It's fat, fast and loud. The BMW M2 has built a cult following, but does the LCI update add or detract from the popular pocket rocket?
You could have knocked me down with a feather. Two M2s, three M140is, one M240i, one 230i and a 125i, plus access to a stack of roads used in Targa Tasmania. And, to top it off, racing drivers Steve Richards and Cody Crocker leading the charge.
But I wasn't there to have fun. I was there to drive the 2018 BMW M2 LCI and find out whether the now more expensive BMW pocket rocket is worth your hard earned cash.
Prices have increased by $3090 for the M2 Pure and $790 for the M2, with both now starting from $93,300 (plus on-road costs) and $99,900 (plus on-road costs) respectively.
The price increase nets you iDrive with an 8.8-inch Navigation Professional infotainment system, new LED tail-lights, LED lights for M2 Pure and hexagonal adaptive LED lights for M2.
Inside the cabin there's a new driver instrument display (it looks fantastic) with M-specific content and a whopping 300km/h speedometer and 7000rpm redline, plus a light that comes on when the M Dynamic Mode is engaged. Wiper and indicator stalks have also been revised.
You can get a better idea of the suite of changes in our 2018 BMW M2 LCI pricing and specs article.
Before we even jumped behind the wheel, it's hard not to admire how tough the M2 looks from the outside. It looks like a balloon that has been blown up to explosion level, it's literally bulging from every corner.
Up the front there are big air dams, while the rear sports protruding wheel arches, wide tyres and a set of quad exhaust pipes.
BMW also had an M2 Pure with performance parts on show. Some of these included the optional anti social exhaust with titanium tips, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, carbon-fibre bits and an Alcantara steering wheel — some serious visual performance kit.
As you slide into the cabin, the driving position is perfection. It's easy to get the seat into the desired position and when you're there, you feel right at home. Visibility is great, the steering wheel is the perfect size and the pedal positioning is great even for left-foot braking.
Hit the starter button and the engine fires to life with a snarl. Under the bonnet is a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine producing 272kW of power and 465Nm of torque. The Pure comes in six-speed manual only, but the regular M2 can be had with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters.
If you mash the throttle, the M2 is capable of entering an overboost mode that increases torque output to 500Nm for a period of five seconds.
It has an epic burble at idle that signals its intentions – that burble is multiplied tenfold with the optional performance exhaust. It even comes with a cool wireless remote controller that activates track mode and makes the exhaust even louder – awesome stuff.
The dual-clutch gearbox isn't quite as smooth at low speed as the eight-speed torque converter in the M140i, but when the speeds pick up it delivers lightning quick shifts. It also features a launch control program that allows it to sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds with automatic and 4.5 seconds with the six-speed manual.
While you can get the six-speed manual, this thing really gels with the dual-clutch automatic to the point where the manual is simply adding complexity and time to any lap times.
Our first stint in the M2 was along sweeping high speed roads that really accentuated how accessible torque is with this six-cylinder engine. You can lean on the throttle at any speed and it delivers torque in spades – and it never needs to kick down to give you the torque you're after.
At any point you can flick a paddle and shift manually, which gets the most out of the drivetrain. As the corners became tighter, the engine note became louder.
The exhaust note is intoxicating as is the induction noise. The entire package is topped by an incredibly direct and communicative steering rack – it offers a lot of feel and it fills the hands nicely.
Steering feel only comes to second to the monster brakes fitted to the M2. They measure 380mm with four-piston calipers at the front and 370mm with two-piston calipers at the rear, both rotors with cross drilling.
They're ready to take a battering as we found through some of the tighter downhill stretches. In fact, we were surprised with how hard you could hit the pedal continuously without fade.
Even as the rain began pouring down, the incredible Michelin Pilot Sport tyres offered plenty of grip. Normally, they're all too happy to give way at speed, but it certainly wasn't an issue.
The treads measure 245mm wide at the front and 265mm wide at the rear, with both ends riding on 19-inch alloy wheels.
Inside the cabin there's a premium feel to the finishes, but it doesn't feel much more special than an M240i, despite the big asking price.
Up front there is plenty of leg- and headroom with stacks of seat adjustments to get the optimum seating position. The second row is reserved for short trips with leg- and headroom both limited.
Cargo capacity comes in at 390 litres with an accessible aperture with the boot open.
iDrive 6 is a great thing and now comes with touchscreen functionality along with the option of wireless Apple CarPlay. Given how good iDrive is directly out of the box, we'd give Apple CarPlay a miss.
Voice recognition with this update is excellent, but we found the menu structure a little hard to get our heads around. It's not positioned in vertical columns on the main home screen, as opposed to the horizontally stacked menu.
But, on the upside, speed has now significantly increased, which means browsing maps or transitioning between menus is a breeze.
The M2 is included in BMW's Service Inclusive program, which covers servicing costs for five years and 80,000km at a cost of $1989. It also comes with a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and 12 monthly service intervals.
The 2018 BMW M2 LCI really is a cracking machine. The noise is totally addictive and the level of traction on offer is ridiculous. We've proven in the past that it easily outperforms the Audi RS3 and Mercedes-AMG A45, so there's little wonder it's a popular pocket rocket.
But, with the price now creeping up to over $100,000 after on-road costs, it begs the question, are you better off buying an $84,611 (plus on-road costs) Audi RS3? I'll let you be the judge.