According to the official figures, just 60bhp separates the BMW M2 from the bigger, more expensive M4. In reality, however, the difference is greater than that. “M2s just about make the 365bhp that BMW claims,” says DMS Automotive founder Rob Young, “whereas M4s always produce way more than the daimed 425bhp.” In the real world, then, the difference is closer to 90bhp.
With an ECU remap, that margin can be closed significantly. The one offered by DMS is good for 417bhp. with 455lb ft of torque available at 3800rpm – an 86lb ft increase over the standard M2. The 155mph limiter is also removed, giving access to a top speed of over 180mph. All for £1440. “The M2 feels less hardcore and more grown up than the old 1M,” reckons Rob, “and it doesn’t really have the power to easily unstick the rear end With the upgrade, though. It feels much more like the 1M.”
Upwards of 400bhp in a car the size of the M2 is certainly a compelling proposition. The uprated engine starts to pull from 2000rpm and at 3000 it really starts to fly.
In the lower gears the car actually feels shockingly quick in a way the standard car never quite manages. With a single, twin-scroll turbo rather than a pair of turbochargers, however, even this chipped M2 lacks the top-end fireworks of the M4. Rather than charging hard into the rev limiter, this engine – borrowed from the M235i with only modest revisions – starts to fade rapidly beyond 6000rpm.
The engine is the least satisfying part of the standard M2 package and this remap doesn’t magically reverse that, but at least with a useful uplift in power and torque it no longer feels as though it’s letting the side down. The extra power also brings a slightly sharper, edgier character to the chassis, too, because there is now enough grunt to break traction on the throttle alone in second gear.
Impressively, though, the chassis doesn’t suddenly feel wayward or overpowered. Whereas the M4 can feel desperately nervous and snappy at times, particularly on damp or wet surfaces, this M2 – standard apart from the engine remap and only 20-30bhp shy of an M4 – actually feels well within itself. It’s as if the M2 was always designed to handle much more than its quoted 365bhp.
The DMS M2 produces its peak power in the Sport Plus drivetrain mode.This map Is different to the one in Sport, which Rob says serves as a point of differentiation between the two modes: ‘In the DCT car you get different gearshift strategies in Sport and Sport Plus, but with a manual gearbox the modes just feel the same. That’s why we’ve written different maps for each mode.’
The manual gearbox, incidentally, is far from being the slickest, most satisfying on the market. In fact, the lumpy action through the gate and the dumsy clutch re-engagement make it tricky to execute quick, clean shifts. Nonetheless, that extra layer of engagement with the machine is very welcome in a car the size of the M2, whereas the bigger M4, slightly more GT-like in its character, is very well suited to the optional twin- clutch transmission.
It would take a great deal more than an engine remap, and no small amount of money, to make the M2’s engine a real centrepiece. There’s no doubt, though, that with more power than the standard car the M2 does become a more entertaining thing to drive. 417bhp still not enough? Rob reckons he could find 450bhp with a high-flow catalytic converter…
Engine: In-line 6-cyl, 2979cc, turbo
Power: 417bhp @ 7000rpm
Torque: 455lb ft @ 3800 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.3sec (est)
Top speed: 180mph+ (est)
Weight: 1495kg (283bhp/ton)
Upgrade price: £1440