The M2 might be one of the best sports coupés of all time. But, as Matt Robinson discovers, BMW M might just have done the impossible and given us something even better; the new M2 Competition Photos: Uwe Fischer.
2019 F87 M2 Competition on test The M2 may be one of the best sports coupés of all time. But BMW M might just have done the impossible and given us something even better.
Improving on Perfection
BMW’s philosophy on M cars, or cars with M badges, has become somewhat more varied in recent years, compared to how things were in the brand’s traditional past. Time was when it was a simple enough equation to figure out; the fastest 3 Series was the M3, the fastest 5 Series was the M5, and so on.
But the advent of greater demand for ‘performance tiers’ within a company’s product range, has seen BMW expand the influence of M. So, nowadays, we have the M Performance models, like the M240i F22, the X4 M40i and the M760Li G12 (itself a bit misleading, as the 6.6-litre, bi-turbo V12 7 Series has more than enough power to be considered an M7…).
Then there are the ‘regular’ M cars, such as the M2, M3, M4, M5 and M6, plus the multiple levels above that – Competition Packs and CS models, as well as cars branded GTS, and maybe even CSL, too.
This is to say nothing about the fact that, for instance, the M3 and M4 are considered disparate cars, rather than coupé and saloon versions of the same thing, but I digress. So, BMW is attempting to rationalise things once more. Now there will be a clear hierarchy for the full-on Ms, which runs standard car, then Competition, then CS. Again, there’s slight confusion because, in other ranges (notably, the M5 family), the Competition model will be offered alongside the regular car. But for the M2, the Competition car is now the only version you can buy. And, with a starting price of £49,805, it’s quite a bit more money than the £44,000 or so it required to get into the old, unadorned M2.
The BMW M2 Competition might very well be the finest thing this great German company has ever made
LOTS OF DIFFERENCE
However, if you’re thinking that the M2 Competition is just an M2 with some slight chassis tweaks and amended visual detailing, then think again. A wholesale change has come about under the ultimate 2 Series’ snub bonnet. Out goes the 3.0- litre, turbocharged straight-six petrol engine, to be replaced by a 3.0-litre, turbocharged straight-six petrol engine. Of course, I’m being facetious here; this is actually big news.
The old unit, which made 370hp and 343lb ft of torque in normal operation, with up to 369lb ft available on a time-limited overboost, was actually a development of the ‘normal’ 3.0-litre single-turbocharged inline-six from the M240i, only with some useful parts – like the pistons – from the M3/M4’s motor drafted in.
Now, though, the M2 Competition simply uses the M3/M4’s engine, or a derivation of it. Emission regs killed off the old M2’s 370hp unit, so BMW lifted the twin-turbo derivative from the M3/ M4, only marginally detuned from its base outputs in the larger vehicles. Nevertheless, with 410hp available between 5,250 to 7,000rpm, plus a whopping 406lb ft from 2,350rpm all the way out to 5,200rpm, the M2 Competition is a lot more potent than its predecessor.
True, the quoted 0-62mph times have only dropped by a tenth (the M DCT model achieves the sprint in 4.2 seconds, while the six-speed manual M2 Competition takes 4.4 seconds to hit the benchmark from rest), but the way the M2 Competition goes about its business should be notably different.
Technically, there are other advantages to the twin-turbo powerplant, over and above its gains of 40hp and 37lb ft. The twin mono-scroll turbos are said to be faster-reacting than the old, twin-scroll single turbo, while the engine features a closed-deck design that leads to a more rigid crankcase, allowing for higher cylinder pressures and increased output.
The cylinder bores are arc-sprayed (LDS-coated) to keep weight down, while the sump has been granted additional structures that help to maintain oil supply, even during the hardest, on-track cornering. Even the cooling is uprated to the M4’s set-up, meaning one main central rad, two smaller side items and an engine oil cooler, while the M DCT version has a transmission oil cooler as well.
Elsewhere, the DSC stability control system has been completely recalibrated to account for the M2 Competition’s tauter focus. It’s also the first M2 to get selectable driving parameters for the steering, gearbox (on the M DCT variant) and engine response; although BMW stopped short of offering adaptive dampers. This omission – together with the decision to keep the M2 Competition’s peak output at 410hp, instead of 431hp – speaks volumes about how worried BMW is about the possibility of the hardcore M2 poaching sales from the M4 F82.
Anyway, further tweaks to the M2’s hardware include revised electric power steering, a re-tuned M differential, lightweight, forged 19in Y-spoke alloy wheels, a carbon-fibre front strut brace in the engine bay, and bigger brakes (as an option). The Competition has the choice of M Sport 400mm-diameter front discs gripped by six-pot front calipers, with 380mm rear discs and four-piston callipers; that compares to the standard M compound system of 380mm front and 370mm rear discs, with four- and twopot callipers respectively. You’ll know if an M2 Competition has the uprated brakes, because its callipers will be painted grey, rather than blue.
This brings me neatly on to the visuals. The M2 Competition has added purpose to its hunch-shouldered look. One feature of all Competition models will be black badging so, accordingly, the M2 logo on the boot is rendered in a dark shade. Elsewhere, the Competition is marked out by a heavily revised front air dam area (which contributes to the aforementioned improved cooling, thanks to its enlarged air intakes), one-piece, gloss-black kidney grilles, Shadowline high-gloss window surrounds, new M door mirrors and the Adaptive Icon LED headlights.
Two new paint colours are also offered, which are Sunset Orange metallic (a shade that can be found in the wider 2 Series family) and then a hue that promises to be exclusive to the M2 Competition, which is Hockenheim Silver metallic.
Inside, much is made of the black-panel display for the instrument cluster, which does look a lot cooler now, but you might also note the ‘M2 Competition’ sill plates, the red start/stop button (a feature first seen on the F90 M5), M tricolour-striped seatbelts, ‘M1’ and ‘M2’ buttons on a redesigned M leather steering wheel plus carbon-fibre trim finishing. Options include a set of shapely M Sport bucket seats with illuminated M2 logos in the backrests but, overall, the M2 Competition – which looks superb inside and out – is merely a polishing of the aesthetic excellence that went before it.
I managed to drive an M DCT model on some exciting roads at the car’s launch, while also sampling a manual version on the Ascari race track. There’s an active exhaust on the M2 Competition and maybe it’s that, or maybe it’s the beating heart of an M3/M4 F80/F82 under the hood but, whatever it is, this BMW sounds suitably serious from idle.
It’s more hard-edged and angry than it was before; a fact that’s endorsed as soon as you venture beyond 4,000rpm, whereupon it shrieks in a manner that the 370hp M2 never did. This is the biturbo 3.0-litre making itself known, and it’s doing it in an entirely good way.
The increased, spine-tingling noise couples with savage acceleration from the straight-six engine, the motor hauling ridiculously hard for its redline. If there was ever a complaint about the straightline performance of the old M2, it’s that at the highest revs, the engine felt a little breathless, but you can’t accuse the new biturbo motor in the Competition of any such shortfall.
The new model positively head-butts its rev limiter, and feels like it could go another 500 or 600rpm with little difficulty, although presumably – if it did such a thing – this would be the point at which you’d be seriously questioning the need for an M4 Competition Pack. Searing pace is not something for which the M2 Competition is found lacking, that’s for sure.
Thankfully, the key ingredient here is the chassis, or rather, the realisation that the additional power and torque have not upset the sublime balance of BMW’s stockiest performance car. If anything, the Competition is even more fun to drive than the outgoing M2, which seems impossible, given how good the M2 was (and still is).
On the road, I can see the appeal of the M DCT. It is, as with all of BMW’s twin-clutch transmissions, a cracker, which responds as instantly to the throttle in full automatic mode as it does to clicks of the steering wheel paddles when the driver wants to take charge of the gears. Consequently, not only does it make this version quicker than its manual sibling, but it also makes it quite a bit greener on the quoted economy and emissions stats (a manual M2 Competition achieves 28.8mpg and 224g/km, some way off the DCT’s 31.4mpg and 206g/km).
But, with this sort of driver involvement at your behest, I’d advocate saving some money on the purchase of the Competition, and sticking with the three-pedal M2. Yes, the DCT is better for those odd occasions when you’ll have the M2 in its least brutal settings, whereupon you can marvel at the brilliance of BMW’s fixed-rate springs and dampers, and the level of impressive ride quality they bestow on the Competition. But when you’re stirring around one of BMW’s typically chunky manual gearboxes and revelling in the fluid chassis adjustability of the M2, you’ll be having a ball.
The strut brace and the revised hardware combine to give the F87 M2 Competition the sort of turn-in that wouldn’t disgrace an M3 F80 or M4 CS F82… or even the fabled M4 GTS F82. There doesn’t seem to be even the briefest moment of inertia as the front end keenly scythes into the apex of the corner, as if it knew what steering input you wanted, even before you asked for it. Understeer is present, marginally, a trace background indicator of the ultimate levels of grip. But to get to the point where the M2’s nose is washing wide, requires extremely ham-fisted provocation from the driver.
CLEAN OR WILD!
Otherwise, you can make the M2 corner as cleanly or as wildly as you like, using a combination of its mammoth torque, its beautiful, pin-sharp steering and its oh-so-clearly telegraphed weight transfer. Give it a slight bung with the steering wheel and the rear drifts into a lovely, progressive movement of mild oversteer.
Ram on the throttle in second with the electronics disengaged, and the back will smoke out into an obscene opposite lock stance. Mild lifts of the rapier throttle will see the M2 Competition smartly tighten its line mid-bend, without making you tighten your grip on the steering wheel in terror and, overall, there’s simply a wonderful, glorious balance to this machine that’s hard to resist. It feels majestic on a cut-and- thrust B-road, it feels imperious on track and, crucially, it can reward you at road speeds that are the right side of legal. Even more importantly, it feels like a marked step on from the outgoing M2 F87, ensuring that the new boy is welled-serving of its Competition badge.
Indeed, on an event where the M3 CS F80 was available for road-testing, and BMW also gave us extended time behind the wheel of the all-new M5 Competition F90, it was the M2 Competition that stuck most vividly in our minds.
You see, it represents the coalescence of everything that made BMW M the powerhouse it is today. It’s compact. It’s reasonably light. It’s powered by a monster straight-six petrol engine. It has a chassis that most other car companies would kill for. And, while 50 grand is hardly inexpensive, the M2 Competition remains relatively affordable in a world where many of M’s most potent products are now six-figure vehicles when new.
So yes, the concept of what M means nowadays may be a more complex one to grasp than it was 30 years ago, but here’s something simple to deal with; the BMW M2 Competition F87 might very well be the finest thing this great German company has ever made. It’s a driver’s car of the very highest calibre, making it immensely, achingly desirable as a result. If the Competition badge keeps delivering such glittering products as this going forward, then we BMW fans are in for a very exciting time indeed!
With prices starting at £49,805, the new M2 Competition is quite a bit more expensive than the old M2 but, arguably, worth every penny!
The 410hp straight-six twin-turbocharged engine in the new M2 Competition shrieks in a manner that the old 370hp car never did.
A revised and suitably aggressive front air dam area helps distinguish the new M2 Competition. From the side, there’s precious little to tell the Competition version apart from its M2 forebear. Most of the significant difference is under the typically muscular-looking body. Importantly, this car feels like a marked step on from the outgoing M2.
Although the DTC-equipped car is a little quicker and cleaner than the manual version, the latter is certainly a great, traditionalist’s option.
Compact, neat and powered by a high-performance petrol engine – the traditional recipe for a BMW M car.
The new model positively head-butts its rev limiter, and feels like it could go another 500 or 600rpm with little difficulty
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATION 2019 BMW M2 Competition M DCT F87
PRICE 2018/2019 IN UK: from £49,805
DRIVETRAIN: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged straight-six petrol, seven-speed M DCT twin-clutch automatic with Drivelogic, rear-wheel drive
EMISSIONS (CO²): 206g/km
TOP SPEED: 155mph limited standard (174mph limited if specified with M Driver’s Package)
0-62MPH: 4.2 seconds
MAX POWER: 410hp at 5,250-7,000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 406lb ft at 2,350-5,200rpm