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Time was that every new BMW M-car was an instant classic, but these days that isn’t the case.
We live in a world of increasing weight and technology, and not even the Ultimate Driving Machine has proved immune to some digital dilution.
Not so the spectacular M2 Competition, which signals a true return to form for BMW’s Motorsport Division.
To be fair, the M2 was already pretty decent, but while other makers opt for ever smaller powerplants for their performance icons in the pursuit of efficiency, BMW has decided to slot the M3/4’s twin-turbo straight-six into the dinky 2-Series coupé.
It’s a timely reminder that engines used to sound great, before someone decided that piping fake engine noise into the cabin was an acceptable alternative.
The M2’s ‘six’ has an incredible vocal range, from the gurgling baritone as it lugs from low revs to an addictive howl towards the start of the 7500rpm redline, always overlaid by puffs and whistles from the twin turbochargers.
In a landscape of technically baffling yet increasingly anodyne performance cars, the M2 feels pleasingly analogue: it’s got a proper handbrake, no ‘active’ dampers and can even be had with a manual ’box.
Everything you interact with, everything you touch, feels solid and mechanical; it’s a much-underrated sensation.
That’s not to say it isn’t sophisticated – there are three steering modes, three engine settings and seemingly endless variations for the M DCT dual-clutch transmission, along with two-stage traction control.
Yet none of that interferes with the sheer joy of driving it: the gearbox’s brilliance is how rarely you have to think of it, performing perfectly as an auto then switching to an aggressive manual with just a tug of a wheel-mounted paddle, bringing to life that angry engine for another explosive burst of acceleration.
The ride is firm – very firm – but superbly well controlled; grip is huge, and the steering wonderfully keen, the little M2 begging to be threaded along a country lane, rewarding with the delightful precision of its responses.
Yet it also challenges, particularly in the wet, when it reminds you that there are more than 400 horses being channelled through that M-differential at the rear axle.
This is no computer-game hot rod where you just plant your right foot and hold on tight – and it’s all the better for it.
After all that, it almost doesn’t matter that it looks sensational – with a crouching stance and just the right amount of menace – or that it’s a full four-seater: just the thing for grown-ups who still enjoy playtime at the weekends.
It’s a car that’s hard to imagine tiring of, and that you suspect will continue to reveal layers of talent over the years.
Just like (whisper it) an E30 M3.
Images: Olgun Kordal