The BMW M2 is the best BMW in more than a decade, some might even say the only BMW worthy of the M badge in that time period. It has everything the old-school M-faithful want in a car: great throttle response, world-class ride/handling balance, good steering, sounds like a straight-six should, and driver interaction unmatched since the e36—this is the return of the classic BMW. So the question is, if the M2 is so good, can a tuner, even one of the best BMW tuners in the world, improve on it?
If you are even the least bit of a BMW enthusiast, you know the legendary name blazoned across the top of this car's windshield. Steve Dinan founded the premier American BMW tuning company in 1979 in Morgan Hills, California. For nearly 30 years, Steve was responsible for building some of the greatest BMWs in the world with everything from larger displacement engines to superchargers, suspension packages, and even aerodynamic add-ons. The claim to fame wasn't just factory levels of quality and R&D, but being covered by a Dinan warranty comparable to the original; it went a long way in justifying the premium often demanded over other tuners.
In 2013, the company was sold to Driven Performance Brands, a conglomerate of performance companies including Hurst, B&M, and Flowmaster. It brought an influx of capital, and Steve stayed on as a consultant until 2015, when he left to follow his first passion and joined Ganassi Racing. The company that bears his name is still as active as ever, making BMWs faster and handle, brake, and even look better.
Back in 2015, I wrote a feature covering the Dinan M4; I love that car. The modifications tamed the unwieldy rear end, smoothed out the power curve, and it even rode better than stock while using huge and aggressive Pirelli tires. When I first drove the stock M2, I wondered if BMW engineers spent time in that car and transferred some of that knowledge into the development of the M2.
As infatuated as I am with Dinan's M4, I was even more excited to finally get into the M2 with the S2 package—the best BMW with the best tuning. A great combination even if the price caused a bit of sticker shock.
I can't stress this enough (and neither can Dinan's PR guy): Dinan is more than happy to sell you everything on this car all at once or like a tuning buffet. You can have as much or as little of what you see here as you would like. It is also worth noting, buying things in groups will get you a discounted package price, something to consider if you know you will end up buying it all eventually anyway.
The total cost of everything, including the price of the car, is a mere $82,358. OK, there's a little sarcasm in "a mere." Once you regain composure and have repeated that price to everyone in your house—including the Labrador—I will say that nobody in his or her right mind will spend that much to get everything. I'll address that again, later.
The most obvious modification on this car, whether idling, cruising, or at WOT, is the ever-present and overly flatulent exhaust. Dinan offers its exhaust system in two stages; one is simply a rear section, replacing the muffler behind the rear axle. The other, a section of pipe from the catalytic convertor to that new rear section replacing the factory resonator, which, when the electronically controlled exhaust valve is open, turns your $2,100 exhaust into a straight pipe. This car is equipped with the full exhaust. I will be honest, I have heard very, very, few BMW inline-six turbo engines that sound great, or even good. This isn't one of those few. This car follows the '80s hair-metal maxim of, "If ya can't be good, be loud!" I am really hoping the exhaust is more bearable with the factory resonator in place. If you just want noise and/or hate your neighbors, then by all means buy the whole exhaust. I think I would skip the exhaust altogether. See, it's only step one and I'm already saving you money; you'll need it if you're thinking about the next step.
The M4 I reviewed roughly a year and a half ago used the Dinantronics intercept computer to increase boost from the factory turbocharger. This car uses the same system, but takes that several steps further by using Dinan's big turbo kit. "Big Turbo" is a slight misnomer as this is actually a reworked factory turbocharger; the compressor wheel size in increased, allowing for 30 percent greater flow along with greater efficiency. Since the turbo frame is a factory piece, it bolts right on in the factory position. The real kicker is that it is 50-state legal and CARB approved—try that with most big turbo kits.
To support the turbo, Dinan utilizes a new twin-core intercooler, which is essentially two intercoolers, one in front of the other, that share common end-tanks. There is also the Dinan carbon-fiber air intake, which replaces the top half of the factory airbox, uses a round filter inside that airbox, and replaces the plastic intake tube with a glossy carbon-fiber tube. All of this adds up to an M4 rivaling 446 hp and 458 lb-ft of torque. So you don't have to bother Mr. Google, a stock M4 with the $4,750 Competition Package produces 444 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque.
This M2 has similar suspension modifications to the M4 as well. First we have the Tension Strut Ball-Joint Kit for the front thrust arms and adjustable toe-links with steal rod-ends in the rear. These were the two modifications I thought were mandatory on the M4. They remove the deflection caused by factory rubber bushings and give the car a far more precise feel. Next, in the order I would probably buy them, are the antiroll bars both front and rear. The front is adjustable from 57-103 percent stiffer than factory and the rear is 0-13 percent stiffer. In front, Dinan also uses camber plates, which stiffen up the top of the strut mount. Dinan doesn't give a range of camber settings, but the plates offer 43 mm of travel at the strut top, 13 mm more to the positive side and 30 mm more negative. Lastly, a coilover kit that replaces the factory progressive rate springs with linear rate springs with adjustable perches. The front is 18 percent stiffer and Dinan says the rear is just 5 percent stiffer, but since the factory spring is progressive, we don't know if that is 5 percent stiffer compared to the static height rate, the average rate, or the maximum rate. The kit is designed to work with the factory dampers and lowers the car up to 1 inch in front and 1.5 inches in the rear. This car appears to be barely lowered at all, which let's face it, if you're adding all that stiffness in front to decrease body roll, the last thing you want to do is lower the Mac-strut front suspension and add back in the body roll by increasing the roll couple.
Finally, let's talk about the most visible parts on the outside of the car; we have 19-inch Dinan forged wheels, 9.5 inches wide in front and 10.5 inches wide in the rear. Deep breath: $6,580 not including tires. Like the M4, Dinan has chosen a Pirelli tire, this time 265/30 and 285/30 P Zero Corsas, $1,468 retail. And as the coup de grace, we have the $8,690 Brembo brakes with six-piston calipers and 16-inch rotors in front and four-piston calipers with 15-inch rotors in the rear. Since you asked, the stock car has four-piston calipers front with 15-inch rotors and two-piston calipers with 14.5-inch rotors rear. The first M2 I drove was at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a track that is notoriously torturous on brakes; with factory accessory sport pads on the car, brake fade was never an issue—just sayin.
So that is how you go about wracking up a $28,358 bill, before installation of course, on top of a $54,000 "entry-level" M-car. So, again, I remind you, buffet style.
Sadly, we didn't get a chance to test it at the track, so I don't have actual numbers. What I can tell you is that a stock M2 traps at roughly 108 mph in the quarter-mile, while a stock M4 traps at 116 mph. Dinan claims the P2 Power Pack adds 110 hp, but also rates this car at 446 hp, so I'm guessing that +110 is happening somewhere other than at peak power. I will say that it "feels" at least as fast as a stock M4. But—I don't care. I can buy a Camaro for 60 grand that'll eat either car's lunch in a straight line all day, every day, and if you're buying a BMW to go fast in a straight line, congratulations, you're one of the people who's responsible for the last decade of bad Bimmers.
A stock M4 suffers from turbo lag, which is followed by a huge surge of torque that unsettles the car. You don't feed in power in the f8X; you ask for some and the car waits and then at a point it determines appropriate, serves you all of it, completely negating 40 years of forced induction development work by the human race. BMW managed to remove that entirely from the stock M2 and actually made it feel like 90 percent of all the other modern turbocharged cars. The power delivery is smooth and linear. It still isn't quite like the individual throttle bodies of the older naturally aspirated cars—the ones that felt like you could measure out horsepower by the singular hoof step—but it is such an improvement over any other turbo BMW. The larger turbo on this M2, while far more powerful, makes the M2's power delivery feel just about like the M4. That beautiful linearity is gone. But some people need to be able to brag about numbers, so I guess this will satisfy them. Just remember, the guys in the muscle cars are still going to be faster for a lot less money and you've given up one of the best parts of your M2.
On smooth surfaces, the suspension tuning is very good. The M2 doesn't need much help in that department, but with the added power, I guess Dinan felt compelled to make changes. I am a big fan of bushing upgrades on most cars, and this is no exception. I think the tension ball joints and rear toe-links are great upgrades. The antiroll bars are good as well. On anything but the smoothest and flattest of roads, I didn't care for the coilovers. In high-speed corners—big freeway interchanges, large sweepers, anything nearing triple digits—the back end feels unsettled over bumps. In big compressions, even in a straight line, it feels like the car is finding both ends of the suspension travel. Again, some people can't sleep at night if their car isn't lowered; I'm not one of them. I would consider buying everything but the coilovers if this were my car.
This brings us to the wheels, tires, and brakes. The wheels are beautiful, they're light weight at just 20 pounds each for the front and 21.5 pounds each for the rear, but for 30 percent of the price, you can buy wheels that are only 10 percent heavier. The tire sizes that Dinan has chosen are a bit on the rare side. According to Tire Rack, you will have the choice of these street/track tires, two max performance summer tires, and one ultra high performance all-season; these Pirellis are the best choice among those four. The big Brembo brakes look and function fantastically; more important, however, they scream to the world, "I have money to throw at my car."
I know there are plenty of people out there who like the current M4. All of these modifications basically add up to taking an M2 and turning it into a just slightly smaller version of that car. That includes everything from the performance to price and driving experience. My question would be, why not just buy an M4?
So how would I equip my hypothetical M2, if I felt compelled to do anything? The top of the list would be the Tension Strut Ball Joint Kit and the Rear Toe Links. Next I would consider the antiroll bars, and if I were going to track the car on a regular basis, I would buy the camber mounts. As I previously mentioned, the exhaust kit would stay on the shelf, without question. I would like to try the Dinantronics unit by itself to see how that feels. I'd then add the intake and intercooler to see the results of those. I don't feel like the M2 really needs more power, but I'd like to give it shot to see what it's like. If I did all of those things, I would be at $6,663, before install. Still well below the M4 in price, yet still way above the M4 in driving experience.