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What is BMW Alpina?

BMW Alpina Intro BMW is not without its rivals from its native Germany. Where the likes of Mercedes-Benz turn to their subsidiary Mercedes-AMG when they're looking for customized luxury models, BMW turns to Alpina. There are some who claim that you haven't truly...

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BMW M2 F87 N55

Visual + Performance Breakdown

Is it really that good?

Back in the early days when you wanted an affordable, luxurious, comfortable and fast saloon car that could happily potter along at highway speeds for hundreds of miles without so much as an odd hum but also embarrass most sports cars on a racetrack as you drove past them with a massive grin on your face you’d inevitably end up with a BMW M3. They were fast, taut and agile cars that could do the school run just as easily as they could devour a fast hairpin bend in a plume of their own tire smoke. However, if you take a look at the modern-day M3, you’ll see that it’s become a lot bigger and heavier over the years. It feels much less of a driver’s car now than the original E30 M3 that spawned it. So, if you’re looking to rekindle some of the magic that the M cars of yesteryear were practically overflowing with, BMW has a solution.  

It comes in the form of their latest and cheapest addition within the M division, and it’s called the BMW M2. It’s the successor to the BMW 1M that was coveted by motoring enthusiasts all around the world. They created it by cramming bits and pieces sourced from the E92 M3 into the tiny body of a 1 Series. They then went on to widen the wheels arches and out came a turbocharged inline-6 masterpiece that many believe to this day to be the best M car that BMW has ever made. Given the enormous success that the 1M had, for the M2, BMW went with the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” strategy. So, following the recipe from its predecessor the company took the suspension, the limited-slip differential and the brakes from a modern-day M4 and bolted them into a standard 2 Series, added some sporty yet tasteful changes to the exterior and debuted the M2.

Exterior

While the exterior of the M2 is instantly recognizable as a 2 Series, BMW have made a fair few changes that allow it to stand out from its less performance-focused siblings. On the front you get a much wider and aggressive front bumper, the arches are massively flared to house the grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sports that are 245/35R-19 in the front and 265/25R-19 at the back. Around the rear, it’s much the same story with a wider rear bumper and large quad tailpipes. All these changes give the M2 a very potent and aggressive stance that just screams “get out of my way” to other motorists on the road. It is a fantastic looking car; it isn’t as ostentatious as the M3/M4 and nor is it as sedate as the horrendous 2 Series Active Tourer. It’s just the right balance.

Engine & Performance

Much of the charismatic charm of the M2 comes from its N55 3.0 litre turbocharged inline-6 that produces 365bhp @ 6500rpm and a massive 369 lb-ft of torque at just 1450 rpm. Granted this N55 engine is much the same as you’d find in the lower end M235i. However, thanks to some extensive modification and some BMW witchcraft magic you’d be hard-pressed to think that the two cars share a single component. They started by fitting the forged crankshaft, piston rings and connecting rods from the M4. They then went on to develop a reshaped oil pan and a new oil drain pump that would allow the oil to circulate even under the most extreme of g-forces. Couple that with larger intercoolers and you end with a much different beast altogether in the BMW M2. Equipped with the manual transmission (which if you’re a keen driver is the obvious choice) , it will accelerate you to 60mph in a mere 4.4 seconds. It’s also available with BMW’s brilliant 7-speed Dual-clutch transmission which despite adding 55 pounds of extra weights manages to shave off 0.2 seconds from the 0-60 mph time. Top speed is limited to 155mph. 

Despite being turbocharged the N55 engine loves to rev all the way to its 7000rpm deadline, it’s much more linear and predictable then the engine in the M235i and it has more than enough grunt to kick its tail loose for some theatrical tire-shredding around the corners. With the torque being available so low down in the rev range and a curb weight of around 3450 pounds the M2 feels more eager and agile like the M3’s of the nineties. Except for the engine noise that is. Old BMW’s made a soulful and mechanical noise from their naturally aspirated inline-6’s that gearheads just couldn’t get enough off. The M2, however, feeds synthetic engine noises inside the cabin through the interior speakers, so the turbocharged snarl of the engine is rather disappointingly hidden behind the automotive equivalent of a T-Pain song.

That’s not the only bit of bad news either, we’re afraid. The N55 engine in the BMW M2 alongside other variations of the motor that can be found in various vehicles from the BMW range including the 1 Series to the 7 Series and its lineup of SUV’s do suffer from some common issues. Chief among which are water pump failure, leaking oil filter gasket, valve cover oil leak, fuel pump failure and VANOS solenoid failure. Despite it being a great engine, it still hasn’t managed to shake off the traditional foibles that plague almost every BMW ever made.

Handling

The BMW M2 is 8mm lower, and has a wheelbase that’s 3mm longer than the standard 2 Series. Couple that with the all-aluminium front and rear suspension from an M4 and you have all the key ingredients for a recipe of great handling. The M2 gives you the confidence to just chuck it around the corners at immense speed without any fear of you binning it. Everything from the chassis, engine, tires, differential, suspension and the steering add up to be not only the most engaging driving experience from an M vehicle but from almost any performance vehicle full stop.

Everything in the M2 is very linear and predictable, so you know at all times exactly where the limit is and how hard you can go around each corner. Thanks to the four-piston callipers at the front and two-piston units at the rear from the M4 you can expect to be breaking pretty late around each corner as well. However, in normal city driving, the stiff suspension of the M2 can lead to quite an uncomfortable ride. The M2 doesn’t have the same adaptable dampers like the M3/M4 so changing it into comfort mode will still have you bouncing around on potholes and bumpy roads.

Interior & Tech

The cabin inside an M2 sadly hasn’t received the same attention and love that the exterior and performance aspects have. Plasticky and dull are two words that come to mind when you first sit inside it. It’s not bad per se, however for a starting price of nearly $55,000 no one would blame you for expecting a bit more. 

Different from the standard 2 series are some heavily bolstered front seats, faux carbon fibre adorned trim panels, an M steering wheel and contrast stitching. Despite the criticisms, the interior still feeds well made and everything is exactly where you would expect it to be. Thankfully you do get a fair amount of equipment as standard, this includes bi-xenon headlights, power-adjustable seats with adjustable bolsters, heated seats and steering wheel, lane departure and collision warning, 8.8-inch infotainment display with navigation, a rearview camera, radar cruise control and a Harman Kardon Stereo. 

Practicality & Millage

Unlike its rivals such as the Porsche 718 Cayman and the Alpine A110, the BMW M2 is pretty practical. For starters, it’s rear seats are actually big enough for two adults to climb into, it’s not particularly spacious by any means but its more than manageable for short journeys, which is a lot more than can be said about its rivals. With a trunk capacity of 391 litres, its also big enough to store items that you’d actually use, unlike the Porsche or Alpine that can only comfortably fit bespoke luggage kits specially designed for them. 

When it comes to running costs, the M2 shouldn’t be all that different than the M235i. Equipped with the DCT transmission the M2 can manage an average of around 30mpg, while the manual drops that down to around 28 mpg. While that’s by no means class-leading, it isn’t catastrophic either. However, if you intend to be driving everywhere at full tilt be prepared to spend quite a bit on your frequent fuel stops, and even more for replacing the tires. 

Conclusion

The best way to sum up the BMW M2 is to describe it as a love letter, a love letter to the era of M cars where BMW’s slogan for “the ultimate driving machine” stood true. If you’re in the market for a small, fast and engaging little coupe that can happily ferry you to and from work each morning and excite the inner child in you on a weekend cruise, the M2 is the car to get. 

BMW Alpina
Alpina

What is BMW Alpina?

BMW Alpina Intro BMW is not without its rivals from its native Germany. Where the likes of Mercedes-Benz turn to their subsidiary Mercedes-AMG when they're looking for customized luxury models, BMW turns to Alpina. There are some who claim that you haven't truly...