Go the mini

Takes on Tas­ma­nia’s best roads for the launch of the M2, BMW M’s new cheap­est model

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - First Drive -

TWO, Right, Up. In rally co­driver speak this means the sec­ond tight­est cor­ner imag­in­able, head­ing right, with an up­hill exit.

Road­side ad­vi­sory speed signs gen­er­ally say 25km/h for such a ma­noeu­vre. Us­ing both sides of the road and the im­mense grip of the new M2, this fig­ure can be at least dou­bled; sec­ond gear would seem log­i­cal but we’re in third.

A nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 3.0litre en­gine would prob­a­bly pull from the cor­ner smoothly — but the boosted M2 sim­ply rock­ets out as if it’s se­cretly grabbed sec­ond for you.

Or­di­nar­ily us­ing both sides of the road would be sui­ci­dal and bor­der­line homi­ci­dal but this week the closed roads of the 25th run­ning of the Targa Tas­ma­nia tar­mac rally al­lowed the Bavar­ian brand to in­tro­duce its new cheap­est M model.

The event in­cludes some of Aus­tralia’s best driv­ing roads and even in the non-com­pet­i­tive Targa Tour cat­e­gory, we get the best out of the new pocket rocket that un­der­cuts the M3 by a full $50,000.

Build­ing on the ex­cel­lent M235i, the M2’s bulging whee­larches strug­gle to swal­low the same sus­pen­sion ar­chi­tec­ture and brakes as the big­ger M3 and M4.

Un­der the bon­net is an up­dated ver­sion of the M235i’s turbo straight six, pro­duc­ing 272kW/450Nm thanks to in­ter­nals from the M3/M4 and an ex­tra trans­mis­sion cooler and sec­ond ra­di­a­tor be­hind the cor­ners of the ag­gres­sive front bumper.

Also shared with the big­ger M sixes are the trans­mis­sions, seven-speed M dual-clutch auto or, for the purists, sixspeed man­ual, a point of dif­fer­ence from such ri­vals as the A45 AMG and Audi RS3.

Help­ing it deal with all the ex­tra twist and grip is a cocktail of M3/M4, 2 Se­ries Con­vert­ible and be­spoke struc­tural changes to the front, floor and rear end.

Aus­tralia is unique in re­ceiv­ing the M2 in two dis­tinct trim lev­els, though they are iden­ti­cal ex­ter­nally. The $89,900 base M2 Pure matches the me­chan­i­cal spec of the $98,900 up­per grade but is man­ual only and pares back the lux­u­ries ever so slightly.

The top-spec has ei­ther trans­mis­sion at the same price and pack­ages com­mon op­tions such as elec­tric ad­just­ment and heat­ing for the front seats, prox­im­ity keys, adap­tive head­lights and Har­mon Kar­don sur­round au­dio. In the Targa Tour cat­e­gory, hel­mets and rollcages are not nec­es­sary. There is a strict, 130km/h limit — but the abun­dance of 2 and 3 grade cor­ners in the pace notes puts on a smor­gas­bord of op­por­tu­ni­ties to as­sess the M2’s slow speed dy­nam­ics.

Hold­ing the auto’s third gear man­u­ally keeps us at the le­gal speed. We need sec­ond only on the tight­est 1 grade bends, thanks to the breadth of torque — mo­men­tar­ily we can tap 500Nm over­boost from 1450rpm.

The sticky 265mm rear Miche­lin Pi­lot Su­per Sports do a great job of trans­fer­ring all that torque to the ground and the Ac­tive M dif­fer­en­tial keeps them work­ing in har­mony.

Am­ple sus­pen­sion travel and beau­ti­fully tuned dampers also help to keep tyres and ground in con­tact over some truly epic mid-cor­ner bumps.

Driven back to back with an M4 on one of the more en­ter­tain­ing trans­port stages, the M2 feels more lively and nim­ble, given its 119mm shorter Giv­ing the small­est rear-drive body the full M treat­ment has al­ways been a sound idea. The M2 is yet an­other to achieve greatness.

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