Bob assesses two new members of the BMW M family
It’s not often that two M cars arrive in the space of a few weeks, but here we are with the bookends of the fullfat M range, the M2 and the XM, both being put through their paces by the motoring press at the same time. One’s a traditional M offering: straight-six and rear-wheel-drive, and available with a manual gearbox, while the second is a massive SUV powered by a hybrid V8 powertrain… can you guess which one received the more favourable reviews?
Yes, I’m afraid the poor old XM suffered at the hands of the critics, and I can’t help but feel a little bit sad that the first standalone M car since the iconic M1 doesn’t really hit the mark. Its looks are polarising, to say the least, and I think it’s fair to say that it’s not a machine that’s been designed particularly with European tastes in mind. Get beyond that visage, though, and it looks to have an impressive powertrain – it’s the most powerful road-going BMW ever, and 653hp and 590lb ft (748bhp and 738lb ft in the XM Label Red) isn’t to be sniffed at. The problem is that the XM weighs a colossal 2.7 tonnes, which means that it’s no quicker than either the all-electric (and equally visually challenging iX M60) or the X5 M, the latter being almost half a second faster to 62mph than the XM. And cheaper, and quite possibly a better car to drive. I’ve not driven any of them, mind, so if these types of cars are your bag, then, by all means, be my guest, but make sure you drive before you buy. However, I reckon most of us will be far more interested in the all-new M2. Just looking at the spec makes your mouth water. Turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six, 460hp, 406lb ft, 0-62mph in a scant 4.1 seconds, rear-wheel drive and an optional six-speed manual gearbox – what more could you want?
In general, it’s received very positive write-ups so far, but there are some caveats. The overriding impression I get from the reviews is that the M2 has grown up a little, and despite having a more powerful engine, that extra grunt is blunted by extra weight. The M2 now tips the scales at a rather portly 1725kg before you’ve added the weight of the driver. Perhaps the M2 has lost a little bit of its feisty nature that was so prevalent in the F87 generation, as well as in the 1M Coupé that started the sub-M3 M car dynasty.
And then there’s the price. A bog-standard M2 will now set you back £65,885 – that’s a huge amount of money to spend on the entry-level M car. By way of comparison, the outgoing M2 Competition started at about £53k, and the original (admittedly less powerful) F87 M2 was listed at £44k when it made its debut in 2016. Roll back to 2011 when the 1M arrived, and you could have slipped into one of those for £40k. Interesting to note that the M2’s put on 230kg in that time too.
The XM, or at least its style of drivetrain, will be part of BMW M’s future plans, but the M2 could well be the last-ever conventionally-powered M car. Whether you think that means you should rush out and buy one will depend to a certain extent on whether you have the best part of £70k in the bank, but it’s worth remembering that you can bag a last-generation M2 Competition for around about half of what a new one would cost. No doubt the new M2 will be a better all-rounder, but if you’re after the best bang for your buck, new might not always be better.