It only takes a few minutes at the wheel and BMW’s new M2 will send have driving enthusiasts’ heart rates racing and die-hard Bimmer fans reaching for their checkbooks.

The 2016 M2 is a 2 Series on steroids. Built to withstand the rigors of track use/abuse, M2 is only available as a coupe. Despite its impressive arsenal of engineering tweaks, we were as stoked by the M2’s balance of power and handling as its specifications and performance metrics. And in normal commuting, the more aggressive side of its dual personality never becomes obnoxious.

Give the M2 points for poise.

Even before you press the start button to wake the compact BMW’s 365-horsepower, turbo-fortified inline six-cylinder engine, you enjoy the supportive black leather-covered sport seats and their tastefully subdued blue stitching, as well as the no-nonsense, elegantly clean black and carbon fiber trim.

Fire up the 3.0-liter six and the snarl from the low-restriction exhaust system’s quad tailpipes underscores why you’ve forked over $50K for an entry-level M machine. The six-speed manual is liquid-smooth and precise. There’s a dual-clutch, seven-speed gearbox available that delivers even quicker acceleration, but the M2’s slick six-speed is just fine, thank you.

In the manual M2s, putting the car in sport or sport-plus mode pays off with sensor-driven rev-matching downshifts.

Thanks to direct injection, twin-scroll turbocharging and variable valve timing, the M2 driver has 343 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,400 and 5,560 rpm at his or her disposal. Taking a page from military aviation, BMW’s included an overboost mode that hikes torque to 369 lb.-ft. between 1,450 and 4,750 rpm.

But trust us — you never have to go anywhere near overboost to enjoy that impressive sweet spot. In fact, 4th and 5th gear were delightfully versatile thanks to the forgiving reserve of grunt.

BMW said its M2 will max out at 155 mph and go from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. (The quick-shifting dual clutch transmission outsprints the manual by two-tenths of a second. It also costs an additional $2,900.)

Seen in the metal, BMW’s little coupe has a caricature quality given its aggressive, broad-shouldered stance. Like a Hot Wheel come to life, the M2 has massive tires to put the power to the pavement: the front 245/35R19s are 9.6-inches wide while the rears are just under an inch wider. While the staggered fitments will prevent normal tire rotation, at least the Michelin PilotSuper Sports are not run-flats.

The 2016 BMW M2 lists at $51,700. That MSRP doesn’t include destination or the $550 premium for the Long Beach Blue paint. The good news: there’s so much standard gear – 19-inch forged alloy wheels, auto dimming mirrors, universal garage door opener, alarm system, carbon fiber trim, heated front seats, online apps, xenon headlights with retractable washers, navigation, an admirable Harman/Kardon audio system that remained clean and accurate at ridiculously high volumes – most customers won’t be left wanting.

Our tester did have the executive package consisting of heated steering wheel, automatic high beams, rear parking sensors and camera, local speed limit notification that ties in to the M2’s GPS navigation system, and radar-based active-safety technology such as lane departure, city collision mitigation, pedestrian and front collision warning. We’re glad to see the cost of worthwhile tech come down – BMW charges $1,250 for the entire bundle, which should make that executive decision easy.

This BMW is fast, it’s powerful, and it’ll track like a cat. But with a curb weight of 3,450 pounds, it’s no lightweight. So, in addition to the go-fast goodies like oil pump baffling, aluminum chassis components borrowed from BMW’s M3 and M4, electronic limited-slip differential and the variable stability control system, there are measures to eke out a little more fuel economy.

Auto stop/start saves a bit of fuel by shutting down the engine when the vehicle comes to a halt. The moment you get back on the gas – unlike some other auto stop/start systems we’ve encountered, the M2’s does its thing very smoothly. Unless you have the stereo cranked up, the music from the M2’s aggressive exhaust will always tell you when it engages and disengages. (And yes, the feature can be disabled.)

Other fuel-saving tweaks include electric power steering and coolant pump, which only operate as needed. Not engaging the power steering in straight driving or when the M2 is stopped with engine idling is worth 0.6 miles per gallon, BMW said.

Fuel economy ratings rarely matter among those in the market for something from BMW’s M stable. Just ask Art Yee, who waited two years to get his M2.

“I preferred the agility of a smaller BMW, similar in size to the 1M Coupe I previously owned,” said Yee, 61. “I read about the possibility of the M2 in the Internet forums in 2014 and put a deposit down for it in June of 2014, long before the car was announced by BMW.”

His first BMW, a 528i, was purchased new in 1980. The M2 is the 17th Bimmer the cable-splicing technician has owned. Among the BMWs that have been in his garage were a 1995 M3 Coupe, 2007 M5 and a 2013 M3 Lime Rock Park Edition.
The Houston resident is looking forward to taking his Long Beach Blue M2 on road trips, occasional track and autocross outings and participating in his BMW club’s Octoberfest.

Still, he pines for one that got away.

“My very favorite was a 2002 Z8 with only 500 miles on it I bought in 2005,” Yee said. “I went on to put 12,000 miles on it in two years. I regret selling that car.”

2016 BMW M2
TYPE: Sport coupe
BASE PRICE: $51,700
MAJOR OPTIONS: Executive package, $1,250
DRIVETRAIN: turbocharged 3-liter V6; 6-speed manual; RWD
HORSEPOWER AND TORQUE: 365 hp at 6,500 rpm/343 lb.-ft. at 1,400-5,560 rpm (369 lb.-ft. with overboost)
FUEL: gas, 91 octane (93 recommended); 13.7-gallon tank
EPA ESTIMATED MPG: 18 city / 26 highway
CURB WEIGHT: 3,450 lbs.
SAFETY: NHTSA, not rated; IIHS, Top Safety Pick Plus

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