BMW M2

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Good to drive, but a little less raw than its peers

It is an occupational hazard of being a one-man band that sometimes I get to cars somewhat later than others. Car manufacturers hardly ever talk to each other and it is common to find two really important cars being launched at the same time, which is why it will take me until next month to tell you about the new Ford Focus RS – don’t feel sorry for me: I was away driving the 911 Turbo at the time.

Being late to the game is often a little disquieting. Take this BMW M2: I don’t think I’ve come across a review for which the prefix ‘rave’ wouldn’t be suitable, but that’s not quite how I feel about the car.

It’s most closely related to the M235i coupé, an ‘M-sport’ car rather than a proper M machine. But by raising the output of the same single turbo 3-litre straight six by 44bhp, it claims to have carved a useful 0.5sec off the 0-62mph time. A wider body is used not only to make it look more punchy, but also to conceal a suspension system derived from that of the larger, more powerful but scarcely any heavier M4.

On paper it looks promising and in the real world it doesn’t disappoint: the car is fast, the engine smooth and the performance gain sufficient to carry the additional £6000 cost with confidence. It seems even better value when you consider that also makes it £13,000 cheaper than an M4, which appears to be only a little faster.

It’s nicer to drive than an M4, too, particularly in its more tolerant nature on the limit. So what, exactly, is wrong with it?

Nothing at all. I liked the car. I thought it really rather good and certainly decent value for money. I just wasn’t quite bowled over by it, which is what I want from every true M car I drive and what, once, you could near enough take for granted from the Motorsports department. The engine has more lag than some later turbo motors from rival manufacturers and, at 1570kg, the car is surprisingly heavy. I enjoyed driving it, but that sense of connection, of being at one with a car in the peak of physical fitness, is lacking.

Maybe I’m expecting too much, thinking too hard about 1980s E30 M3s and not enough about the fact that a true successor to such a car would be difficult for BMW to make and might well not sell if it did. We just like our creature comforts too much, of which the M2 has an entire suite.

And I agree with my colleagues who say this is the best M-car in some time, even though it is the least expensive. The department appears to be turning around and, while I wish it would go further faster, the direction is unquestionably right. But I cannot help but hanker for a limited-edition M2 with a stripped-out interior, very little sound deadening and some no-nonsense suspension settings to show us unequivocally that BMW has remembered the spirit of the cars that created the reputation of M in the first place. And then this unquestionably good car would have a chance of becoming a true great.

Factfile

Price £44,080

Engine 3.0 litres, 6 cylinders, turbocharged

Power [email protected]

Torque 368lb [email protected]

Transmission six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Weight 1860kg  

Power to Weight 129bhp per tonne

0-62mph 4.5sec

Top speed 155mph  

Economy 33.2mpg

CO2 199g/km