Volkswagen Golf R 2016 review
Tim Robson road tests and reviews the Volkswagen Golf R with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the manual version of the top-spec M2, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
In the beginning, which for our purposes is around 1978, there was the M1. Some German engineers made a supercar, and it was good. After 40 years of raining mostly excellent cars upon the earth, the BMW tweakers at the M haus made a 1 Series coupe worthy of an M badge. And it was also good.
Except they couldn't call it M1, because the internet would go into meltdown and some owners of the classic original would be noisily disappointed as well (the “1 Series M” was the inelegant solution). So, a few years later, the 1 Series coupe became the 2 Series, and with this, too, came an M version, uncontroversially called the M2. The internet did go into meltdown, but in a good way, and it became one of the most hotly-anticipated cars of 2016.
You only really need to look at the pictures to see why.
Standard on our car, a manual "full” spec, are 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, cruise control, electric front seats with heating and driver's memory, sat nav, automatic bi-xenon active headlights, auto wipers, sports front seats and leather trim.
BMW's full-fat iDrive is responsible for a huge range of functions including running the Harmon Kardon branded 12-speaker stereo, the up-spec sat nav (Professional in BMW-speak), some settings for the driving modes (no M buttons in the M2, distressingly) and DAB+ radio.
Surprisingly for a BMW, there's little in the way of options - metallic paint will set you back $1485 (a virtually compulsory spend, as there are four colours and only one, white, is free), steering-wheel heating (for Canberra residents) is $400 and a sunroof is $2600.
It's a tight cabin, so BMW hasn't done too badly with the M2 - obviously it's little different from a 2 Series, which means a pair of cupholders up front, a decent-sized bin under the front armrest and bottle holders in each door.
Rear-seat passengers get somewhere to put their phone, a plastic tray between the two seats (not enough room for three) and that's it. The boot is a reasonable 390 litres but the seats do drop to give you more space and a ski port is an extra $500.
The M2 was clearly inspired by the success of the 1 Series M and there are plenty of visual homages. Super-aggressive front bumper, pumped arches, whopping tyre and wheel package and a stance that will scare hardened criminals/former NSW Labor powerbrokers.
Its basis, the 2 Series, is a handsome car, managing to cram a lot of style and elegance into not much space, something that's not easy to do (take a look at the launch version of the second-generation 1 Series). If you slice the 2 lengthways from the wheelarches up, it's exactly the same, while all the fun starts below the waist. So to speak.
The colossal grip available in the M2 is what makes this car impressive in either manual or auto.
Inside is a bit of a let down for the money - it's typical BMW spec; meaning everything is built properly, looks tough and nothing will fall off. There are a few concessions to the price - the bigger screen for starters, some carbon fibre trim bits, the delectable M steering wheel and the blue minty toothpaste-coloured stitching. The sports seats are excellent but no match for the looks of the M4 seats, although they are more comfortable with a bit more padding.
It could probably do with a bit more bling, but this isn't the style we've come to expect of the Bavarians - there aren't even a set of alloy pedals (but if we're being honest, those are pretty awful if you've got wet shoes). For a $100k proposition, you might want more interior excitement, but fortunately you’ll probably be enjoying the drive too much to care.
The rear seats are good for short trips for up to six-footers - luckily we have one of those handy in the form of a 14-year old who's taller than dear old dad and was quite happy back there, although the headroom is tight.
The M2's pumped snout contains the M235i/M240i's 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbo straight six. With the help of some M3/M4 parts, outputs are up to 272kW and 465Nm (with 500Nm available on overboost).
The manual will rocket to 100km/h in an M4-worrying (but not beating) 4.5 seconds, a tick slower than the seven-speed DCT. Power reaches the 265/35 rear tyres via a six-speed manual and a trick Active M differential.
BMW's official combined figure of 8.5L/100km seems laughably optimistic until a solid week of thrashing with a bit of highway running returned 10.5L/100km. If you were to baby it (stop laughing), you may well find yourself just a litre or so off.
The M2 has energy recovery and stop-start to ease its thirst for premium unleaded.
Firing up the M2 immediately puts you in the mood - there's a thundering burble from the quad pipes that you don't normally get from a BMW. To these ears, it sounds better than the M4 inside and out - it's a purer sound; perhaps the shorter tubes are responsible.
The M2 is a lot like the 1M in that it's made up of lots of different bits of other cars. The standard 2's body wasn't wide enough to contain the M4 suspension and brake bits, and wasn't stiff enough for the extra mumbo, so there's some 2 Convertible bracing thrown in and an extra radiator and transmission cooler, each hiding behind the intakes on either side of the bumper. Unseen are the changes to the floor for even more stiffness. That all goes some way to explaining the 1495kg kerb weight.
Bitzer cars don't always work that well, but this is not your typical parts-bin special, it’s an M car, and the M2 is an epic drive. Motoring journalists always rabbit on about rear-wheel drive, but we often forget to mention the difference a good differential makes.
Clutch in and the familiar notchiness of the BMW six-speed is reassuring as you select first and pull away. The steering is weighty, but well-balanced against the chubby 245s on the front rims. Then you boot it, and it's like a bomb's gone off.
The needle bounces off the redline before you know it, so second and third will be required very quickly indeed - anyone who says turbos ruin revs has to drive one of these. The mid-range torque of the turbo six, already impressive in 35i/40i guise, jumps to galactic proportions. In Sport and Sport+, the rear end will squirm off a hard launch, the diff and 265 rubber trying to contain all that mumbo. Switch traction off altogether and you can expect tyre smoke on launch, but when you do gain traction, you'll be away. And laughing out loud.
Surprisingly, the M2 rides quite well - the dampers aren't as aggressive on compression as the M4 and the springs seem to have a little more travel to play with. Potholes aren't soaked up but they send less of a shock through the bodyshell than on the M4. This translates to a feeling that you can take whatever a broken country road has to throw at you. Mid-corner bumps won't turf you into the scenery or cause a bone-crunching thump.
Then there are the brakes. M cars are occasionally criticised for their steel brakes, but there can be no real complaints on the road about these - the M4's 380mm fronts with big, blue four-piston calipers take care of the braking along with the 370mm twin-pot caliper rears. The drilled discs look the business and BMW makes much of the M compound pads. Bottom line is that these would stop an ocean liner, so they're more than up to the job on the M2. They've got great feel, don't make a racket and keep you from badly overcooking corner entries.
The colossal grip available in the M2 is what makes this car impressive in either manual or auto, but changing the gears yourself, keeping it in the torque curve, and learning how to steer it on the straight and narrow when all that grunt is trying to tear the world asunder adds up to a huge amount of fun.
The manual is hard work in the very best of ways - the DCT is brilliant and lets you get on with the job, but a hard run in the manual will leave you very happy indeed. More of that was down to you and the edge seems rather closer when you've got more to think about. In normal traffic the manual is easy enough to shift but with all that torque, you don't need to do that much anyway.
There's very little to dislike about the M2's road manners. It's close to perfect, even without adaptive dampers. If you can live with a firmer ride than the M4 and like $60,000 in your bank account (hell, you can use it to buy a softer-sprung car), you could use it every day, just like the other M cars.
Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability controls, forward collision warning and mitigation.
The 2 Series does not have its own ANCAP or EuroNCAP safety rating. Don't confuse it with the 2 Active Tourer's crash test on the ANCAP site.
BMW offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with three years roadside assist.
As it's an M car, there is no fixed price servicing.
The M2 is an excellent follow-up to not only the 1M but the E46 M3 everyone bangs on about. Having driven the M3 CSL and M2 on the same day earlier in the year, the closeness in feel is palpable. And the myth proves to be reality - they're both terrific.
While BMW has very carefully specified the car to keep the price down (no LED headlights, blind spot sensors, that sort of thing), there's enough to keep you occupied during the daily commute while also more than enough to make you whoop on a midnight blast.
The M2 joins an elite club of cars that will sell like crazy but never lose their shine (or their resale value) because it truly is one of the great, genuinely involving driver's cars. While M has never forgotten how to make a car go fast, they've rediscovered serious fast fun. Welcome back.
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