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BMW M2 Competition against BMW M3 Touring at Speed Week 2023


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Speed Week 2023

Choosing between M siblings has never been so hard... especially when they’re cut from the same cloth

Don't you think it's interesting that we didn't load a single Audi or Mercedes into our Scania-shaped toy boxes? We politely asked for an AMG One but Merc said no. What about the F1 tech-inspired hybrid C63? Merc said... no. How about Audi’s offer of a facelifted RS6/7? Well, they didn’t quite cut the mustard. Meaning we had to have a verbal punch-up in the office to see whether we should bring BMW’s new M3 Touring or its pugnacious sibling, the M2 Comp. We couldn’t decide – so here we are with both barrels of Bimmer.

That’s no bad thing as there’s more common DNA in this pairing than in M cars of the past and quite a lot to unpack. Parallels are naturally borne out of BMW’s decision to cut them from the same steely cloth, basing the new M2 chassis on slightly chopped underpinnings from an M3/4, rather than the old theory of beefing up a 1 Series. There’s shared hardware too, both being powered by the same torquetastic S58 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six (tuned to 454bhp in the M2 and a sneeze over 500bhp in the M3), having the same adaptive suspension and the same smarter and rather racy carbon covered cabin.

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But the M2 gets the bigger M car’s dumpy weight, all 1,700kg of it. And while both get an 8spd auto box as standard, for £545 extra BMW will fit the M2 with a 6spd manual. Which it has for us. And while the M2 has steel brakes, the M3 is on absolutely whopping (400x38mm fronts) £7,995 M carbon ceramic brakes. So it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other when it comes to spec. Either way, at over £86k for the M3 Touring and £65k for its younger brother, neither is cheap.

Photography: Olgun Kordal and John Wycherley

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Yes, both cars are radical and visually overpowering with big grilles, squared intakes and a lot of LOOK AT ME. But haven’t you warmed to the M3 Touring’s face? I have. Do we just need another eight or so months looking at the M2 and we may ‘get’ it? Only time will tell.

But what to drive first? Do you swallow the cheaper, lesser powered RWD and manual red pill, or the more powerful, faster 4WD auto blue pill? When you’ve got a wild circuit like the Gotlandring with two distinctive and different sections, blind corners, huge elevation changes, zero runoff and a bloody ski jump to fire off, I go blue.

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M-thusiasts have been kneeling by the side of their beds for literally decades praying for a bootiful M3. But I’m glad BMW didn’t pull the trigger any earlier. For a proper desirable performance estate you want one size fits all motoring and this generation of M3 offers that more than any other being the first to controversially come with xDrive. And once you’ve tried this 4WD system you wonder why we didn’t cry for it earlier. It’s not overbearing or intrusive and doesn’t corrupt the steering feel or load the car up with understeer. Instead it helps shape the balance of the car and works with the lively and energetic engine to make you drive it better. Yes, it’s 85kg heavier than the equivalent four-door but somehow shakes that off to the point you forget you’ve got a bigger boot attached. That’s until a photographer needs a step ladder, which you post via the 500-litre boot and split glass tailgate. Load lugging complete, you can then go full lairy monster.

The M2 really does feel like a younger pup stepping into it out of the M3. It’s definitely more grown up and less boisterous than its predecessor, but it’s got real M spirit. Being as wide as an M3/4 it has a wonderfully intuitive and positive front end, but thanks to its shorter wheelbase, also more playfulness.

On the circuit’s older section, it dances over the undulating direction changes, making the rear feel gloriously alive. And even though they share the same straight six, having to change gear for yourself shows how well BMW has calibrated the auto to work in the M3 as you stir around the turbo lag in the manual. But it’s fun to swap cogs yourself, risk a clutch kick into a skid and be rewarded with digital stars in the drift analyser. You quickly find the M2 to be an extremely gratifying and confidence inspiring car, willing you to turn the modes up and safety systems down. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got the purest M car you can currently buy.

At this point I should remind you that these will be the last ever pure petrol M cars. Rather depressingly, from here on everything will be hybrid or electric. But which pill should you swallow for good: red or blue? Well, that’s for you to decide. But isn’t a short, squat, two-door M car with a straight six, manual box, rear drive and sense of humour pretty much the recipe to happiness? That’s why it’s the M2 for me.

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Speed Week 2023: BMW M2 vs BMW M3 Touring

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