Walking out of the bus into the paddock of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, I spot two black BMW M2 Coupes in signature “M” livery, sitting on the track, waiting patiently. Even motionless, the cars throb with charisma. Marketing guys like to throw the term “athletic” around, stapling it onto everything from a Lexus NX subcompact crossover to a Kia Forte, and normally it’s a ludicrous tag. On the M2, as I discovered, the term is a gross understatement.
2017 BMW M2 Coupe First Drive
With its sculpted doors, widened track, 19-inch aluminum wheels, and bulging Dwayne Johnson shoulders, the M2 sits poised like a sprinter coiled on starting pegs, taut and wired. The trunk’s line seems to rise a good half-foot above the grille, lending the M2 a wedge shape that huffs, “Let’s get going already!”
First some numbers, because that’s what punters in this segment obsess over. The twin- turbocharged, direct-injected 3.0-liter inline six — modified from its M3/M4siblings — boasts peak output of 365 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 343 lb.-ft. of torque, big chunky bales of power that begins at just 1400 rpm. That’s good enough to launch the 3,450-lb. M2 from rest to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds with the six-speed manual and even 0.2 seconds quicker with the seven-speed DCT tranny.
Photo Credit: BMW
But those numbers don’t even begin to hint at what the M2 is all about, which I experienced while throttling the compact coupe along Laguna Seca’s 3.4 miles and 11 corners of motor-head bliss. In generous eight-lap servings around the famed track, I was able to dig deeper into the M2’s performance limits with each successive loop. By the time I was into my second helping of laps, my confidence level in BMW’s latest ode to driving has my pulse racing but mind sharp and alert. There’s no panic; this car carves through sweepers with monstrous grip from the Michelin Pilot Super Sports rubber, allowing me to go faster and faster through each howling corner. And when entering difficult corners, like turn two’s decreasing radius, you learn quickly to trust the M’s four-piston caliper brakes (the very same found on the larger, heavier M4) to scrub off speed more efficiently than Mr. Clean mops up stains.
Even in Sport+ with the stability control as disabled as you can get it, the M2 remains incredibly well centered — especially for a car with all power delivered to the rear axle. If there’s any complaint at all, in fact, it’s that even with all the electronic nannies shut off, it’s very difficult for the M2’s reins to ever be yanked from your hands (barring spectacular bouts of stupidity, that is). Sure, there’s a bit of uncertainty compared to the M2’s predecessor, the beloved 1-Series M Coupe, but that is a shallow complaint in a car this superbly executed.
Photo Credit: BMW
Ultimate Driving Machine
In recent history, BMW has not been immune to charges of growing torpid, bloated by the demands of modern luxury and production expansion. It’s a fair complaint, even if the Bavarians are simply responding to market demands. But, the M2 plays out like an angry riposte from M Division engineers, who crafted the car as if insulted to the bone by the very notion it would be anything less than a genuine ‘ultimate driving machine.’