First Drive: 2016 BMW M2

– Detroit, Michigan

Cautiously optimistic. That’s how I started my week with the 2016 BMW M2, a car I was told would check all the right boxes and restore my faith in the M brand. Disheartened by the numb evolution of the once pure M3, I was told I’d find salvation in the 2’s size and on-road charm. That $52,000 starting price sounded pretty good, too.

Three days into my test I found myself staring at the M2 in my driveway, having just returned from a long, enthusiastic drive. Eyes locked on the wide, defined front fascia, I sighed and thought to myself, “Yep, you win.” This is the BMW I’ve been waiting for since the departure of the 1 Series M Coupe in 2011. This is what the M3 should have been. This is a proper return to form, and a reminder that the Bavarians still have the ability to churn out an Ultimate Driving Machine every now and then.

It starts with a good heart. The M2 employs BMW’s turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline-six with 365 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and an even more accessible 343 pound-feet of torque that smacks you in the ass at 1,500 rpm and stays strong all the way up to 5,560 revs. This means gobs of power are readily available at any speed, in any gear. Mash the throttle while cruising at 2,000 rpm in fifth gear and a wave of thrust will rocket you up into sixth and seventh gears. That’s assuming, of course, that the M2 is equipped with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission tested here. A six-speed manual ‘box is available, with rev matching that can’t be ...