BMW M2 Competition M-DCT
Replacing the M2, this more focused model is one of the year’s best new sportscars
PLEASE join me on a trip down memory lane as we revisit Performance Shootout 2017. As has become custom, after driving each year’s newest performance cars on an epic road trip right before their keys are handed to CAR’S track tester Deon Joubert for hot laps at some or other racetrack, the team votes and then we rank the vehicles from best to worst.
That year, the Audi R8 V10 Plus scored a resounding overall victory, in the process bumping BMW’S M4 GTS into second place. There was an M2 in that clash, too, but it placed a relatively disappointing sixth. The little coupé showed much promise before Shootout kicked off and there were excited murmurs of its chances of snaffling the crown. On the road trip, however, not all of CAR’S testers found it endearing, oft commenting on its power delivery that could be sharper and a rear-end that didn’t feel settled enough in high-speed mountain-pass driving. And I’m one of those who found the M2 somewhat challenging…
Which is why, sitting in the driver’s seat of the new M2 Competition as I wait for the all-clear to head out onto the 26-cornered 5,4 km track at Ascari in the south of Spain, I can’t help but feel a twinge of apprehension. I know the layout incorporates
interpretations of some of the most fearsome corners globally, including the Corkscrew and Eau Rouge, and I vividly remember the M2 nearly biting me in a high-speed bend along our Shootout route.
Imagine, therefore, my surprise when I exit the car six laps later in a euphoric state. The new M2 Competition is hugely thrilling to drive but it’s also forgiving, predictable and tolerant of ham-fisted manoeuvres behind the wheel as I try (and fail) to memorise the intricate track layout. Those initial impressions are confirmed later in the day when we head out onto Andalusia’s snaking mountain passes, where the newest M car deftly puts its power down despite a patchwork of road surfaces. How did M Gmbh achieve it?
Well, the biggest difference between M2 and M2 C is the engine. Where the former’s powertrain was a significantly revised version of the M240i’s N55 motor, the Competition features a reinterpretation of the M3/M4 unit, complete with a second turbocharger. Gone is the slight low-rev lagginess and in its place is delightfully linear power delivery that’s progressive from the low reaches of the rev range (torque of 550 N.m kicks in at 2 350 r/min and plateaus through to 5 230 r/min). Gone, too, is the N55’s understated note; the M2 C’s S55 inlinesix, while still no Audi 2,5-litre five-cylinder in its aural range, sounds purposeful and potent.
Mated with BMW’S flawless interpretation of a dual-clutch – if you excuse some low-speed hesitancy in engaging drive – the M2 Competition is a car transformed. Front-end grip is prodigious, but when that axle
washes into slight understeer, a gentle prod of the throttle is all that’s needed to bring the rear-end into play and pivot the vehicle round its centre point. As before, there’s no option of adaptive dampers, but the M2 doesn’t need them. While firm, the ride is beautifully controlled and gets better the faster you go.
Elsewhere, the M2 C benefits from an Individual Shadow Line package painting some trim in gloss black, larger air intakes, new M mirrors, 19-inch forged alloys, optional M Sport brakes with enlarged discs (they’re fantastically effective and worth getting) and new paint colours.
Inside, meanwhile, there are smatterings of carbon-effect trim, Competition badging and illuminated M emblems in the seats. You’ll also find some iffy plastics straight from the 1 Series, which start looking a touch cheap at R1 million.
But that’s the only true criticism I have of the Competition. Where before the M2 sometimes felt more like a muscle car than its carefully honed M lineage would suggest, the Competition is scalpel sharp yet crammed full of character. Cue Performance Shootout 2019…
clockwise from top The cabin’s design and finishes have undoubtedly aged but its infotainment tech is bang up to date; these bucket seats are cossetting without being cloying; BMW claims increased rigidity thanks to a new CFRP engine-bay strut and we can vouch for that – the M2 C’s structure feels incredibly solid.
The M2 C isn’t averse to a spot of hooliganism. It’s especially easy to whip out the rear-end in tight second-gear corners... Great fun.