rear)

Tyres: 245/35 ZR19 (front), 265/35 ZR19 (rear)

Weight: 1495kg

Power-to-weight: 248bhp/ton

0-100kph: 4.5 secs

Top speed: 250kph

Price: $62,200