BMW Performance Day – Goodwood Circuit

BMW M2 on track - Picture courtesy of BMW UK

A couple of months ago a friend and I went down to Goodwood to drive some of the current BMW M cars around the historic and iconic Goodwood Racing Circuit. First up for me was the M6 coupe – I car I have driven before on the road and to be honest, I was never really that impressed with. I first drove it when it had not been out long and there was still a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth from the departure of that fantastic 5.0 V10 unit in the previous model and in comparison, the twin-turbo lump just didn’t have that raw feel. It definitely wasn’t so bad on the track. When you launch the M6 you kind of expect the ground beneath you to move backwards instead of the car moving forward as it applies all that power to the wide rear tyres. The combination of masses of torque, great grip and a fair bit of weight mean getting this thing off the mark is a strange feeling. There’s no denying the M6 is a cruise missile in a straight line, and it has a beautiful deep roar on full chat. The issue is when you get to the corner though. Goodwood Circuit is quite a tight circuit with no run-off so the last thing you want is to come unstuck on a tight left-right and even though the car feels generally quite planted, it has a slight wallow that leaves you feeling a bit insecure in the turney-bits. I do like the M6 and I think as a big, comfy, powerful GT car it ticks almost all the boxes, but if I had that kind of money to spend on a car like that, I would have to get an AMG GT.

Once I had completed a few laps in the M6 it was back to the paddock and time to change cars – the choice was simple – M4, M4 Competition Pack and M2… I’ve now driven the M4 maybe 4 times in both its regular form and with the optional Competition Pack (read my review of the M4 Competition Pack (Click here: SMMT Test Day 2017) so it was a no-brainer really.

I have wanted to drive the M2 since it was launched. I loved the M135i when I drove it and from what I had read so far, the M2 had even more to offer. When you step out of an M6 and in to an M2 you can tell straight away that you are in a very different car. Don’t get me wrong, you still know you’re in a modern BMW, but where the M6 is spacious and quite luxurious, the M2 feels more compact and sportier. Cars like the M6 used to be right up my street. All the comfort and space for long motorway journeys with great big powerful engines. These days I find myself being more a fan of smaller, tighter, more driver-focused cockpits. The M2 does not disappoint here. The seats are firm and supportive and you just slot into them as you get in the car. The main dashboard is a bit underwhelming, it’s just like any other 1/2 series – you could be in an estate-agent spec 116i if it wasn’t for the subtle M badges dotted about and the contrasting blue stitching running through the door cards and dash. The big giveaway however, is all the carbon. I am a big fan of carbon fibre, but only when in the correct environment. A “carbon-dipped” centre console on a 2001 Audi A4 Diesel… no thanks mate.

Fortunately, like all high-performance BMWs, it works here, it lets you know that this is no ordinary diesel commuter wagon. You also have the lovely thick leather steering wheel with its blue and red stitching and paddles. Another sign that this far from ordinary. At this point I was starting to get a little bit nervous, what if I had built this moment up in my head and in reality the car wasn’t going to be as good as I had made it out to be.

It turns out the M2 is many things, but none of those things are disappointing. It is just what I expected it to be and probably a little bit more. It is just so good around the Goodwood Circuit, it’s light and nimble and the 7-speed DCT ‘box is brilliant. I know there is a 6-speed manual option and I know that the majority of people will say that is the one you should go for, but call me a heathen, I love these new double-clutch gearboxes. They’re fun, they’re fast and they just make more sense in the congested times we live in. I will be sad when the manual gearbox inevitably dies out, but it will happen so we may as well get used to it. Plus, clicking up the gears as you boot it out of a bend whilst keeping full control of the wheel just works for me. Unlike the M6, this car was made for corners and fast right-lefts, it handles like it’s on rails. It’s near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution means that it is pretty forgiving as well, making everyone feel like a hero with ease. It isn’t quite as good as a Porsche Boxster or Cayman, but it’s pretty bloody good! Due to its size, it also feels fast, probably faster than it looks from the outside. In the M6 and even the M4, you have a lot of room between you and the road so going fast doesn’t always feel it, but in the M2 everything is a bit smaller, a bit closer to the road and the outside so when your foot is flat down in the straights, you feel like you’re flying. Again, due to its size and weight, braking is brilliant. It’s precise and sharp and it lets you push the car a lot more into the turns. I love the M2, it’s everything I wanted it to be and it left me with a huge smile on my face. It’s the only M car I hadn’t driven and it was definitely the best on that circuit. Would I have one though, probably not. Everything about it is brilliant and it is such a rewarding car to be behind the wheel of, but, for me, the M4 is still the best of the bunch. Especially with that optional Competition Pack.

*Words by James Ford of Well Driven, images courtesy of BMW.