BMW M2 v M235i: a technical look

The new BMW M2 has a starting price of $89,900 plus on-road costs, which puts it just $12,400 above the M235i, the smallest price gap between a top-spec standard range variant and its M derivative.
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The BMW M2 is the first modern-day M to sit below $100,000, undercutting the four-door M3 by $50,000 and the M4 coupe by $60,000 in M2 Pure manual form. Unlike the bigger Ms and the M235i which cost the same regardless of manual or auto transmission, one needs to add an additional $9000 to the price of the M2 for the automatic variant, which also comes with a host of additional features (detailed further down).

BMW M235i-18

Unlike the top-spec range topping 340i (from $89,990) and 435i (from $109,900) and their M3 and M4 equivalents, the price gap between the M235i and the M2 is considerably less than one might expect. But is the M2 the bargain that it appears to be, or just a blinged up version of M235i? We take an in-depth look at the differences between the two cars.

To start with, the N55 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine in the M2 is borrowed from the M235i and is not the same unit as that found in the M3/M4. The main difference between the models is the use of a single twin-scroll turbocharger (twin-power as BMW calls it) in the M2 rather than two individual turbochargers, as is the case in the bigger Ms.

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Power output for the M2 is rated at 272kW and 465Nm (overboost to 500Nm), 32kW and 15Nm more than the M235i, while the M3/4 rate at 317kW and 550Nm.

The six-speed manual in the M2 is from the M235i, however the dual-clutch transmission is a near-identical unit to that found in the M3/4. In auto guise, the M2 can sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds (add 0.2 for manual), still 0.2 of a second slower than the bigger Ms but a substantial 0.7 seconds faster than the M235i.

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Although the M2 engine itself has more in common with the M235i, it does indeed gain a reasonable number of parts from the bigger Ms. The pistons and the crankshaft main bearing shells are taken from the M3/4, as is the valvetronic system.

Most notable however is the M cooling system which gains a oil sump cover, additional water pump and oil pump for the automatic transmission (useful on racetracks) and a generally uprated ventilation system that helps the M2 cope with the demands of continuous performance driving.

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Interestingly, due to the high-specification that BMW Australia takes from Germany, the M235i has standard adaptive suspension, but the M2 rides on standard suspension with bigger wheels (19s from 18s on M235i) as it simply doesn’t come out of the factory with adjustable suspension either standard or even as an option.

BMW says this may deter some buyers that want a more comfortable ride, but that the M2 is about the purity of a sports car. Its suspension is borrowed from the M235i convertible, which is a lighter option over the coupe.

Where the M model really differentiates itself is the chassis, which borrows heavily from the M4. In fact, the M2 is 80mm wider than the M235i, due to the front and rear end of the car being completely redesigned while technical components like the five arm rear axle suspension setup come straight from M4.

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That rear suspension setup is useful to house the BMW M differential, another product straight from the M4. Apart from allowing for better drifting, it also allows 100 per cent of torque to be sent from one side to another when its needed for improved road and track handling, a feature simply not available in the M235i.

The use of 19-inch wheels with 245/35 at the front and 265/35 at the rear has also allowed BMW to simply take the brake system from the M4 (380mm front discs with four-piston calipers, 370mm rear discs with two-piston calipers) with its racing brake pad compound, a significant improvement over the M235i (370mm, 324mm front and rear).

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On the inside the two cars are rather similar, except for carbon-fibre look inserts, a proper M steering wheel (same seats) and better M badging.

With just a $12,400 price difference (manual M235i to M2 Pure), the BMW M2 appears to a bargain compared to the M235i - if not just for the better suspension, differential and brakes. But if you’re unlike the 15-20 per cent of new M2 owners that have opted for a manual and prefer an automatic gearbox instead, things get a little different.

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In realistic terms, if you want an automatic M2, the price difference to the M235i is $21,400 (as the M235i, M3 and M4 are the same price whether it’s manual or auto), however the $9000 price increase to go from the M2 Pure manual to the standard M2 with DCT also gets an uprated alarm system, adaptive headlights with BMW Selective Beam, comfort access system (keyless entry), electric front seat adjustment with lumbar support and heating, and a harman/kardon 12-speaker surround sound system, so it’s not just a transmission upgrade.

Interestingly, the BMW M2 Pure manual is an Australia-only special, which allows its entry price point to be well below what the car’s performance credentials should dictate.

Whether you pick the M235i or the M2, the two BMWs are at the top of their game in their respective categories. It certainly makes sense to spend the extra $12,400 if manual is the go. Even for the auto, the M2 is the only rear-wheel drive six-cylinder turbo high-end performance car under $100,000.

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