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First drive: BMW M2 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.

First drive: BMW M2 Competition
Is the BMW M2 Competition the best BMW M car ever made?


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BMW M2 Competition

5 5 5 5 5

One of our favourite sports cars of all, the 370hp BMW M2, is no more. Boooo! But don't worry, because here's the BMW M2 Competition. And it's absolutely bloody tremendous. Yaaaay!

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW M2 Competition
Pricing: from 49,805 as tested
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 224g/km (VED Band 191-225: 1,240 in year one, 450 per annum years two to six, 140 annually thereafter); 206g/km for M DCT (same tax implications)
Combined economy: 28.8mpg (31.4mpg for M DCT)
Top speed: 155mph standard; 174mph with optional M Driver's Package
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds (4.2 seconds for M DCT)
Power: 410hp at 5,250-7,000rpm
Torque: 550Nm at 2,350-5,200rpm

What's this?

A new tier of BMW M cars. What with all the M Performance and Competition Packs and CS models and then GTS/CSL badges flying about the place, it can be hard to keep track of what the blazes is going on in the three-striped world of M. So BMW is trying to tidy it up: we'll have M Performance, then pure M cars, then standalone M Competition models and, finally, the CS examples. Either of GTS and/or CSL will be very rarely seen.

Thus, here's your first Competition model, all of which will be denoted by black model badging, going forward. This one's the M2 Competition and - while other Competition models will be sold alongside their equivalent regular M car brethren - in this instance, the Competition completely supersedes the old 370hp M2. The reason for this is the usual one: emissions regs. As the M2 used a derivation of the M240i's motor, with its single turbo and some pistons and know-how from the M3/M4, it has been deemed uneconomical to make the M2's old engine meet up to the latest tailpipe legalities.

So, quite simply, the M2 Competition now has the twin-turbo engine from the M3/M4, only detuned a bit. But that still makes it a damn sight more powerful and torquey than the previous M2 - for starters, there's an additional 40hp, for a peak output of 410hp from 5,250- to 7,000rpm, but the Competition makes its maximum 550Nm (spread across a 2,850rpm band lower down the engine's operating range) every time you need it. On the old M2, it had a peak of 500Nm on overboost but was nominally rated at 465Nm, some 85Nm down on the Competition.

That's not done a huge amount to the on-paper figures, as BMW only cites 0-62mph times that are a tenth quicker than the old models - and yes, the plural here refers to the fact that the M2 Competition still comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, the seven-speed M DCT being an option. The automatic transmission makes the Competition quicker to 62mph (4.2 seconds plays 4.4 for the manual) and quite a bit cleaner for CO2 emissions/fuel economy (particularly watch out for bigger, optional wheels on the manual M2 Competition, as they push its CO2 rating to 227g/km and therefore a higher road tax band, incurring an extra 520 of VED in year one), but in all honesty you want to drive - and own - the M2 with three pedals.

In terms of other amendments, the M2 Competition has plenty. Visually it is enhanced with gloss-black kidney grilles and window surrounds, while a set of beautiful 19-inch lightweight forged alloys wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber reside in the arches. The front airdam is revised with wider apertures, better to force more air into an uprated cooling system (from the M4, natch) that features three rads, an engine oil cooler and - on the M DCT - a transmission oil cooler too. Adaptive LED Icon headlights and M door mirrors are part of the spec list, while optional M Sport brake discs (identified by grey callipers, instead of blue) equip 400mm front discs with six-piston callipers and 380mm rear discs with four-pot callipers. Both the electrically-assisted power steering and the DSC system have been reconfigured to account for the grippier tyres and additional power, while there are two new colours for M2 buyers to choose from. Sunset Orange metallic has been seen on other 2 Series BMWs, but Hockenheim Silver metallic will be a unique, signature finish for a car which now starts from 49,805 in the UK, representing around a 5,000 premium on the old M2's entry point.

How does it drive?

BMW gave us access to a manual on track and an M DCT on the road. Before we go any further, while the manual transmission is the one we'd want and the one we'll advocate you should get, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the M DCT. It's a great gearbox that suits the power delivery of the twin-turbo 3.0-litre engine and it responds well to both the throttle when it's in full auto mode, as well as to clicks of the paddle when the driver decides they want to take charge of the transmission. In short, the M DCT does not ruin the M2 Competition. But we'd still say 'go for the manual'.

So, before we get onto the driving, let's have a little more technical nitty-gritty. The old 3.0-litre six of the M2 had a single, twin-scroll turbo. This new engine features a pair of smaller monoscroll blowers. BMW says this makes the M2 more responsive to throttle inputs, while its closed-deck configuration blesses the engine with a more rigid crankcase, allowing for higher cylinder pressures and the increased output. The cylinder bores are arc-sprayed to reduce weight, the sump has been redesigned to prevent 'oil surge' when cornering hard on track and there are now selectable driving parameters for the steering, engine and (on the M DCT) gearbox, which the old M2 didn't possess. Indeed, you might spot 'M1' and 'M2' configuration buttons on the steering wheel for said parameters. Finally, pop the bonnet and there's a mighty carbon-fibre strut brace encircling the front of the engine bay; that's another lift from the BMW M4.

All of this above adds up to what might be our favourite M car ever. We already adored the BMW M2, but it's clear the Competition treatment has sharped up the ever-so-slightly duller dynamic edges of its predecessor, dull edges that you would never have known needed remedying otherwise. As a result, the M2 Competition feels even more like the ultimate 2010s evolution of the E46 M3 than it ever has before. The first thing that will strike you, despite the fact you're gripping one of those too-fat M-specification steering wheels, is the feedback from the front tyres. There's a directness to the M2 Competition's EPAS set-up and an eagerness from the BMW's tautened front end that leads to the sort of turn-in that would not disgrace either the M3 CS or the M4 CS; and may we remind you that the latter of these two is a good 40,000 more expensive than the M2 Competition?

Once you've got over the razor-sharp reactions and utter trustworthiness of the almost entirely understeer-free front end, you then notice how fluidly the M2 Competition moves around under throttle, braking and weight transfer, and also how clearly it telegraphs each and every one of these shifts in its attitude to you as a driver. You can still make the stocky Beemer oversteer wildly if you want to, as 550Nm thumping into the rear tyres of a car that weighs just 1,625kg (EU) tends to have that effect, but there's also the subtlety to the chassis dynamics and the perfectly weighted controls that allow the track-focused driver to neatly tighten or open their line at a whim.

On track, the M2 Competition proves to be a riot. And, if anything, it's even better on the roads. BMW deigned not to give the car 431hp or adaptive dampers, presumably out of fear that customers might very well question the need for an M4 of any grade, but we're already at that stage ourselves. Honestly, the M2 is about as near-perfect for size, controllability and speed on the public highway as you could want. All of its steering, brakes and suspension work in magnificent harmony, allowing whatever sort of road lies ahead - be it a tight and gnarly back lane, or a bigger, faster route with high-commitment sweeping curves on it - to be dissected in a grin-inducing frenzy. The M2 Competition enacts rapid direction changes with an aplomb that almost makes you sometimes wonder if it isn't four-wheel drive and when the back goes, it's a piece of cake to keep the car at whatever stance of opposite lock you like, using nothing more than throttle and steering.

It's even reasonably comfortable on its conventional springs and dampers. And easy to see out of. And blessed with a perfect driving position. And tractable enough that you can potter around in it on its low-range torque. Oh, and did we mention that the new biturbo engine makes a terrific, hard-edged racket as it's being worked hard? We didn't? Well, consider that oversight rectified. In fact, we're thinking very hard here to come up with a chink in the BMW M2 Competition's armour, and we're genuinely struggling...


With the Porsche 718 Cayman dropping to four cylinders and so many sports car rivals switching to paddle-shift gearboxes at the expense of all other transmissions, the manual BMW M2 Competition represents a (regrettably) dying breed of old-style performance car that simply aims to offer the maximum of driver reward and involvement for the relative minimum of outlay. But if this is a glorious swansong for the compact sports coupe, then what a divine final tune it is - because the BMW M2 Competition is BMW M operating at its very highest level. And that, we probably don't need to tell you as car enthusiasts, is a very exalted level indeed. This thing is magnificent.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 29 Jul 2018    - BMW road tests
- BMW news
- 2 Series images

2018 BMW M2 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M2 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M2 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M2 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M2 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.

2018 BMW M2 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M2 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M2 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M2 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M2 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.


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