In 1957 a group of dreamers from Monterey California raised $1.5 million to build a race track on what had been a section of the US Army's Fort Ord maneuver area and field artillery target range. After one too many accidents, the picturesque beach community had halted the Pebble Beach Road Races in favour of a closed course that is now one of the most famous tracks in North America. Back in November 9, 1957, Pete Lovely (sounds like a total scoundrel) took the chequered flag behind the wheel of a 2-liter Ferrari Testa Rosa, ushering in the Laguna Seca’s rich racing history. Hmm, a rich racing history… where could we be going with this?
The BMW M2 is a statement piece, a shot over the bow of motoring motormouths everywhere that announces Bimmer’s commitment to performance cars. Yes, some critics have questioned BMW’s performance chops of late, wondered if they’d lost their edge— although for us, cars like the X6 make it somewhat hard to understand that narrative. So there was lot hanging in the balance of this new M car, so here’s what we thought.
Piloting the M2 around California’s gorgeous central coast the car acquitted itself admirably, supplying the kind of M car prowess you’d expect, with chassis dynamics, engine performance, interior, and design worthy of the name. The first thing you really notice behind the wheel is the steering— it’s quite good. One feels connected to the car and this version of electric assist power steering is one of the best we’ve tried.
Actually, before you even have a chance to enjoy the M2’s steering feel, you’ll get to hear the sound of its N55 twin-scroll turbo 3.0-liter inline-six, with its throaty exhaust note. Open the throttle and four tailpipes employ electronically controlled flaps to follow suit. The exterior sound is full on, but BMW weren’t quite happy with the cabin sound (windows up) so they use a mechanical diaphragm tuned to enhance desirable frequencies inside the car, relative to which Driving Dynamic Control setting you select. Therefore Comfort is sedate and polite, Sport is somewhere in the middle, and Sport+ gives you the full aural dose.
The car develops 365 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 343 lb-ft from 1,450 rpm. Mat the pedal pass the kickdown bracket and you get a boost of torque good for a total of 369 lb-ft, more than the outgoing M3 had on tap. All that push needs to be met with considerable grip, and the M2 gets model-specific Z-rated Michelin tyres— 265/35 out back, and 245/45 up front. The downside is that these shoes contribute a lot to road noise, but they’re also a big part of what makes the M2 feel so good on the road.
According to BMW, the M2 can do the 0-100 run in 4.3 seconds thanks to the launch control function of its seven-speed DCT automatic transmission. The manual is just a few tenths of a second off that and, with its wide rev band, it’s a luddite’s dream. Well sort of, the rev-match feature makes heel-toe redundant, and as with all technological progress, somebody somewhere is likely angry about it. Not to worry, as that type of driver will be set against traction control and other assists— all of which can be deactivated along with rev matching for a purists track experience.
BMW won’t let you disable ABS (a wise choice) but the combination of fixed calipers brakes with four-pistons in front, two in the rear on 15-inch and 14.5-inch rotors respectively, affords ample stopping power. Also they’re blue with the M logo on the, so they look the business too.
As stated, the nanny bits can all be shut off for track use and will only kick back in if things start looking very dire. The Active M electronically controlled multi-plate limited-slip differential inspires confidence, allowing the driver to skirt the edge of his or her ability. Flick on Sport+ and turn DCT off, and the rear end is suddenly driftable.
The automatic tranny is the fastest option here, and we found the paddles to be more attractive than the shifter for navigating the gears. Truth be told, in the heat of a hot lap it’s easier to focus on just driving the car, and letting it shift. That said, you can row your way to glory, or power through the kick-down bracket to call up a down shift when needed.
The truth is this, unless you make your living on the track full time, you are extremely unlikely to overmatch this very capable, high performance coupé. If you like the track, but want something you’ll be quite at home in on the daily drive, this whip is worthy of consideration.
BY: Adel Habib | Photos: Barry Hayden