It's time to go back to basics and appeal to the hardcore.
Right now, if you're an enthusiast on a budget then your choice of rear-wheel-drive cars is slim up to and around the $30,000 mark. You've got the Toyota 86 or it's Subaru BRZ twin, the Mazda MX-5, the Nissan 370Z, or the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. The Toyubaru and MX-5 lack the power many people want, the 370Z is old and overpriced, and the Mustang and Camaro give the best bang for your buck.
The fact of the matter is that the American cars that Europeans used to mock for their grip and handling are the best rear-wheel-drive cars enthusiasts can pick up for $30,000 or less. They are quick, look good, and handle well. That means BMW is missing a trick.
When most enthusiasts look back, it was the E46 3 Series that set a bar that BMW hasn't quite reached again. At least, until the 2 Series came along. It's almost the same size as the E46 and echoes the same driving feel of the turn of the century 3 Series. However, BMW is a premium brand, which means that in the brand's eyes it has to have all the features of the 21st century keeps throwing at us. The problem is, most of those features are unnecessary, expensive, and built-in as standard. That's not ideal for driving enthusiasts as it means paying $35,300 for 230i coupe, and then to get to the sporty M240i Coupe you're going to start at $45,800 for the turbo-straight-6 engine.
Here's what we suggest to BMW: Offer a 2 Series stripper model for enthusiasts that don't need, or care about, active driving assistants, ambient lighting, parking sensors, heated leather seats, or anything else that isn't essential for driving. Get the price down to $30,000 and deliver something that will leave people wondering why they spent their money on an American pony car or any hot hatch. Don't worry BMW, we're here to help and we can outline it for you.
The recipe is simple. You can begin with a 230i and start by losing the weight of electric motors and heating elements by swapping the seats out for manually adjustable cloth sports seats. Then, to save on cost, get rid of iDrive completely and do a deal with an aftermarket company for a decent head unit with Bluetooth connectivity and a big enough screen for the mandatory backup camera. The keyword here is decent, the head unit just has to be good enough to play music and turn-by-turn directions from a phone. The only tech features it needs are the ones legally mandated. We're not paying a subscription for Apple Carplay, so just ice that and Android Auto.
It can have a sport mode, but it needs to make the engine much more aggressive. What the driver's 2 Series shouldn't have though is any options other than tires and maybe paint. The interior is black unless stitching to help with branding isn't too expensive, and the stock steering wheel is fine although you might have to blank out some buttons. Then, once the inside of the 2 Series is minimized, we can look at the outside.
The driver's 2 Series only needs 17-inch wheels as they are lighter and, even more importantly, it's cheaper to replace sticky tires on a car designed to be driven. Larger brakes are a must because they're going to get used a lot, but not made with anything other than steel to keep initial and replacement cost down. Speaking of keeping cost and weight down, every little will help to get down to that $30,000 price so things like less sound insulation could work while also making the driving experience rawer.
An M Sport upgrade on the suspension to make the most of that excellent chassis is key. To keep the price down you'll be using the 248 horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with some of that extra power unlocked. We know you leave power on the table BMW, this is the time to use it. Then we can talk about branding.
This is where it gets trickier because this isn't a full-blooded M Car. You could go with the M240i, but this is for the purer driving enthusiast and not those that want something sporty with luxury trimmings. Maybe play up the coolness factor by not having a model number badge and use a small logo using the M colors instead. If using a single paint color helps keep the price down, pick one and stick with it and, if the stripper model is successful, maybe use a different color for each subsequent generation.
It may be impossible to build a 2 Series to the spec needed here, even by dropping the expensive seats and tech, and still make a profit. But if the driver's 230i just breaks even then that's fine - this isn't meant to be a profit machine; it's a credibility machine. It'll find its way into tuners hands, onto the tracks, and the automotive press will absolutely love it. Most of all though, the people who want a reasonably affordable performance-based rear-wheel-drive car they can drive the hell out of will love it. Show people a BMW that's gone back to basics and relies on its chassis and engine to be the ultimate driving machine, and they will come.