Kiwis will need to be quick to snap up BMW's new M2 sports coupe
BMW is inherently linked to the colour blue thanks to its logo, but the brand has taken that hue a step further with the launch of the all-new M2 sports coupe.
With a 40-year link to the German brand, the M2 was unveiled by BMW in October 2015, before its world debut at the Detroit motor show in January this year.
As a successor to the 1 Series M Coupe, the vehicle goes on sale in New Zealand this month with the company expecting Kiwis to snap up the first shipment.
While you can get the all-new M2 in Mineral Grey, Alpine White or Black Sapphire, it's the hero colour of Long Beach Blue that not only transforms the coupe but will prove to be a popular selection if Driven's test-drive period was anything to go by.
During our drive of the M2, not only did multiple drivers and passengers do double-takes but, when it was parked, many passers-by told me they loved the blue.
The colour highlighted the M styling of the coupe with its low front apron and large air intakes, low rear with double twin tailpipes and muscular haunches.
Photo / Ted Baghurst
Inside, there was a carbon-fibre trim adding a sophisticated appeal, while blue stitching on the leather interior was a delightful touch.
But it's what's beneath the Long Beach Blue panels of the M2 that made this car striking.
The M2 has BMW's new 3-litre, six-cylinder inline petrol engine with M twin power turbo technology to provide 272kW of power at 6500rpm and 465Nm of torque between 1400-5560rpm, and for short bursts 500Nm of torque between 1450-4750rpm.
To cap it off, it has a top speed of 250km/h with 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds -- and it's tempting to try to match that figure.
My M2 was paired with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (DCT), while paddles attached to the M style steering wheel were great when I flicked the transmission to manual mode and blipped through the gears myself.
Priced from $114,900, the M2 competes performance-wise in the premium segment with Audi's newly launched RS 3, and Mercedes-AMG's pair of CLA 45 4Matic coupe and A45 4Matic hatchback, while you could even sneak in the Porsche Cayman and Alfa Romeo's 4C as rivals to the BMW coupe.
But the M2 also has the much-vaulted M3 sedan and M4 coupe as BMW sibling rivals.
The direct competitor, the M4 coupe, costs from $170,900 with the 3-litre inline six-cylinder engine providing 550Nm/317kW of punch.
Size-wise, there's not much in it with the M4 4671mm long compared with the M2's 4468mm but it's the squat appearance and low-profile 19in alloys that make the M2 coupe look much smaller.
Photo / Ted Baghurst
So does the M2 compete against its siblings?
Bad luck M3/M4, the youngest member of the M family proved to be the favoured child -- this coupe is a pure delight to drive.
First there's the noise -- the turbo undertone even when pottering around the city, then tap the accelerator or blip down a gear, and you get the exhaust pop and crackle.
As I had snaffled the M2 for over the Easter long weekend, I needed to not only share the pleasure from the sports coupe but also to test it with a road trip on the Saturday from Auckland to Pauanui via the Miranda backroads to visit friends who were holidaying on the Coromandel.
On the Southern Motorway, I kept the car in comfort mode due not only to the zero speed tolerance enforced for the holiday break, but also because the low-profile tyres mixed with the uneven bitumen meant a bumpy few kilometres inside the BMW.
But turning off towards Miranda, and waving goodbye to the queues of traffic on SH2, I switched to sport mode and let fly as I overtook a few campervans and slow-poke locals.
The slight weight of the rear-wheel drive M2 at 1495kg combined with lightweight aluminium M Sport suspension and the power from the 3-litre, plus the M2's snugness to the road, provided one of the most sensational drives I've had in a "cheap" sports performance car.
It easily handled the rise and fall of the country road heading down to the Firth of Thames and -- using the paddles and nipping down gears, it easily negotiated a few sharp corners before the Miranda turnoff.
Photo / Ted Baghurst
Once in Pauanui, I loaded up friends Lance and Charlotte, and their 4-year-old nephew Sam, to take them for a blat to nearby Tairua, giving the M2 a test of road-trip worthiness.
The rear seats were fine for the petite Charlotte and Sam in his car seat, while the tall Lance had head room to spare in the front seat.
Future motoring writer Sam was impressed with the exhaust notes and approved of the colour scheme, while the car-enthusiast adults reckoned there was too much soundproofing in the cabin so the only way you could appreciate the sound of the M2 was with the windows down.
Heading back to Auckland, sans passengers, I made the stupid mistake of taking SH2.
The 90km/h speed restriction, plus the rows of traffic meant the M2 couldn't perform to its expectations so had a sedentary journey; this wasn't what BMW had created the M2 to deal with.
Though we're only just into the second quarter of 2016, I reckon the BMW M2 will be frontrunner for Driven's performance car of the year.
Price: $114,900 3-litre, six cylinder twin turbo engine Pros: Small package, big fun. Cons: Low profile tyres equals bumpy ride