There was a time BMW’s marketing mantra of “Ultimate Driving Machine” was taken seriously not just by the German carmaker’s engineers and designers, but (more importantly) by its customers. That was a time BMW’s number one brand value was sportiness—it might sacrifice a little bit of comfort, but never its athletic demeanor. You could blind-test a Bimmer alongside a Mercedes, a Lexus and an Audi, and you would always be able to tell it apart just by the sharpness of its handling and the accuracy of its steering.
Best of all, BMWs somehow always managed to look dynamic. They were sporty in every sense of the word.
And then the company dropped the ball. Focus shifted to SUVs and sales volume. It seemed like the R&D team woke up one morning to find themselves inordinately obsessed with technology. The brand became bland. For years now, there has not been a single BMW model that got me on my knees begging the local distributor to lend me a demo unit.
Thankfully, along came the magnificent M2, which I got to drive in Monterey, California, in February—at Laguna Seca no less. This compact sports coupe is the direct descendant of the classically designed 2002 and the aesthetically forgettable 1-Series M. Without wasting words, I want to say this car is absolutely gorgeous, specifically in this Long Beach Blue paint job. This is the most stylish car BMW has produced in years (yes, even including the i8). If only for the exterior, I’d say Munich has gotten its mojo back. Those 19-inch alloy wheels—and the humongous disc brakes that peek through them—are just delightful to stare at.
But as beautiful as the M2 is, its sheet metal is only a small portion of its story. Taking a loftier position in the car’s hierarchy of attributes is the engine that resides under the hood, as well as the mechanicals and the electronics that enable this motor to elevate the M2 to that hallowed pantheon of Teutonic sports cars. At the heart of this baby is an M powerplant that benefits from BMW’s latest M TwinPower Turbo tech, which bundles together a twin-scroll turbocharger, high-precision direct injection, variable camshaft timing and variable valve control. Six in-line cylinders displace 2,979cc of fuel to produce 370hp at 6,500rpm, and 465Nm from as low as 1,400rpm all the way to 5,560rpm. Imagine this much muscle inside a car that is practically the size of an Altis, and you can bet BMW is back.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, but BMW Philippines has picked the optional (and flat-out fantastic) seven-speed M double-clutch transmission that catapults the M2 from rest to 100km/h in 4.3 seconds. Don’t miss the sound this engine-and-transmission combo emits through the four tailpipes.
Priced at nearly P6 million, the M2 is ridiculously expensive. I could try to recite to you a roster of electronic aids and driving modes and safety nets, and still you might think the goodies aren’t worth it. So let me just say this: The M2 is so robust, so sharp, so agile, so perfectly balanced that it will singlehandedly remind you of why BMW was once so popular among driving enthusiasts. It’s a lot of coin, but I’d get this over the Nissan GT-R. It’s cheaper, it’s more usable, it’s more tossable and it’s more visually pleasing. It simply does the trick, and generously dishes out a treat.
Welcome back, BMW.