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Here's Why the BMW M2 Is the Best Modern M Car

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2016

I recently had the chance to drive the BMW M2, which is the single best BMW M car currently on the market. This achievement didn't really surprise me. I've driven the M235i and loved it, and I often consider the BMW 1 Series M -- the M2's predecessor -- to be one of the greatest cars I've ever experienced. So of course the M2 was going to be great.

The primary reason why the M2 is great is its size. Get ready for me to say this many times throughout this review, like the automated voice who tells you, "The moving walkway is nearing its end; please be careful." The primary reason why the M2 is great is its size. The primary reason why the M2 is great is its size.

Here's what I mean. Car reviewers constantly lament how big the 3 Series and the 5 Series have gotten -- and in today's world, it's just completely inescapable. I didn't really buy the whole "the 3 Series is bloated now" thing with the E46 model, sold from 1999 to 2005, and I still didn't really buy it with the E90 model, sold from 2006 to 2011, but today, there's no doubt about it: The 3 Series is a large vehicle.

The benefit here, though, is that it's allowed BMW to bring out a new vehicle below the 3 Series, sized like the 3 Series used to be. All the other automakers are doing this, too, with the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, and the Audi S3, and right now we're kind of living in a European small-performance-car renaissance.

But while I love the CLA45 and appreciate the S3, nothing makes me as happy as the M2. Did I mention the primary reason why it's great is its size?

Of course, moving on ever so slightly from the M2's size, we have another important characteristic: handling. Although the steering is a bit lighter than I'd want from a true sports car, few modern European automobiles feel as tossable and as eager to corner as the M2. With the M3 and the M5, you now get the feeling that life has become a contest for horsepower and straight-line speed. But it's almost like leaving those vehicles to compete in such contests freed up BMW to really let drivers have fun with the M2, knowing it would never be the fastest car on the market. Just 5 minutes into my drive with the M2, I already felt like I knew exactly how the car would respond to my every input. Only the best cars feel like that.

And this brings us to something important: The primary reason why the M2 is great is its size. Because most of today's continuously ballooning cars will never be this fun on the curves.

Naturally, handling isn't the M2's only excellent trait. The engine may not be in "look how much power I have" territory, but its 365 horsepower is nothing to scoff at -- especially since it brings the M2 from 0 to 60 miles per hour in something like 4.3 seconds when equipped with the 6-speed manual, as in the model I drove. I've often advocated for being able to use "the whole car," and I seriously think vehicles that edge too far above 400 hp are in grave danger of power overkill. Fortunately, the M2 is right in the sweet spot where it's still fast and fun but not ludicrous and unusable.

And then there's its size. The primary reason why the M2 is great is its size.

Oh, and there's also the interior. It's gorgeously crafted, extremely solid and surprisingly nice. (I say "surprisingly" because, in my experience, some modern BMW cabins have been a bit of a letdown in terms of material quality.) It's also surprisingly devoid of "M" badges, which is a really nice thing. I still remember how the Ford Focus RS I drove had so much horsepower you would've thought its actual name was the RS RS RS, with RS horsepower and an approximate price tag of $RS.

Speaking of pricing, the M2 even hits the sweet spot there. While there are stories of early models selling for more than the asking price, the one I drove was purchased for MSRP -- which starts at just $52,700 with shipping. That's not bad, considering that you're buying a true M car with so many wonderful traits (such as, for example, its size).

But the M2 isn't perfect. Chief among the coupe's drawbacks is the lack of adjustable suspension -- which, while saving weight, means the car has to decide between "harsh ride and great handling" or "smooth ride and poor handling." It chooses the former, and it's a little wince-inducing over bumps.

There's also another problem: The M2's interior isn't huge, especially in back, which means there isn't much room for extra people. If you have kids, a family or a troop of friends always bugging you for a ride, you'll have to politely decline them all and instead go enjoy the car with yourself -- and possibly one other person -- leaving behind any distractions, additional passengers, screaming children and excess conversation.

Like I said: The primary reason why the M2 is great is its size.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Used 2017 BMW M2
Used 2017 BMW M2
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Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2017 BMW M2
Used 2017 BMW M2
$52,200
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here's Why the BMW M2 Is the Best Modern M Car - Autotrader