BMW M2: Ground effects with sound effects
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In the boot of the BMW M2, there’s a tiny button that provides for big laughs.
You’ll notice it (or maybe you won’t — it’s small) fixed to the inner skin of the luggage compartment. It’s red but otherwise innocuous. Indeed, it looks like an after-market addition.
Which, it kind of is. And then there’s another — much smarter, more “official”-looking — button on top of a small cylinder nestled in a special insert in one of the car’s centre-stack cupholders.
What you do is this: open the boot, push the little red button once and then close the boot lid again. Proceed to the driver’s door, hop in, push the button on top of the cylinder twice, wait for a red LED to illuminate and then press the car’s ignition button.
What is all this Thunderbirds-esque nonsense?
Well, if you like your performance cars shouty in the extreme, then it’s all for a good cause.
The car I drove arrived with the dealer-fit option of an M Performance sports exhaust system, which is in itself a raucous mod. On top of that in this car, though, is the Track Mode Function, designed to give you the sort of acoustics you’d normally associate with a DTM race car.
The system works via Bluetooth (the secondary button inside the cabin) and requires that the driver go through a two-step deployment process because of a loophole in the drive-by noise legislation to which European car manufacturers need to adhere … and that I don’t fully understand.
Think of it as “opting in” to receive an ear-bashing. The system essentially opens up a separate flap in the exhaust system and straight-pipes the sound of the engine out through the back of the car, bypassing the muffler. So far, so very race car.
The M Performance system is a $5500 option and the car I drove even had a further $2000 worth of carbonfibre exhaust-tip finishers fitted. That’s a lot of coin to annoy the neighbours.
Why am I driving the M2 again at all? It’s just had a bit of a mid-life refresh, although you’d be forgiven for not noticing. Which, I hasten to add, is a good thing.
BMW got the look of this thing spot on when it launched it at the end of 2015. Changes to some of the brightwork and the updating of the infotainment system – to BMW’s new, and handy, tiled touchscreen – are the highlights. Pretty much everything else, including the engine, remains unchanged.
Based around the BMW M235i coupe bodyshell, the M2 is no dress-up. This is a genuine M car featuring mechanical elements pilfered straight from the big-brother M3 sedan/M4 coupe combo.
Fun fact: the M2 is, dimensionally speaking, almost lineball with the footprint of the original E30 M3.
The car’s aluminium axles, suspension and electronically controlled Active M differential is taken straight out of the M3/M4. The M2 also has a “proper” M gearbox; a seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission (M DCT). The M2’s Twin Power twin turbo six-cylinder pushes out 272kW and 465Nm torque and accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.
The price has gone up by around $3000 to $117,050. But if you’re in the market for a premium-end sports car, the M2 remains priced just acceptably enough to have writers like me falling over themselves to haul out the “bang for buck” cliche.
Last time I drove this car was around the crumbly old Hungaroring track near Budapest in Hungary. Despite the abrasive nature of the Soviet-spec 4.4km track, the M2 was a bundle of fun through its fast corners.
Back then, Jorg Bartels from BMW’s M Division, told me plain-and-simple that the M2 is designed from the outset to be the complete package.
What he meant was, there’s no need for extra options because the coupe does everything an enthusiast needs it to do straight out of the box.
If the sound a car makes is vital to your enjoyment of it, then the M2 won’t disappoint.
Actually, nothing about it will disappoint. It feels like an old-school racer, with a stripped-down vibe (albeit with Navigation System Professional technology and a Harman Kardon sound system). It’s probably my favourite BMW M car of the past decade.
Personally, however, I wouldn’t worry about the “loud button”. The car fires up with the usual dramatic crescendo these sorts of sports models do nowadays, before settling down to a polite burble after 30 seconds or so. Then, with the “Sport” button engaged, which opens up the baffles anyway, and a lovely pop-and-crackle on the overrun, the M2 still scratches that acoustic itch without any need for extra Bluetooth jiggery-pokery.
It’s an interesting wee party trick, but it’s still gimmicky. And something as straight-forward heart-and-soul engaging as the M2 doesn’t need gimmicks.
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder Twin Power twin turbo (272kW/465Nm)
Pro: Dynamic ability, price, “loud button” if you want it
Con: Not great for neighbourly relations if you’re an early commuter