The BMW M Series is indubitably one of the most recognisable badges in the luxury / sports crossover marketplace, and with good reason: the marque continues to build great cars. While BMW has proved its ability to build cost-effective and slightly more ‘entry-level’ vehicles, with the ultra-likeable 1 & 2 Series, the M Series has always been a little out of reach and, dare I say, a little impractical for those of us who do most of our driving in the city. Up until now, that is.
An M vehicle isn’t just about giving a regular beemer a bit more power and a shiny new badge – it’s a raft of adjustments to the body, suspension, transmission, tyres – everything. The result is a firm ride that can corner on rails (or, just quietly, drift) when in the hands of a great driver. It’s punchy and fun, yet with the air of Germanic seriousness that only a BMW can espouse.
The first thing to note about the M2 is its petite size. Being a riff on the 2 Series, it’s a fair bit smaller than its M3 and M4 counterparts. And while it may not have all the bells and whistles of a more serious BMW, it still has all the hallmarks of quality European construction and design, and most importantly: it’s really, really quick.
The M2 comes fitted as standard with an automatic gearbox on a turbocharged 3.0L straight-six that’ll get you from 0-100 in 4.3 seconds, though, curiously, this isn’t the most fun version (but I’ll come to that in a second). The flappy paddle gear shifts are fun, and make you feel like a bona-fide racecar driver, but the original M Series was never really a race car – it was always a super-fun, upmarket version of a boy-racer. And unlike, say, the Volkswagen Golf GTI, it had rear-wheel drive, meaning you could do whatever you wanted through a corner and stay in control when you took it sideways.
This is where the M2 ‘Pure’ comes into play. While most marques tend to release a sportier edition of any high-performance vehicle, that generally comes with a few extra tricks under the hood, driver-assistance controls and some extra tuning, BMW have gone the other way, and decided to offer an “M2 Pure” version, which strips back some of the fancier inclusions from the M2 (including the flappy-paddle gearbox), and shaves AU$9,000 off the final price tag. For the manual gearbox alone, this was by far our favourite to drive.
While the automatic-transmission version of the M2 is a great car, there’s something about the manual gearbox M2 version that feels much truer to its roots. You lose .2 of a second in launch speed, but what you gain in feeling through the clutch and being able to pull low-rev torque is phenomenal. And 0-100 in 4.5 seconds is still incredibly fast, by any standards. At its core, an M is about feeling the road and having total control, without the electronic interference of other high-tech rides now available. As mentioned, one thing that’s instantly noticeable is the amount of torque the 6-cylinder engine pulls at low revs. While many modern cars have limiters on the amount of power available to the drivetrain at a lower RPM, usually to stop the thing from launching unreasonably quickly at every single green light, the M2 Pure doesn’t – your right foot has all the control.
The BMW M2 and M2 Pure are both practical and fun vehicles that have well and truly earned their stripes (literally – the three little stripes that adorn the “M” badge are a sought after accessory for what they represent). The M2 is everything an M vehicle should be, but with the added advantage of being a compact and versatile urban vehicle, and with a seriously tempting price tag.