It's hard to imagine BMW could improve on the original M2. But with the BMW M2 Competition, the German brand has done exactly that.
There was nothing wrong with the old BMW M2. That 2016 original was a modern classic from the moment it hit the showroom floor. But, stand still for too long, and the risk that moss will gather around your stones and weeds start sprouting in unexpected places is ever-present. And no-one wants an M-car with moss. Or weeds.
Meet the 2019 BMW M2 Competition, the baby Bavarian brawler, at once more powerful, faster and more direct than the original M2 that spawned it and which it now replaces.
Starting at $104,900 before on-road costs, the Competition receives a price bump of around $5000 over the outgoing M2 ($99,529). That’s a decent increase, but there’s no ‘gouging’ going on here, because what you get with the Competition is more car, more M2, and more M goodness. Mmmmm.
It could be argued this car is the embodiment of the original M-Sport ethos, extracting prodigious performance to create a small, two-door sports car. Think the original E30 generation, or the halo E46. Sure, other M-cars are faster, brawnier, more hardcore, but the M2 was the very essence of what made M, well, M. And the M2 Competition distils that essence.
Under the bulging bonnet of the M2 Competition lies a new engine, not totally new mind you, but one that’s been lifted out of its bigger M3 and M4 siblings. It’s a twin-turbo, 3.0-litre (2977cc to be exact) in-line six that makes a healthy 302kW (at 7000rpm) and 550Nm (between 2350–5200rpm). That’s slightly down on power over the M3 and M4 donor cars that score 317kW, but matches its bigger brothers for torque. And it’s also a considerable power bump over the single-turbo in-line six from the old M2 that ‘made do’ with 272kW and 465Nm.
With BMW’s seven-speed DCT transmission sending those numbers to the rear wheels, it’s enough to propel the Competition from standstill to 100km/h in a scintillating 4.2 seconds (there is a six-speed manual available as a no-cost option that is slightly slower, 4.4 seconds). The old model completed the same sprint in 4.3 seconds, so not a huge gain in straight-line speed. But the Competition’s improvements come in other areas.
It’s stiffer for starters, with a carbon-fibre strut straddling the front suspension turrets, just like in its bigger M3 and M4 siblings. It looks the business too when you open the bonnet, a shining weave of racing-inspired goodness. And software tweaks to the electronic power steering and limited-slip diff offer even more precision than the outgoing M2.
That $5K price bump seems justified then, if what you get is a faster, better handling and more responsive car than the one it replaces. Actually, let’s hold right there.
A German premium carmaker wouldn’t be worth its name if there weren’t at least some optional extras to help ease the bank balance back in the Fatherland. This M2 Competition is no different, with around $10K added to the bottom line courtesy of flicking through the brochure and selecting a few extras.
Think the M2 Competition looks pretty mint in black? We do too, and so do BMW’s accountants because that black paint, Black Sapphire Metallic for those playing at home, asks for an extra $1547. Actually, there are only five colours in the M2 Competition palette and four of them – the aforementioned black, Long Beach Blue, Sunset Orange, and Hockenheim Silver – will set you back the extra coin. Want free paint with your M2 Comp? It’ll have to be white, Alpine White precisely.
The M Sport brake package adds larger discs and $3000 to the bottom line, while a sunroof adds some much needed light into the black cabin as well as $2600 to the price. There’s sun protection glazing (a fancy term for privacy glass) at $660, heated seats for front passenger and driver ($650), BMW’s ‘through load system’ that reconfigures the back seat split from 60:40 to 40:20:40 (so, basically a ski-port for a slightly laughable $500), while wireless phone charging adds $200. As tested price? Try $114,057 (plus on-roads).
Still, there are plenty of highlights in the list of standard equipment: adaptive LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, 19-inch alloys specific to the Competition, an 8.8-inch iDrive 6 infotainment system with Navigation Pro, a premium 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and the Driving Assistance package that incorporates autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and pedestrian detection.
The first thing that slaps you in the face about the M2 Competition is how tough it looks, particularly in this pretty much all-black version. Its wide haunches and low-to-the-ground stance promise performance.
The front bumper, with its monstrous intakes (under which lurk bigger radiators for 20 per cent more cooling) presents a menacing façade and a reminder this ain’t no ordinary 2 Series.
That menace continues inside the cabin, a home to features bristling with intent. The sports seats – finished in black Dakota leather with contrast blue stitching, as standard – are very comfortable, with good bolstering and under-thigh support, while the seatbelts feature the near-ubiquitous M-Sport three-colour striping. There are plenty of other nods to M inside, with that famous logo festooned liberally throughout just to remind you this is, make no mistake, an M-car.
The steering wheel is leather-wrapped, contrast stitched (red and blue) and chunky. It’s also round – no flat-bottomed, faux F1 tiller here. And it feels good in hand, that chunkiness offering a reassuring tactility. So too the ‘open-pore’ carbon-fibre trimmings on the doors and centre console that look – and feel – good.
One minor bugbear, and it’s quite possibly specific to me since I like to sit higher in the seat than others. With the front seat set to my preferred driving position, flipping the lever to tilt the seatback forward to allow for ingress into the (cramped!) second row is met with the headrest hitting the roof of the car. That means you have to lower the seat (electrically, thank goodness) before you can fully tilt the seat forward in order to pour your four-year-old kid into the back.
That back row is best reserved for people not much bigger than a four-year-old. In mitigation, this is no family car, so if your daily needs stretch to using the back seats a lot, look elsewhere.
In fact, this is a car best enjoyed alone – just you, that lovely straight six and the open road. Because from the moment you press the starter button, the M2 Comp barks into life with a nastiness that hints, even promises, of untold pleasures that lie ahead. That’s thanks partly to the M2 Comp’s new ‘switchable’ exhaust system, with a new muffler and four nasty looking (in a good way) black chrome tailpipes.
Getting out of town to find some open road, while not a chore exactly, ain’t no delight either. There are no active dampers, instead a single suspension tune that must try to be all things for all occasions, and around town the ride is on the firm side of comfortable. It’s a compromise worth living with, though, because when the opportunity is there to really stretch the Competition’s legs, the rewards are instant.
That slightly firm ride over city streets becomes near perfect when hustling from corner to corner. The M2 feels solid and planted, even if the rear-end occasionally and playfully wiggles to remind you there is a lot of torque being sent to the rear wheels. It’s not snap-happy, though, just playful movement that’s easily and safely countered.
Linking corners is a delight too, the power delivery of that straight six linear and infectious, accompanied by an orchestra that screams decibels at you. Does the M2 run out of steam? Not on public roads, with acceleration that is as rapid as it is smooth.
The seven-speed dual-clutch auto works effortlessly too, precise and intuitive when left to its own devices, and razor sharp when self-shifting via the paddle shifters.
Of course, exploring the limits of the M2 on public roads is impossible, and something best left for the track. But, there’s still a ton of fun to be had behind the wheel without overstepping signposted speed limits. Yes, tipping into a sweeping left-hander on a racetrack at full noise at 150km/h can be fun, but so can linking a series of corners at legal speeds on the right piece of tarmac. It takes effort, yes, to find those roads. But when you do, the rewards are intoxicating, and a reminder of why this is such a good little package.
Those rewards make up for the slightly jarring ride in an urban environment. Those rewards make up for the cramped back row and having to contort your kid into that row. Those rewards are why you buy a car like this. Those rewards just make you want to turn around and do it all over again.
The M2 Competition is covered by BMW’s standard three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty that remains below par in today’s climate. Buyers can also pre-purchase a five-year/80,000km servicing plan that will add $2500 to the sticker price for the Basic Package or $7150 for the Plus. Opting for the more expensive Plus package adds some pretty high-ticket items like new brake pads and discs all ’round and a new clutch plate and disc. Depending on how hard you drive your M2 Competition, it might be money well spent upfront.
The M2 Competition is a triumph of the M Sport badge, distilling the very essence of what makes that single-letter emblem on the boot lid such an evocative one. It takes everything that was good and great about the original M2, and makes it better. Best M-car in the range? Quite possibly.