BMW's baby M is dynamite in a small package | Fin24
 
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BMW's baby M is dynamite in a small package

May 18 2016 14:34
Glenda Williams
Forged 19-inch aluminium wheels with mixed-size ty

Forged 19-inch aluminium wheels with mixed-size tyres provide great grip and contribute to the dynamic ride. (Picture supplied).

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Over 40 years ago it was the BMW 2002 turbo that excited buyers in the high-performance compact car segment.

But for high-performance Beemer enthusiasts, BMW M (motorsport) division’s red, blue and purple M badge is the ultimate symbol of sports performance. Combining compact with the hardcore M series badge has been long overdue.

But the wait was worth it because BMW’s entry point to the M family, the M2 coupé, is a cracker.

South Africa had its part to play in the history of that red, blue and purple M badge with the 1976 race-bred BMW 530.

Inspiring a generation of performance-loving South Africans to such a degree, the company was fired up to produce the BMW 530 MLE (motorsport limited edition) road-going version for locals.

A unique and pioneering machine for the era, it was a standout in terms of the M badge colours it sported, its distinctive front and rear spoilers and a particularly dynamic driving experience that was aided by the car’s unique dogleg 5-speed gearbox.

Besides performance, the car had soul, heaps of it, a quality sadly lacking in many of today’s technically proficient vehicles.

A couple of laps around the track at the Franschhoek Motor Museum in the M2 do not constitute a real test. It was more of an hors d’oevre rather than a main meal.

But what it did reveal was a hint of soul. And I’m willing to bet that the 6-speed manual (not tested) may offer even more of a suggestion of this.

There’s more than a hint of the M2’s prowess in its athletic features. Its low-slung, wide stance, hefty air intakes, muscular flanks and M gills and sloping rear together with twin tailpipe exhaust system all reflecting the inspiration that has come from BMW’s motor racing history.

Essential for high-performance cars are cooling and oil pressure stability. Both have been addressed, with the M2 benefitting from an additional radiator, while a modified oil sump secures constant oil supply and pressure.

To ensure reliability, a number of the M2’s components have been sourced from its M3 and M4 siblings – the axle, brakes, pistons, crankshaft and M Servotronic steering settings among them.

There was little time to take note of cabin offerings as it was a case of hop in and hit the track. But the sporty racing detail is evident throughout; in the blue contrast stitching on the low-set sports seats that allow for excellent driver support, on the M sports steering wheel and the M gearshift lever.

A noticeable addition to the standard BMW infotainment offering is the GoPro app to monitor performance on the track. Very handy for speed freaks.

As to how it drives, it’s going to be brief given the bite-sized sampling. Nor was the sampling time enough to inspire adventurous undertakings like dabbling with the M Dynamic Mode to allow wheel slip and controlled drifts. Well, for me anyway.

I was only just getting the hang of the racing line and the measure of the explosive performance that the bespoke 3-litre 6-cylinder engine puts out.

But it was a thrilling few laps and I can impart the short answer. This pocket rocket looks powerful and is. The M2 is the MotoGP safety car so that was always going to be a given. It’s very fast, very planted and very agile especially through the corners.

This potent rear-wheel-drive baby M with its firm ride aided by the stiff, lightweight aluminium MSport suspension and shorter wheelbase is perfectly poised, sticking to the track like Velcro. All this together with seamless power delivery and precision steering inspires confidence to wind the car up.

It may have been a blisteringly quick sample, but on the track the M2 is a delight to drive. It did feel more like the older and purer M cars of the past; less watered down, more authentic.

Just enough refinement and poise, but no more than is needed to allow the unique character of the car to shine through.

BMW is looking to attract more of the younger set into the M brand and this entry-level, more “affordable” baby of the hardcore M family may enable them to do that.

For M badge enthusiasts hoping to realise their dreams of owning a true M series high-performance sports car and for petrolheads whose love of performance and speed course through their veins, this baby M is likely to rank high as their weapon of choice.

This article originally appeared in the 12 May 2016 edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here

car  |  race  |  speed  |  bmw
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