More of a good thing

More of a good thing

The BMW M2’s goodness as a largely unfiltered driver’s car has earned it a place among the M-brand’s greatest hits. Much of its fun behind the wheel has been transferred to the newly designed 2 Series, especially the stronger-than-ever M240i model. But where is the next generation M2? We still don’t know much about that car, but BMW invited us to drive prototypes at the 2.6-mile Salzburgring race track in Austria to find out more.

Starting the M2 prototype produced the same throbbing six-cylinder growl we heard in our long-lasting M3, and the controls of both cars share a similarly satisfying action. The manual—yes, a gear stick is fitted, complete with automatic rev adjustment—fits in the gates with a positive, if slightly rubbery feel. The ZF automatic, meanwhile, rips through its gears at a rate we can only blame for not being all that engaging. The weather conditions prevented us from pushing the M2s hard enough to measure feedback levels or tell them how much sharper they were into corners than before, which the M engineers said was their goal. But the overall feel is one of a tidy, highly responsive sports coupe that wraps you up at speed like the previous car. Where the larger M4 exhibits stability bordering on that of a large touring car, the M2 feels livelier and more willing to spin under power. His playfulness remains intact.

Unfortunately, after a few rounds of reconnaissance in camouflaged mules equipped with both an eight-speed automatic and a six-speed manual, Mother Nature has run out of time. The sprinkles started to fall as soon as we left the pit lane, which immediately made for a sketchy surface. Continued rain soon gave way to a torrential downpour, and the cars soon started to spew hail tails, even at moderate speeds. As small rivers flowed across the track, the red flag flew and the track went cold.

However, this gave us time to chat with the M engineers sheltering in the paddock. They were hesitant about some details of the car ahead of its official debut later this year (it will go on sale next spring), but they were candid about the next high-level M2: it’s a junior M4. Beneath its stiffer body are essentially the guts of the latest M4 coupe and M3 sedan, including their S58 twin-turbo inline-six, their rear-wheel drive gearboxes and hardware, and their brakes. Even the staggered 19-inch front and 20-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires at the rear will be M4 spec.

Like the new 2 Series, the M2’s wheelbase will be about two inches longer than the last-gen model’s 106.0 inches, and it’ll be about two inches wider than the already wide-shouldered 2022 M240i’s 72 .4 centimeters. For reference, the current M4 has 112.5 inches between the axles and is 74.3 inches wide. We’re told that technological advancements and added structural rigidity will bring a small increase in curb weight compared to the last M2 CS, which weighed 3544 pounds on our scales. Engine power should be close to that car’s 444 horsepower – robust, but fitting below the M4’s 473 horsepower baseline. No word yet on a future M2 Competition model, but more powerful variants are sure to come in time. Expect 60mph mid-three second times and over 1.0g of cornering grip. Fortunately, toning down the experience with a four-wheel drive system doesn’t seem to be part of the plan.

The M2’s interior treatment is likely to mimic the straightforwardness of the 2 Series it’s based on, and the slightly polished exterior should make it look like an M240i with a CrossFit regime. Pricing should keep enough distance from the M4’s $72,995 starting point, probably just north of $60K. Other than that, we just have to wait. But our all-too-brief initial exposure gave us plenty to look forward to from one of BMW M’s best products.

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