GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — It wasn’t quite the way I expected to take delivery of the Automobile Four Seasons 2017 BMW M2. As road test editor Eric Weiner noted in the last update, the German two-door made the trip to me from Gingerman Raceway via BMW roadside assistance and a flatbed. All’s well that ends well, though, and the Long Beach Blue Metallic coupe is now happily running on a fresh Michelin Pilot Super Sport rear tire. Well, that rubber isn’t exactly fresh now, as I’ve been having far too much fun with BMW’s cheapest M car.
Not that cheapest should remotely be considering a negative. The M2 continues to be my favorite current M model. It’s also an AUTOMOBILE 2017 All Star. I’ve spent significant time behind the wheel of a manual M2, but this is my first stint with the dual-clutch (DCT) version. Being a hardcore fan of three pedals, I assumed I wouldn’t jive with the high-tech setup. Well, you know what they say about assumptions.
The DCT works brilliantly with the torque-rich engine, swapping ratios quickly and adding even more pace to the evocative package. I love that BMW gives you the choice to shift via paddles or the gearbox selector in the center console. I’d still buy the six-speed manual because that’s who I am, but I honestly feel the M2 is a better car with the seven-speed DCT. The M2’s inline-six makes gobs of power but it’s not the most exciting engine around. It’s more of a tool to get the job done than an emotional, visceral powerplant—focused on the destination rather than the journey. Luckily, the destination is impressive performance.
Speaking of journeys, I pressed the M2 into family adventure duties and it worked surprisingly well. You’d think a smallish coupe wouldn’t be practical but that’s certainly not the case. The seats are mega-comfortable with plenty of adjustment, only let down by a flawed, crooked driving position. My 10- and 12-year old children had plenty of room in back and the trunk fit all our stuff. Access to those rear seats is quick and easy, helped by handy auxiliary power seat switches on the top of the front seats. And the back seats fold, helping with Saturday errands to Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond for flooring and the like. Blue, you’re my boy!
Ride quality is quite good considering the short wheelbase and overall performance on offer, and body control is exemplary. Yes, the M2 is stiff at low speeds, a substantial amount of road noise from the wide tires permeates into the cabin, and the suspension gets crashy on Michigan’s horrible roads, but it’s by no means horrible. The BMW is far more compliant and refined than my old Ford Focus RS.
The iDrive infotainment system adds to the M2’s trusty-companion status on road trips. Efficient arrival at your destination is sorted by the clear, concise satellite navigation and excellent 4G cellular-based traffic data—free for four years. The large dash-mounted screen advises on the amount of time any traffic snarls will delay your journey and then makes recommendations to either stay on the current road or change your route. Very slick.
Additionally, there’s wireless smartphone app integration for music options such as Pandora and Amazon Music. Our early-build 2017 M2 isn’t compatible with BMW’s impressive wireless Apple CarPlay integration, but cars built from August 2017 can be factory equipped (or upgraded by owners over-the-air).
I do wish the M2 carried a larger fuel tank as 13.7 gallons simply isn’t enough. An 80-mph highway cruise results in around a 26-mpg average, allowing you to travel around 325 miles before stopping, but it’s around town where the thirst of the powerful turbocharged engine finds you visiting the fuel station far too often. This isn’t helped by the fact that the M2 is so much fun to thrash.
But any adolescent thrashing must wait until you get your head around the confusing drive modes. BMW’s M3/M4 carry dedicated buttons for adjusting the steering, throttle, DCT shift speed, etc. You’re then able to easily store your preferred setup in one of two preset buttons on the steering wheel. Not so with the M2. Its setup is adapted from the 230i/M240i and is not as intuitive.
If you turn off stability control (DSC), you’re forced into an ultra-aggressive DCT shift setup and, far worse, the electric power steering switches to an artificially heavy configuration. It’s a similar situation with the more laidback—but not nearly relaxed enough—MDM (M Dynamic Mode) setting for the DSC. Come on, BMW. You’ve given us one of your best M cars in years yet we can’t properly configure the settings to enjoy the car to the full potential.
The lack of configurability was particularly frustrating when I visited Grattan Raceway. My focus for the day was to test and work on the chassis setup for two dedicated race cars and an M4 GTS, but I had to at least try the M2 around the 2.0-mile track. Wouldn’t you? The BMW was great fun, but the overly-nanny MDM continued to frustrate and I quickly fully disengaged the DSC. Unfortunately, that brought along the diluted, hefty steering.
At least the general balance of the M2 was impressive and it’s huge fun to smoke the rear tires. You just must mind the way the twin-scroll turbo hits in the low-speed corners as throttle modulation while trying to maximize lap times—versus drifting fun—isn’t particularly easy. Again, the engine is more about making power than being a crescendoing sweetheart. The weight of the M2 also reared its ugly head at Grattan. A car this small simply shouldn’t weigh over 3,500 pounds.
My drive home from the track reminded me why the M2 is still a hugely entertaining car. Once you get past the niggling details and understand that the entry-level M is all about hooligan fun, you fully appreciate it once again. It’s wicked fast, comfortable, decent on fuel when respected, and surprisingly practical. The rear-drive coupe is something of a nearly half price Porsche 911. It can play the role of a selfish, fun toy but also easily serves as both a trusty day-to-day companion and a second family vehicle. And the BMW trumps the rear-engined 2+2 by having more room for bigger kids—and even adults—in the back seat.
The next stop for our Four Seasons M2 is California, where it will live out its days until BMW steals it back. I picture the west coast crew at AUTOMOBILE kicking and screaming as the keys are pried from their hands at the end of the one-year stay. I’m sure sad to see the M2 leave Michigan.
Our 2017 BMW M2
|MILES TO DATE||18,735|
|ENGINE||3.0L DOHC turbocharged 24-valve I-6/365 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 343 lb-ft @ 1,400-5,560 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||20/26 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||176.2 x 73.0 x 55.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.2 sec|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph|