The muscular BMW M2 Coupe and even more potent M4 Coupe have unique ways of delivering driving thrills.
THE very first BMW M3 (E30) wrote the book on sheer driving pleasure in the shape of an everyday car. It remains an icon in automotive history.
BMW’s quest for supremacy, however, meant that as time went by, the M3 grew bigger and faster, until it finally left a space below it for a smaller, more playful machine.
One such machine is the limited production 1 Series M Coupe, which received critical acclaim when it was launched in 2011.
The M2, which arrives four years later, succeeds the 1 Series M Coupe. More importantly, it carries the promise of being the E30’s spiritual successor. The M2’s pedigree couldn’t be finer, and enthusiasts’ expectations couldn’t be weightier.
I must confess that I am a Bimmer fan. Growing up, my favourite reads were my parents’ brand catalogues and quarterly BMW magazines.
Before I was even tall enough to see over the dashboard, I found something alluring and bewitching about the E30 M3, which looks like my mother’s 316i but can run rings around most cars on public roads.
As I get into the salted-eggyolk yellow, quadruple-tailpipe M4, I rub my hands in both glee and trepidation at meeting the latest incarnation of my childhood hero.
(top) is more
My first impressions of the car are indeed positive. The M4’s inline 6-cylinder awakens with an anti-social boom. There is a perpetual growling ferocity about the M4 that loudly advertises its specialness to the casual observer, before a challenging road is even encountered.
It is not long before I find a stretch of highway and let it rip. Yes, the M4 is equipped with what BMW calls “Active Sound Design”, but the ruckus piped in through the sound system doesn’t sound different from outside – it is merely amplified.
Delivering a mixture of mechanical rasp and the deep bellow of what a dragon’s tantrum probably sounds like, the S55 motor propels the M4 in direct tandem with my right foot.
Calls for power are immediately and handsomely delivered. Withdrawals of said requests result in the immediate retractions of revs. If there is a turbocharger (or two) in there, I cannot tell. This is a fine motor brimming with character, and a mostly angry one at that.
I never take the M4 past three-quarters of its potential on a public road. Show me someone who has, and I’ll show you someone who has catapulted himself in the direction of Changi Prison.
The car obliges with authority as I attack corners. You can expect confident braking, eager turn-in and tenacious bite – all of which the M4 delivers in spades.
The M4’s front seats are sportier than the M2’s, but the driving positions in both cars are spot on.
There is a meatiness here that eludes more pedestrian versions of the 3 Series and 4 Series models, none of which possesses the M4’s resolute body control and disciplined weight transfer.
These characteristics result from upgrades that include a subframe mounted directly to the body sans rubber bushings.
Like a sledgehammer-sized surgeon’s scalpel, the M4 is direct, precise and ballistic.
M3s have always enjoyed an endearing reputation as supreme drift machines, based on their permissive and progressive release of traction.
But the opposite is true of the current-gen M3 and M4 models.
The M4’s grip can suddenly elude you, especially when it is inelegantly provoked.
I’m made keenly aware of this during a poorly judged attempt at overtaking a lumbering SBS bus. The admonishing yellow light flashing on the instrument panel indicates my salvation via traction control. I whisper a “thank you” to the electronic gods.
"THE M4 BULLIES CORNERS INTO SUBMISSION, WHILE THE M2 SKILFULLY DANCES ITS WAY THROUGH BENDS."
has a 61bhp
The M4 is like a surgeon who, in the corner of his eye, has the glint of an axe murderer. Don’t think for a second that this is the kind of car whose tail you can wag gently through a wet corner. If you want to use its power, you’d better be paying attention.
Emerging exhilarated from the M4’s sheer vehemence, I get behind the wheel of the M2. and immediately feel like I’m in friendlier company.
Without M-specific embellishments, the M2’s cockpit is the same as the one in the 2 Series Coupe. Crucially, it has the same number of useable seats and a boot large enough for non-Ikea shopping trips. The driving position is spot on, and I waste no time setting off.
BMW’s Driving Experience Control has only three settings in the M2: Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus, none of which alters the suspension.
Unlike the M4, which indulges you to the point of confusion with its numerous customisable settings, there are far fewer settings to mess around with in the M2. That’s good.
On the go, I immediately notice the M2’s smaller size. Now, the M4 is no bull in a china shop, but it feels a lot heftier on its feet despite only being 20kg heavier than the M2.
The traffic clears and with that comes the opportunity to put my foot down. The M2 gives away 61bhp to the M4, but it is nevertheless capable of surging forward with exemplary throttle response.
On the other hand, an M4 driver in his soggiest post-work mood with all the settings dialled down will still receive hammer blows to his ears and back whenever he accelerates.
"LIKE A SLEDGEHAMMERSIZED SURGEON’S SCALPEL, THE M4 IS DIRECT, PRECISE AND BALLISTIC."
The M2 (top
right) has an
the M4 (right)
This doesn’t mean that the M2 is slower in the real world. It is as fast as the M4 on a semicongested road, and its less bellicose nature lets you reach its limits at your own pace.
Now, while the M4 may be the master of bullying corners into submission, the M2 is skilled at joyously skating and dancing its way through any bend or gap in traffic that you care to attack.
The M2’s wider tracks compared to those of a regular 2 Series Coupe not only serve an aesthetic purpose, they also endow the car with a fantastic directional stability that complements its twinkletoed agility.
I find myself applying the power much earlier as I exit corners (or even in the middle of them) in the M2 than in the M4. No doubt this is because there is less power to apply, but it is also mostly from my confidence in the car’s ability to forgive.
BMW M4 3.0 (A)
BMW M2 3.0 (A)
When the fun is over, you can enjoy a confidence-inspiring and fluid ride home. So satisfying is the drive that even office commutes can become the highlight of your day. In this setting, the M2 does a better job of pretending to be a normal car – an impression confirmed by my fiancé’s distinctly less grumpy disposition in the passenger seat.
However, this may not go down well with drivers who are expecting to be instantly blown away after spending more than $300,000 on a sports car. With its horsepower advantage and wider tyres, the M4 is a more potent and violent weapon than the M2. Given the right circumstances (read: racetrack), it will leave the M2 in its dust.
After all, the M4 is six seconds faster than the M2 around the Nurburging. If you’re in the enviable position of being able to afford either of these two machines, but only intend to drive it within our little island, the questions to ask yourself are: How often will you miss the M4’s racecar-forthe-road brutality, and would you really prefer that to the M2’s no less sublime, yet more forgiving disposition? If you ask me, I’d take the M2.
"THE M2 LETS YOU REACH ITS LIMITS AT YOUR OWN PACE."