By Shari Prymak
Despite an extensive lineup consisting of over half a dozen SUVs and countless other models, there are only a select handful of BMWs which still live up to the brand’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan in the traditional sense. The BMW M2 is a shining example of one of those models, and one in a long line of small, rear-drive BMW coupes that can trace their lineage back to the 2002 and Neue Klass Sedan from half a century ago. Put simply, the M2 (Tested Here) is a total blast to drive, encompassing all of the brand’s values, and certainly one of BMW’s all-time greats. Now the gem of BMW’s lineup has been upgraded, becoming the M2 Competition.
Based on the 2-Series platform, BMW created the M2 partly through careful pilfering of the M3/M4 parts bin. On the M2 Competition, the pilfering is taken a few steps further with upgrades that include a variant of the M3/M4’s twin-turbo 3.0L straight-six engine with a track-ready cooling and oil supply system, carbon fibre engine brace, larger M Sport brakes, retuned steering, and an electronic Active M differential. The interior gets M Sport seats with illuminated M logos, a red start-stop button, plus M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel for saving your favorite engine, steering, DSC, and, on M DCT-equipped models, transmission settings using the switchable selector buttons. Several cosmetic enhancements, including M side mirrors, black kidney grills, and multi-spoke 19 inch wheels, round out the bulk of the updates.
The engine produces 405 horsepower, up 40 from the single-turbo unit in the M2, and 406 lb-ft of torque, enough for a 0-100km/h time in just 4.2 seconds. It certainly feels like a pocket rocket thanks to a deep reserve of torque and linear power delivery that comes on strong from low revs. The dual exhaust system has an electronic flap that opens at higher rpm to deliver a satisfying inline-six growl that builds as you approach the 7,600 rpm redline. The optional 7-speed M dual-clutch transmission offers smooth, quick gear changes with the flick of a paddle, though I’d still opt for the standard 6-speed manual gearbox. The level of involvement and fun that it brings to the driving experience is perfectly in keeping with the M2’s mission as a pure driver’s car.
Elsewhere, the M2 Competition feels about as sharp, focused, and well-balanced as anything short of a mid-engined supercar. In the interest of simplicity, the suspension is passively damped like the M cars of old with a well-judged, firmly sprung setup. It simply goes where it is pointed with total confidence and athleticism, all the while communicating what’s going on beneath you. The steering is both precise and responsive to inputs, and the massive brakes provide instant stopping power. This is a car that begs for track days where the chassis can really be stretched and that clever M differential can be put to work carving corners with precision or performing heroic slides depending on your mood.
Unlike competing sports cars, the M2’s performance doesn’t come at the expense of daily usability. Inside you have four proper seats plus a good sized trunk. The M sport seats are incredibly supportive with enough adjustability for long distance comfort. Given its compact dimensions, space is on the cozy side, but the expansive glass all around helps add an airy feel. BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is effective and supplemented by straightforward buttons and knobs for commonly used tasks. The instrument gauges have a clean analog look to them, but the lack of pressure or temperature gauges is quite puzzling for a classically-designed M car such as this. At least BMW got other details right such as the contrast colour stitching and the use of M tricolours for the seatbelts.
The M2 Competition’s starting MSRP of $71,250 represents a significant increase over the baseline of the previous M2, but it is still quite the performance bargain when compared to key rivals such as the Porsche 718 Cayman S. Compared to the M2, the Cayman is far pricier, less practical, less powerful and arguably less charismatic thanks to a dud of a turbo 4-cylinder engine, The M2’s pricing only starts to look steep when compared to its little brother, the M240i (Tested Here). For only $47,200 to start, the M240i offers much of the M2’s fun factor and basic goodness for a lot less. If regular track days are on the agenda, however, the proper M car is probably worth the price premium.
For those who feel that BMW’s M cars have become too big and heavy for their own good, the M2 Competition will feel like the glory days of yesteryear. It takes the best bits from those larger M cars and crams them into a package no bigger than that of the E46-generation M3, the one regarded by many as the best in the brand’s history. Combine that with the purity of rear-wheel drive, passively damped suspension, and a standard manual gearbox, and you have the makings of a high water mark moment for the BMW M brand.
For more details, please visit the BMW Canada website.