ROAD TEST: 2020 BMW M2 CS Manual

By Shari Prymak

It might not be immediately obvious based on the current model lineup, but BMW spent many decades building its reputation on a backbone of driver focused sport sedans. More so than any other model, the M2 is a reminder of what BMW once stood for, encompassing all of the brand’s values and living up to the world famous “Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan. As a final sendoff to the current generation model, BMW has introduced a limited run M2 CS, and it might just have the makings to be one of the company’s all-time greats.  

Limited to only 2,200 examples globally, a small handful of which will make it to Canada, the CS receives a number of unique touches to help differentiate it from the standard M2 Competition. On the outside, the CS receives a full carbon fibre hood, roof, mirror caps, front and rear spoilers, and a rear diffuser in an effort to shed a bit of weight. The stunning Misano blue metallic colour is unique to the CS as well. On the inside, a simple carbon fibre centre console replaces the centre storage bin and alcantara trim covers most of the interior surfaces. Much of what makes the M2 a usable everyday car, such as iDrive infotainment system, extensive features list, and usable rear seats, remain in place.

Under the hood, the CS receives a retuned version of the S55 twin-turbo straight-six engine, producing the same 444 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque as the outgoing M3 and M4 Competition. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a standard 6-speed manual gearbox and an electronic M differential. Although a faster-shifting 7-speed M DCT gearbox is offered, the manual unleashes a far more involving and enjoyable driving experience that’s better suited to the M2’s pure, playful character. It’s just a joy to row through the gears and take control of the S55’s seemingly endless power as it unwinds to a fairly lofty 7600 rpm redline. The engine’s raspy howl and the throaty exhaust note add quite a bit of excitement as well, even though there is a bit of fake sound enhancement through the speaker system. 

The more I drive the M2 CS, the more I am convinced that it is easily one of the best driver’s cars that BMW has ever made. Although it is ultimately not as light as something like a Porsche 718 GT4, its comparably small size and finely tuned controls give it a playfulness and balance that make it an utter joy to drive. Unlike BMW’s larger M cars which filter out much of sensations of driving, the CS does the complete opposite and overloads your senses with its purity. The M5 and M8 might be faster on paper, but out on the road, the M2 CS feels faster and just more exciting. Everything from the suspension damping, steering feel, and firm brakes are tuned to perfection, making this an ideal track day companion or just a fun canyon carver.

The M2 CS’s starting MSRP of $97,750 is quite the leap from the M2 Competition, but the price premium is largely justified given its upgrades, exclusivity, and collector car potential. The only comparable sports cars which offer such a pure, thrilling driving experience are the Porsche 718 GT4 and the Lotus Evora GT. Next to those two, the CS is a comparative bargain. As a bonus, it offers far greater daily usability thanks to its comfortable interior, 2+2 seating, and spacious trunk. The M2 CS is more than just the final ultimate version of the current generation 2-Series, it is a wonderful and much needed reminder of what a real Ultimate Driving Machine should be. Put simply, it is BMW at its absolute best.