► We drive the new Two protoype
► 230i and M240i versions driven
► The last addictive 2-series?
In essence a rebodied two-door 3-series, the only surviving rear-wheel-drive 2-series model also sports more aggressive and grown-up proportions. There's a much wider front track (by 52mm), extended wheelbase (by 51mm), flared arches and more extreme aerodynamics, which mean front axle lift is halved. Two engines are available: a 2.0-litre four and 3.0-litre straight-six.
What else is new?
While the predecessor was fitted with a 340bhp six-cylinder engine, the powerplant of the 2022 edition is rated at 374bhp. The more affordable 230i is equipped with a 245bhp 2.0-litre four.
Jos van As, legendary chassis guru and tarmac peeler par excellence, prefers the lighter rear-wheel-drive model. 'It's almost as quick as the six, was bottle-fed with power oversteer vitamins and handles with entertaining agility.' And as long as BMW nurtures that iconic straight-six, brand aficionados should feel obliged to ignore lesser alternatives. Furthermore, the 129bhp and 74lb ft difference in power and torque do widen the performance gap beyond 60mph. At 4.5sec, the all-wheel-drive version also is 1.4sec quicker off the mark.
Since the US is the world's biggest coupe market, the four-seat 2-series is built in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, alongside the 3-series. The European launch is still nine months away, so the pricing and many other data have not yet been finalised, but we expect the M240i xDrive to be about £10,000 less expensive than the corresponding 3-series saloon.
But where the 1-series became dynamically lacklustre after its money-saving switch to fornt-wheel drive, the follow-up to the two-door 2-series is the only remaining hardcore drift machine in the segment.
Does it come in hybrid?
There's no hybrid option this time. Unlike the four-door 3-series saloon, which can be had as plug-in hybrid, electrification of the smaller model is restricted to the starter battery. Comments chief project engineer Martin Gruber: 'Our hands were tied due to packaging contraints and the need to keep the weight down.' Since the new 450bhp M2 Competition due next summer shares the same physique, R&D prioritised instead a beefed-up body structure and a stiffer chassis.
What's it like to drive?
It was raining cats and dogs during the very first outing, which took us at full gallop over a spider's web of back roads through the northern hinterland of Munich. In addition to omnipresent speed restrictions, the terrain was pickled with radical surface changes, blind crests and sickbag dips. Unperturbed by these topographic irritations, the M240i tracked like a slot racer on suction-cup tyres. Its steering felt meatier and heavier than the four-cylinder specimen sampled in the dry afternoon, but there was no trade-off in terms of precision and feedback.
After driving the two versions back-to-back, I actually preferred the more laid-back calibration, the marginally more progressive turn-in and the broader contact patch relayed by the six. Still, the M240i deserves praise for the electronically controlled diff lock which acts as fast as a casino card shuffle. Add to that some well-calibrated adaptive dampers and more extrovert aero kit, and the M240i feels firmly planted at speed.
More negative camber up front, the wider rear track and the perfect weight distribution also help to reduce roll, suppress yaw and minimise wheel load fluctions through bumpy corners. It offers remarkable directional stability, which inspires confidence in large measures.
An X-ray would reveal that the M240i is in fact a mildly decontented M4, featuring virtually identical crossbraces and reinforcement links, stiffer suspension mounts, and a lower rear transverse bar located by two diagonal elements. The 19-inch wheels and tyres sail, skate and skim through large puddles and along deep aquaplaning grooves, but BMW offers even fatter 20-inchers as an option, and the next M2 may be entrusted with even larger 21-inch footwear.
We had no complaints about the generally comfortable ride quality, which blended control and compliance, thereby maintaining a managable handling balance even when the devil inside suddenly felt like creating havoc.
The original, authentic and addictive new 2-series may well be BMW's farewell present to the loyal high-octane community. Start saving now for a life in reverse next spring.
Specs for M240i