► Editor Phil McNamara on the BMW M2
► It could be the most M car offered in years
► Shades of the popular E46 M3 in its nature
Struggling to think of a car I’m itching to drive more than BMW’s new M2. There will be faster cars launched this year (Bugatti Chiron), cheaper cars with similar performance (Ford Focus RS), hybrid tech statements (Honda NSX). But none of those wonderful prospects share the M2’s purity.
The baby driver’s BMW only comes in four colours. There’s no head-up display, adaptive damping or carbon ceramic brakes, kit you’d find on its M4 bigger brother. What it does have is a turbocharged straight-six, which sends 343lb ft strictly to the rear wheels via a standard six-speed manual and M Division’s locking differential.
The M2 is a car with a single-minded dedication to simplicity, to drivers having a ball behind the wheel. I know this because I called Georg Kacher the day after he’d driven the M2, and he deliriously relayed spending 90 minutes going sideways on track, and burning a tank of gas in less than 190 miles on road. Tough job.
Days later a silver envelope landed on my desk, embossed with the message ‘The Next 100 Years’. It was from BMW, inviting me to its centenary celebrations in March. While some car companies would use their hundredth birthday to indulge in a rose-tinted romp through the history books, Munich will focus on the car’s future too, with a series of technology showcases.
‘Over the next five to seven years, the car industry will show more change than in the last 100 years,’ says Ian Robertson, the Briton in charge of sales and marketing on BMW’s board.
Environmental pressures are hastening alternatives to the internal combustion engine. Urbanisation is transforming the ownership model: does every city dweller want, or need, a car which is only utilised 7% of the time? More than 500,000 people are members of BMW’s Drive Now club, using smart phones to locate, reserve and open cars on city streets including London’s, renting a car’s use on a journey-by-journey basis.
Connectivity has made Drive Now feasible, autonomy is poised to further erode the emotional connection between driver and car. The ultimate expression of both trends is the vision of summoning an electric transport pod to autonomously drive the kids to school, after which it self-parks in a docking bay to recharge for another user entirely.
BMW is preparing itself for such a future, as is Ford: its bid to reinvent itself as an auto and mobility company (with a mission statement that echoes BMW’s gameplan) is outlined in this month’s Tech section.
What does it all mean for car enthusiasts? We’ve seen digitisation transform our shopping habits and the media, kill Kodak and decimate postal services, replace the CD with downloads. The car, and the industry we love, is now entering its era of radical transformation.
It’s not quite time to squirrel away an old-school, petrol-burning ‘classic’. But it strikes me that the M2, a car forged from the BMW DNA of driving pleasure, would make a suitable choice for that very purpose.
Read more from the March 2016 issue of CAR magazine