M2 ready and raring to take on competition
BMW just took an M2 that was already too much fun and made it even better, writes Michael Taylor
The fast-car world was shocked when the pugnacious M2 debuted two years ago.
After a run of chunky M cars, the M2 showed a corner might have been turned. It was a BMW that was just, well, right, with plenty of power, poise and performance and now that package just got stronger with the M2 Competition.
It’s more of the same, but stronger, better handling and quicker. And it’s glorious.
BMW’s M division has also turned a serious problem into the solution nobody knew the wonderful M2 even needed. The M2’s beloved N55 single turbo engine no longer met European WLTP emissions rules, so instead of an expensive rework, M took the far simpler step of just bolting in the M3/M4’s twin-turbo straight six instead.
And when it arrives in SA in September it will still get its rear-drive mojo happening via either a seven-speed M-DCT transmission or a six-speed manual gearbox, with the delightful surprise of a three-pedal footwell.
If the M2 rocked the big engine-little car thing like a boss, the M2 Competition turns every drive into a New Year’s Eve fireworks display.
It’s a boy toy of unsurpassed excellence and frivolous ferocity, all in an easy-to-manage package. And yet, the stronger, twin-turbo engine never overwhelms the M2 Competition’s chassis, and that’s some trick to pull off.
Its arrival also means the M2 is officially dead and we are living through a glitch in the M naming scheme where the M2 Competition is the only M2 money can buy. Up the size ladder in M3, M4 and M5-Landia, they have both kinds, and the M3 and M4 have range topping CS versions.
So will the M2 Competition give birth to an even quicker M2 CS? You can take that to the bank, but in the meantime, an M2 Competition seems like a pretty fine place to park some money.
It doesn’t start with the engine, but with the upgrades to the visuals, with a black-painted kidney grille at the front, fat quad exhaust tips and a deep diffuser to go with the departed M2’s swollen wheel arches and stumpy look.
The trick is doing all of this and accommodating the new engine. Even though it still reads "3.0l, turbocharged, in-line six", things get very different. There’s a yawning chasm between the old M2’s N55 engine and the new one’s S55B30 unit.
For starters, there are two turbochargers, instead of one, with the M2 Competition using each of its two monoscroll, variable-geometry turbochargers to feed three cylinders. This also dictates a new oil-cooling system, a new coolant setup with bigger air intakes, new exhaust headers and a particulate filter although this might not be on the cars bound for SA.
Still, there seems to be scope for even more tuning (M2 CS, anybody?) because the M2 Competition’s version of the engine has 302kW of power and 550Nm of torque, yet the same engine in the M4 has 317kW of power. It’s the kind of engine that is menacing and deep and belligerent at low revs to middle revs, then snarling and anxious to go from 4,000-5,000r/min before turning just plain sweet and urgent up high.
M claims it will sprint to 100km/h in 4.2 seconds with the dual-clutch fitted (and two-tenths more for the six-speed manual) and that feels right on the money, as does the raised-limit version’s 280km/h top speed.
But it’s not overwhelmingly powerful. It’s be careful powerful on a bumpy, winding road, but it’s never scary powerful, even if the short wheelbase and enormous urge suggests it should be. A big part of that is down to a chassis that’s so well sorted it feels like it could swallow another 100 horses, but also down to the engine’s delivery.
There are good manners afoot here, with the torque (50 Isaacs up on its predecessor) peaking at only 2,350 and still on station at 5,200r/min. There’s just a 50-rev gap between when the torque peak trails off and when the power curve hits its 5,250r/min maximum, and it retains that all the way to 7,000.
The engine will accelerate away from 10km/h in fifth or sixth gear without a murmur of complaint and will start quite well even in third gear. It also overtakes well in sixth gear, but it’s at its best with the dual-clutch paddle-shift transmission. The dual-clutch is faster in a straight line, better on fuel economy and easier to use on a racetrack, letting you seamlessly short-shift up a gear mid-corner without any impact on the suspension or body stance.
That torque turns a potentially frightening car into a flexible car that won’t back down from any fight, any car or any corner.
There’s a surprise addition that makes this behaviour normal, and it’s a big carbon fibre reinforcement strut that gives the car’s front-end torsional rigidity a major boost.
There are faster cars in a straight line, even in its own class, and there may be faster competitors around a track or a winding road, but nobody will ever get out of them having enjoyed themselves, like they would in the M2 Competition.
It’s a bit heavier, too, at 1,550kg (up about 55kg on the M2), with the extra cooling systems and bonus turbo being the main culprits.
The ride quality will take some courage to live with in some suburbs, though. It is firm, but wonderfully damped, and its fixed-rate springs work best when they’ve got some energy being pushed through them.
The body shell is still stunningly aggressive, making the stock 2 Series coupe look a bit vanilla, with its wheel arches bulging out 55mm at the front and 80mm at the rear. The deep front splitter boasts proud air intakes for the radiators and muscular 400mm, six-piston front brakes and, and there’s a small spoiler on the boot lid.
There is accurate feedback from the steering wheel that only gets better in Sport or Sport+ mode, and you never have to worry about what’s happening at the front of the car because it’s always telling you.
It’s hard to see how M could have ruined the M2. It would have taken some effort. M hasn’t ruined the M2. It’s taken the M2 and made it faster, more convincing and more everything.
May the frivolity of M’s best boy toy continue.