How BMW need to make the next 2022 BMW M2 a great one

Could the next BMW M2 be the last M2? Maybe in 6-cylinder format, but the name will more than likely live on. Regardless, it will be an important car in the history of M cars as it has massive shoes to fill, perhaps as big as the E36 M3 did all those years ago replacing the E30 M3.

When the M2 came out it filled a niche that BMW had validated with the limited run 1 Series M, confirming that customers wanted a smaller BMW performance car that was driver focused, just as the M3 and M4 was getting bigger, faster and auto only (mostly). It doesn’t mean the M2 is a better car than the M3 or M4, it just became a different proposition offering all the M-car attributes but without needing a circuit to access them.

Black BMW 1M in front of a grey brick wall
The 1 Series M proved enthusiasts wanted a small powerful BMW again

It may not have toppled the dynamic ability of the Cayman with which it directly competes, but it did things the “M way” by combining a powerful, glorious sounding in-line turbo-charged 6-cylinder engine mated to a manual gearbox and rear wheel drive. It also looked exactly like we expect an M car to look like with a sleek coupe roofline, big bulging guards and short overhangs. Visually it ticked that part of the M equation.

Blue BMW M2 in front of a white wall
The first M2 was a really good car, but not a great one

And it’s improved throughout its life too. The original car, whilst competent left journalists wanting more and that duly came with the M2 Competition. No longer was it using a regular BMW engine massaged into a performance engine, it now possessed a detuned version of the S55 M3 and M4, extra bracing, and a host of other changes to propel it to the top of the class.

“Praise be, BMW’s given us a proper M driver’s car. The M2 Competition is simply outstanding.” – Top Gear

White BMW M2 Competition on a circuit
The M2 Competition is a high point for BMW

The M2 Competition delivered that extra degree of precision and adjustability that was missing in the original M2. It was now the complete package.

The final iteration has been the recent M2 CS, which turned out to be a worthy car to hold the CS badge. The CS despite its lightweight materials (carbon fibre bonnet and roof) weighs virtually the same as a regular M2 Competition thanks to additional technical components such as adaptive damping. 

Blue BMW M2 CS in the pits at a circuit
The M2 CS may be pricey but it’s simply BMW at its best

In Australia it starts at $139,900 plus on road and costs a good deal more than the lower ranked M2 Competition but not necessarily delivering an equivalent gain in value. Some have said the Competition offers near enough performance for much less, however that’s selling the M2 CS a bit short.

So what does the next BMW M2 need to do to live up to the wonderful reputation the current car has worked so hard for. 

We’re just starting to see spy shots come out of the next generation M2 and things are looking good already. The basic coupe lines are there and so are those all important flared guards. Add to that the quad exhausts that look like they’d been pulled straight from the E46 M3 and it’s all starting to come together. Given the new 3-series has escaped the wrath of “the grille” it’s safe to say the front of the new M2 isn’t going to be ruined by some cartoonish branded statement. 

Front of a green BMW M3 on a circuit
Please don’t do this, BMW

What about how it will drive? This is the really tricky bit. Do they continue to chase outright speed as car manufacturers have done for so many years making models faster and faster, or do they step aside, remember what they stand for and build the ultimate driver’s car? It’s a difficult proposition however, to sell a car that isn’t faster than its predecessor.  

As model cycles typically pan out, the new car usually matches the performance of the previous generation’s top line model, in this case the current M2 CS. But again, they need to be careful as there seems to be a tipping point with which these types of cars are deemed better for circuit use than road use given their higher levels of grip and speed.

White BMW M2 Competition drifting on a circuit with smoke pouring off the tyres

We already have the M3 and M4 for that. The M2 sits lower on the rung of BMW M cars needs to be more road biased and offer a different driving experience, one which the company was built upon, that can be used on both  road and track if desired.

So here’s the recipe for the 2022 BMW M2:

  • Class leading levels of feedback in steering and chassis
  • Glorious sounding proper M division six-cylinder engine 
  • Manual transmission option
  • No crazy/cheap/branded designs (eg cartoonish kidney grille)
  • Big boxed/bulging arches
  • Quality interior retaining switches and buttons
  • Better/more colour choices

Yes it’s much the same as before but that’s the point. They don’t need to make a more complex M2, nor do they need to fundamentally rethink the formula. This is about evolution not revolution. Given the negative reaction enthusiasts have given to the new M3 and M4 based purely on styling, BMW need to tread carefully with the M2.

And if European governments hold true to their 2030 combustion engine ban, that revolution is coming whether BMW or we like it or not. When 2022 rolls around and the new M2 is released, they’ll have 8 years to again refine and deliver what may be the last M2 as we know and love it.

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