The BMW M2 Coupe has rocketed into South Africa. Ryan Bubear had a fleeting taste of this exciting new performance coupe at the local launch...
At first glance, the BMW M2 Coupe has all the attributes of a proper compact performance hero. It's rear-wheel drive, with a deliciously short wheelbase. A burly six-cylinder mill is buried beneath the bonnet. And it can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox, should that tickle your left-hand's fancy.
Indeed, the fresh entry-level offering from the M Division is effectively the long-awaited successor to the acclaimed BMW 1 Series M Coupe (or 1M Coupe, as it became known), which saw its limited production run ruthlessly concluded as far back as mid-2012.
So, the wait has been an exceedingly long one. But has it been worth it? Well, on first impressions — from the menacing styling, with suggestive bulges in all the right places, to the creamy six-pot connected to the rear rubber — there's little doubt.
Interestingly, the Munich-based automaker has opted to use the 3.0-litre straight-six engine from the frankly fantastic M235i as a base (which means it makes do with a single twin-scroll turbocharger) rather than simply detuning the M4's twin-turbo unit. But the uprated M2 powerplant does pilfer various high-performance engine components — such as the pistons and crankshaft main bearing shells — from its bigger M-badged brother.
The result is a considerable peak output of 272kW at 6500rpm, coupled with a meaty 465Nm available from a pleasingly flat 1400rpm all the way through to 5560rpm (with an extra 35Nm on overboost, to boot). Linked to the manual cog-swapper — which features automatic throttle-blipping on downshifts — the requisite blast from zero to 100km/h takes 4.5 seconds, while specifying the optional dual-clutch transmission shaves off a further two-tenths.
If you're all about such sprint times, you'll likely be fascinated to know that the new M2 is a full half-a-second quicker to three figures than the M235i, and a mere two-tenths off the pace set by the far more expensive M4. Yes, comparisons with its two most closely related brethren are simply unavoidable.
Of course, it doesn't help that the M2 makes further unashamed raids on the M4 parts-bin, pinching (and retuning) its pricier sibling's lightweight aluminium front and rear axles (with an Active M Differential on the latter), some braking components, as well as a fair number of the M-upgraded cabin's bits and bobs.
But what's the new BMW M2 Coupe like in the real world? Well, we unfortunately can't provide a definitive answer, since there was just a single M2 to share amongst a large group of journalists at the local launch, which meant it wasn't possible to experience it on the road.
Instead, we had but a handful of laps on a private track at the Franschhoek Motor Museum, interspersed with runs in other tasty M products. Handily, we managed to lay our paws on a BMW M235i (fitted with a manual gearbox and a few M Performance parts) for our first stint.
From there, we jumped into the M2 (equipped with the seven-speed dual-clutch), which provided us with the perfect chance to compare the two. And, despite the fact that there's just 32kW and 15Nm in it, the differences are significant.
With its wider front and rear tracks, as well as the lightweight M suspension setup (refreshingly devoid of adjustable damping), the beautifully balanced M2 feels significantly more agile and even grippier than the M235i — and that's saying something. And the uprated torque-heavy engine revs freely to its 7000rpm limit (emitting a lovely sound in the process), even though it unquestionably does its best work in the mid-range.
It's also interesting to note that the sweet-steering BMW M2 comes across as somewhat more forgiving of driver ineptitude than its larger M-badged siblings, a characteristic shared with what could be considered its major rivals: the Audi RS 3 Sportback quattro and the Mercedes-AMG A 45 4Matic.
But, unlike these all-wheel drive hot hatch competitors, the Leipzig-built M2 Coupe can be had with a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive. Sure, it's a little more expensive (even than the CLA 45), but it seems an entirely more visceral, arguably more striking machine.
Question is, is it worth some R200k more than the M235i? We're tempted to say it is, although at this stage, it matters little. You see, only 63 units have been set aside for South Africa for the rest of 2016, and all have already been sold. Indeed, local demand is certain to exceed local supply far into the future.
What about looking further up the range to the M4, then? Well, here you'd be spending well over R300k more. And while the M4 is undoubtedly a crushingly quick piece of kit, is it quite as fun as the M2? Well, our all-too-brief encounter suggests that it simply isn't.
Ultimately, while the BMW M2 Coupe may well effectively be the tamest model in the current M Division line-up — in keeping with its "entry-level" M status — it's also arguably the purest.
Worth the wait? Undoubtedly.
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See page two for specs and pricing.