In recent years, BMW has been pretty free in throwing its vaunted 'M' badge around, applying that label to M Sport packages available on nearly all its models. True M cars are something special, though, and BMW is about to add a new one: the 2016 M2.
Based on the 2 Series coupe, this latest member of Bimmer's high-performance family uses a turbocharged 3.0L six-cylinder engine BMW says is "newly-developed," but shares pistons and main bearing components with the inline six from the M3/M4. With those bits in place, it generates 365 hp at 6,500 rpm, and 343 lb-ft of torque at 1,400 rpm, with an overboost function adding another 26 lb-ft between 1,450 and 4,750 rpm.
Bimmer says that's enough power to move the M2 from a stop to 100 km/h in 4.3 seconds when fitted with the optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) and its launch control function; the standard six-speed manual allows a 4.5-second sprint.
But going fast isn't as easily as all that, apparently.
BMW says weekend track warriors benefit from a new engine oiling system. Under hard acceleration, a special sump cover limits the movement of oil under hard acceleration, while a suction pump ensures adequate oil supply to the turbocharger. And when the driver brakes heavily, another pump pushes oil to the rear part of the sump.
Extra cooling is also a consideration in hard driving, so the M2 gets a secondary rad for the engine, and cars fitted with the DCT get a transmission oil cooler.
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Like other such transmissions, the DCT uses its two clutches to engage one ratio while pre-selecting the next for quicker responses. Likewise, the launch control function chooses the ideal "getaway" rpm, and then bangs off upshifts at the optimal engine speed for the most rapid acceleration possible.
The six-speed stick gets a few tricks, too, using automatic rev-matching to smooth both up- and downshifts, a carbon fibre friction lining is said to enhance shift precision, and dry-sump lubrication ensures an "efficient supply of lubricant." When you want to practice your own heel-and-toe shifting, DSC OFF mode deactivates the rev-matching function.
An active differential is here, both to boost performance in hard cornering and improve traction in slippery conditions. BMW says the diff's locking function is electronically controlled, varying between zero and 100 percent, based on road conditions, driver behaviour, and inputs from sensors measuring steering angle, accelerator position, brake pressure, engine torque, wheel speed, and yaw rate. Then, an electric motor can apply full lock in as little as 150 milliseconds. In slippery conditions, the differential will apply partial lock even in gentle acceleration in order to improve traction and stability.
It's fine to have all this technology working to theoretically improve the driving experience, but in the end, this is still a sports car, and sports cars should sound good. To that end, BMW stuck a flap system in the M2's exhaust both to minimize back-pressure, and provide a distinctive engine note drivers can customize using the driving dynamic control system.
BMW says it saved weight, both sprung and unsprung, through the use of aluminum suspension components, like control arms, wheel carriers, and axle subframes. Nineteen-inch forged wheels also designed to cut heft are wrapped in M2-exclusive 19-inch tires the manufacturer says contribute to the car's "outstanding dynamic properties." Those tires are staggered in size, the nine-inch wide front wheels fitted with 245/35R19s, while the 10-inch wide rears get 265/35R19s.
Electric power steering (EPS) is a controversial topic among BMW fans, but nonetheless makes an appearance in the new M2. The automaker says it has tuned the car's EPS setup to deliver "direct steering feel and precise feed back both in track and everyday driving, transmitting to the driver all the necessary information about the grip available at the tires." The driver can use the driving dynamic control selector to adjust the amount of steering assistance.
But the use of EPS is often less about performance than efficiency, and BMW tells us the M2's steering assist requires no electricity when the car is travelling in a straight line, reducing drag on the electrical system, and consequently, cutting fuel consumption.
BMW hasn't yet published fuel consumption figures for the M2, nor has it set pricing. That information will all come to light in spring of 2016, when the brand's latest sports car is set to go on sale.