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Trying to tame the BMW M2

19.07.2016

The BMW 1M, which graced us with its presence a few years ago and was hailed by some as the greatest M car of our time. It was based on the 1 Series coupe and featured bits and bobs from other M cars, for example the rear axle was from the BMW M3 and the engine was from a Z4 35is. Produced in limited number the 1M became a motoring icon overnight. I now find myself behind the wheel of the BMW M2, a car said to be the successor of the 1M. Well, is it?

For starters my test car was finished in what BMW calls, Long Beach Blue. It’s a kind of blue meets turquoise. I, along with just about everyone who saw the car loves it. Moving to the front, like the 1M the M2 features a busy front end in terms of its bumper. Many bulges, grooves and slats will fill the rear view mirror of many a sports car. It looks aggressive yet to be honest I didn’t like it at first. I will admit that the looks grew on me over my time with the car, especially when viewed from the side. The coupe design ensures that the car remains sleek. I particularly like the wide wheel arches at the rear, they house some big rubber.

Moving to the rear I will say that I’m not a fan of the reflector lenses which are placed vertically on either end of the bumper, it looks too much like the X6. Other than that there are the iconic quad tailpipes that protrude from the lower end of the rounded, wider bumper.

Step inside and the M2 looks and feels very similar to other 2 Series models on which it is based. Look around a bit and you will notice some blue stitching along with Alcantara inserts on the doors as well as on the handbrake lever. In true BMW M fashion there is a little rounded BMW M-DCT gear knob which lets you choose between 7 gears. I also found that the raw carbon fibre insets throughout the cabin also add a hint of sportiness.

Infotainment is controls are supplied via iDrive and a high definition display mounted in the dashboard. Behind the steering wheel you will find that the dials have been finished in grey, this is typical of the M division. What’s also typical of M cars is the price, our test unit carried a sticker price of over R900 000 thanks so some optional extras. Thankfully its base price is below that at around R859 606 for the manual version.

Now having the car in my care I couldn’t just drive it around town, I needed to unleash that turbocharged six-cylinder 272kW/465Nm (for brief moments you get 500Nm with over boost) beast under the bonnet. I thus decided to head down to the Lowveld in search of some epic driving roads, however road trips can get quite boring when travelled alone so I invited a friend of mine who just so happens to own a mint BMW 1M.

It didn’t take us long to find a quiet stretch of impeccable road, full of long sweeps, tight turns and intimidating drop-offs.

I put the young gun into Sport mode and set off. Queue Top Gun’s danger Zone theme music…

Off the line the car will hit 100km/h in 4.3 seconds. The acceleration hit me in the chest as if I was hit by an MMA fighter. Change up a gear under hard acceleration and the rear end slithers for a moment. Grip from the rear is impressive, once it gets going and the steering feel is good, wind it up and the aural pleasure encourages you to go faster. I found myself able to push a bit harder and faster the more I drove it. Don’t think that this little Smurf is in anyway tame, it’s not. Proof of this was confirmed when I decided to be brave and switch over to Sport+ mode. This mode lets the traction control system turn a blind eye to many a situation. After sliding out of a few corners with my eyes closed I decided to reengage the traction control, partly because if I got it wrong there was no cell phone reception to call for help. You really do need to be awake if you want to drive these new M cars with the aids off.

So what about its older brother, who I was not able to shake off. I jumped into the 1M, the first time in my life by the way. Sure the interior is not as modern as the M2 but it still looks and feels good for its age. As with the M2 there are many alcantara inserts throughout the cabin and the dials, finished in grey feature some yellow and red on the rev-counter. Forget about M-DCT, this baby has an old school 6-speed manual gearbox. Its twin turbo 250kW/450Nm engine is eager and sounds just as good as that of the M2.

I set off and after a few corners I was scared. Unlike the M2, the 1M has a very light steering, even in Sport mode. What’s more is that the traction control seems to interfere more, so naturally, I switched it off, not knowing that at around 4000rpm the car give a slight boost in power. Wrestling with it, trying to learn its ways I started getting into a groove with it and just when I thought that we were buddies it would kick me in the shins and remind me where I stand with it.

The 1M feels more jittery, on edge if you will than the M2. It feels, is a word, pure, and I like that. As for the M2 though, well it definitely feels similar to the 1M, they share the same temperament, and that’s a good thing because the 1M has been said to be the ultimate M car of our time.

 

Article written by Justin Jacobs
19.07.2016
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