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First Drive 2016 BMW M2 - Henny's Hot Lap Review

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2016 BMW M2 Henny Hemmes At Speed

The real thing

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

MONTEREY, CA - February 16, 2016: Finally the wait is over and fans of fast coupes can look forward to see the BMW M2 on the road pretty soon. The latest addition to the M-range will arrive in April, but before that, you can check out our first experiences on the road and on track here at the Auto Channel.

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Let’s start with the most exciting part of our day near Monterey, at what is officially called Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The 2.238 miles (3.6 km) long racetrack has a 180 feet (55 m) elevation change. Most famous of its eleven turns is the ‘corkscrew’, the sweeping and downhill plunging combination of Turn 8 and 8A.

Even though its over 15 years since I drove the "corkscrew" I remember it best.So today I was glad to see Bill Auberlen, long time BMW Works Driver, who informed us about the procedure for our first (track) drive.

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Last year, I met Bill at the Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas. He together with his BMW co-drivers, finished second in the United Sports Car Championship last year with the Z4 GTE and took the M6 GTLM to a fifth place in the 2016-edition of the 24 Hours of Daytona, which is quite an accomplishment with a brand new race car.

At Leguna Seca, BMW proved to be no sissy and granted us several stints of a decent amount of laps behind Bill’s car or behind that of Claudia Hürtgen, a successful former professional race car driver and now Chief Instructor for BMW Driving Experience. To be able to keep an eye on their ‘followers’ in the rear view mirrors, both Bill and Claudia lead only two cars. That granted me time to hop on the passenger seat of Bill’s car to familiarize myself with the circuit and the feel of the M2, while he paced the first two journalist drivers. Usually our first group of media has a lot of experience with events like this and the speed was soon there, which means I could already enjoy riding shotgun!

Engine parts from the M3/M4 bin

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This past October I reported about the upcoming debut of the M2 when BMW released the first details, which confirmed that insiders had been right, as for quite some time, they expected the successor to the 1 Series Coupe to get around 380 hp and have M4 technology

By the way, I think it is unnecessary to use ‘Coupe’ for the M2 model name, since the even numbers represent a sedan and the odd ones stand for a coupe or convertible.

The M2 has a new 6-cylinder in-line engine with M TwinPower technology, producing 272 kW/370 hp and 465 Nm/343 pound-feet of torque. The motor is teamed to the 7-speed M DTC transmission with Launch Control. The car accelerates from 0-62 mph in 4.3 counts and reaches a limited top speed of 250 km/h/155 mph, or 270 km/h/168 mph with Driver’s Package.

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The engine block is an N55 unit, a family member of the S55 in the M3/M4. It uses several of the larger engine’s components. “Such as the pistons,” says Marcus Engelke, engine/power train engineer with M GmbH. “We had to change the top ring because the surface of the cylinder liners is different. We also added an extra pump inside the oil system to keep the oil in the rear of the sump during deceleration, and to maintain a constant flow from the turbo to the oil pan.”

The turbocharger of the M2 engine is integrated into the exhaust manifold for faster warm up, while start/stop and brake energy regeneration and electric power steering increases efficiency. Other measures to this extend are an automatically disconnecting compressor for the air conditioning and a coolant pump that only works when required.

The engineer tells us that the crankshaft is the same as in the M 235i, because it is more stable and of a sturdier construction than the one in the N55. “But we use the M3/M4’s main bearings. Furthermore we use high-performance spark plugs and the airflow has been improved by an additional opening in the air intake for less under pressure and consequently less losses. There are two additional coolers, one oil cooler for the DCT transmission and one water cooler for the engine. ”The hardware of the ICU is the same, but of course, the software is new.”

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On the track

With the exterior M parts, such as the larger air intakes, the rear spoiler and the diffuser, the wider wheel arches, the M2 looks track worthy indeed. But except for technical reasons such as additional cooling, they also improve down force and reduce lift compared to the 2 Series Coupe. In theory, but how is the M2 in reality?

The laps in Bill’s car immediately made me feel eager to drive and after the first warm up lap I soon found the ideal way, in this case with a slight trail brake, through Turn 2, a 180 degree left-hander with its technical double apex.

The car also allowed me feel confident in the ‘Corkscrew, you cannot see where the left hand turn takes you until you have entered it just after braking into the slight right Turn 7 and directly after the Rahal Straight. At the second try I felt the drop in elevation giving the car a push along, the blind rim to the next apex and onwards uphill. It was as if the M2 was especially having fun at this part of the track. But also in the other fast bends, it was not so difficult to drive in harmony with the new M model.

The Sport+ mode allows for some slip and the power of the M2 makes it easy to drift. We were ordered not to show that we master the technique, in order to save the tires. But hey, I had to feel how easy it is to start (and correct) a decent slide once, for which Turn 11 proved to be right…

The engine delivered its power with such quick response and paddle shifting the 7-speed Getronic is so fast that gear chances go practically unnoticeable. Most of the fast turns could be driven in ‘4’ because torque was instantly available as soon as you touched to apex and pushed the car along. The overall balance of the car felt good, the tires never lost grip and the brakes kept on doing what they were made for.

What can I say? I it will be great fun to take the track ready M2 to one of the SCCA race meetings each weekend!

Stopping power

During half a day of driving, there seemed to be not much need to replace the M-specific wheels with 265/35/ZR19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber up front and 245/35/ZR 19 in the rear. Neither did the pit crew have to change the race pads, even after a couple of hours driving fast. The M2 was equipped with the large vented discs just like the ones on any M2 you can buy at your BMW dealer this spring. Carbon-ceramic brakes like on the M3/M4 are not even available. The brake pedal remained firm and the brakes did not lose effectiveness, although at the end of our stints they started to squeal. Bill said that the only cars that needed to have their brakes refreshed were both lead cars, because they were constantly on the track.

Wrapping up

The BMW M2 Coupe will soon show up at many public driving events. I have not heard about plans for a race series, but with a great chassis, engine and transmission there is a lot of potential for developing a successful race car. As it is now, it is absolutely true to the "fun-to-drive" BMW Ultimatte Driving Machine genes.

On the road, soon.

The 2016 BMW M2 Coupe will arrive at dealerships this spring. The price starts at $ 51,700 (MSRP). Please stay tuned for our first drive review of the M2 on the public roads around Monterey.

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