BMW M2 Com­pe­ti­tion In goes the M4 en­gine – yay

The new Com­pe­ti­tion ver­sion of the M2 – which is the new M2 – is bet­ter in ev­ery way, and is worth ev­ery penny of its mod­est price in­crease. Yes, re­ally By Ge­org Kacher

CAR (UK) - - News -

WHERE’S THE CATCH? A se­ri­ously up­graded M2 at a barely in­creased price sounds too good to be true, and yet here it is in the howl­ing, screech­ing, thrilling metal.

The new M2 Com­pe­ti­tion isn’t a spe­cial ver­sion of the M2 – it re­places the M2. BMW needed to do some work on the M2 to sat­isfy the lat­est emis­sions reg­u­la­tions, and while they had the span­ners out they gave it a mas­sive per­for­mance up­grade. And, even more won­der­fully, they have im­posed only the most mod­est of price rises – less than £3000 for UK buy­ers.

What you get is es­sen­tially the fa­mil­iar M2 but with the old M240i-based en­gine re­placed by the M3/M4 en­gine, the key dif­fer­ence be­ing twin tur­bocharg­ers, not the M2’s sin­gle twin­scroll turbo. Power is up by 40bhp to 405bhp.

You also get a new ex­haust, the en­gine brace from the M3/M4, new body­work, new wheels, low­ered sus­pen­sion and even a new paint choice, Stuttgart Sil­ver. It’s still rear-wheel drive, and has a choice of six-speed man­ual or seven-speed DCT twin-clutch au­to­matic, the lat­ter cost­ing £2125 more. You might also want to opt for the £2095 Driver’s Pack­age, which ups the top speed from 155mph to 174mph. Or you might not.4

The spirit of the M2 dates back to the 1600ti, 323i and the early M3s. It took BMW un­til 2011 to re­lease its first mod­ern en­try-level M car in the shape of the 1-se­ries M coupe, which was de­nied the M1 badge but could have worn it hap­pily. Fur­ther op­tions ar­rived in the form of the M140i/240i, and fi­nally in 2015 the 365bhp M2 de­buted, the car that’s now be­ing re­placed by the 405bhp Com­pe­ti­tion. It’s a great fam­ily tree. The M2 no longer ex­ists but the M240i does, and that’s about £9k less than the cheap­est M2 Com­pe­ti­tion. You’d be very happy with the M240i… un­less you’d driven the M2 Com­pe­ti­tion, which is bet­ter in ev­ery way.

It re­ally is a re­mark­able pack­age: faster, sportier, more pure, al­though still happy as an ev­ery­day road car, al­beit one that’s short on rear le­groom and on the noisy side.

Is it in fact bet­ter than the M4? It’s cer­tainly close. The big­ger car is more ex­pen­sive, and a lit­tle quicker. But when you’re driv­ing the M2 Com­pe­ti­tion the feel­ing is hard to beat. Be­ing smaller than the M3, M4 and M5 it’s more chuck­able and in­vig­o­rat­ingly raw.

The M2 Com­pe­ti­tion is about as sub­tle as a rocket launch. There is barely enough front bumper left to ac­com­mo­date the mul­ti­ple air in­takes, and we quickly stopped count­ing the nu­mer­ous flares, spoil­ers and split­ters. Among the more sub­tle body­work up­grades are a wider grille, a shiny black full-width dif­fuser and a neat quad-tailpipe ar­range­ment.

In­side, the M2 is a 240i with a twist. You get be­spoke seats, fresh in­stru­ment graph­ics and higher-grade trim, but the cock­pit de­sign is es­sen­tially un­changed and thus fast ap­proach­ing its best-be­fore date.

Hit the red starter but­ton, then take a mo­ment to lis­ten to the idle speed which runs at an el­e­vated 1200rpm for about 20 sec­onds when the en­gine is cold, to bring the cat­a­lysts up to tem­per­a­ture faster. Even though the straight-six is a melodic bit of kit, it does not sound quite as vo­cal as its pre­de­ces­sor. M divi­sion boss Frank van Meel as­sures me there’s a sports ex­haust be­ing devel­oped ‘which won’t dis­ap­point’. Which to buy – six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion or seven-speed DCT? It’s a very tough choice. The man­ual shifter may add two tenths to the ac­cel­er­a­tion time, but a stop­watch is the wrong in­stru­ment to gauge the re­wards of the in­ter­ac­tion between brain and hand, and clutch foot and throt­tle foot. At any rate, the dif­fer­ence between 4.4 and 4.2sec to 62mph is neg­li­gi­ble.

So, off we go, man­ual ver­sion first. This clutch is light, smooth and talk­a­tive. The gearchange ac­tion is fast and pos­i­tive. Full marks also to the throt­tle re­sponse, which is fast but never jerky. Below 2000rpm, the pow­er­plant holds back and works to rule, but as soon as the torque ex­press starts rolling the M2 Com­pe­ti­tion peels tar­mac.

Sixth gear goes easy on your wal­let but doesn’t let you make the most of this fine en­gine, which is a waste. At the other end of the scale, first gear is short enough to make the 265/35 R19 Pirellis scram­ble for trac­tion big time, while third is spot-on for twisty roads, let­ting you tap into max­i­mum torque.

Pad­dle shift­ing has its ad­van­tages, and not just the mar­ginal on-pa­per per­for­mance gains. On the track, and for faster road driv­ing, be­ing able to keep both hands on the wheel at all times does help, and the speedy seam­less shift ac­tion helps you plot a flaw­lessly flow­ing line. Around town, too, auto shift­ing is more re­lax­ing. The M2 Com­pe­ti­tion fol­lows the M-car trend of hav­ing two M but­tons on the steer­ing wheel, al­low­ing you to store your favoured set­tings. They also let you in­crease the shift speed of the DCT in three steps from laid-back to hurry-up. There’s a sep­a­rate ESP switch, but ev­ery­thing else re­lated to driv­ing dy­nam­ics can be grouped un­der the M1 and M2 mode se­lec­tors. Don’t for­get to dial in MDM (M Dy­namic Mode) which is high on en­ter­tain­ment yet rel­a­tively low on risk, al­low­ing more wheel­spin via later DSC in­ter­ven­tion.

While the red­line sits way above the clouds at 7600rpm, any­thing over 5250rpm – where the power and torque curves in­ter­sect – is noisy Wag­ne­r­ian en­core. Greedy, too; we’re run­ning on empty after only 180 miles in ru­ral Spain, mostly on twisty roads where you’ll never get close to the 174mph top speed of the Driver’s Pack­age.

The M2 is shorter and nar­rower than the M4, but is only 20kg lighter. That sounds like a bad thing, but no sooner have you started fret­ting about the down­sides of ex­ces­sive mass than the thought is ban­ished by the spell the Com­pe­ti­tion casts on ev­ery one of your six senses. It quickly demon­strates that what stiff­ens up the front axle and the en­gine com­part­ment is mus­cle, not fat; that tak­ing off like a fighter plane from an air­craft car­rier is due to the trick ac­tive M dif­fer­en­tial, not just launch con­trol; and that car­ry­ing all that speed through cor­ners is thanks to the painstak­ingly re­cal­i­brated chas­sis, not only the wider 245/35 R19 front tyres.

This is ex­treme but eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble dy­namic bril­liance.

You’re not in­su­lated or iso­lated from the road; the M2 Com­pe­ti­tion only makes sense if you’re pre­pared to en­gage with it, rather than ex­pect it to cod­dle you. Which is an­other way of say­ing that the ride com­fort is noth­ing spe­cial; that cornering grip at the limit varies sig­nif­i­cantly with the sur­face; and that the rear end will squirm when pushed. At any speed, it’s no fan of lon­gi­tu­di­nal grooves, rad­i­cal cam­ber vari­a­tions and trans­verse chal­lenges like cat­tle grids.

Any car’s trac­tion and road­hold­ing de­pend to a large ex­tent on tyre per­for­mance, and that’s par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able here. It pays to pace your­self; on a track, go­ing easy on the front tyres in your early laps will pay you back later on when you’ve got your eye in and you’ll be glad you’ve got the grip avail­able to let you ex­ploit the per­for­mance.

Sim­i­larly, on those sec­ond-gear cor­ners that snake up and down Span­ish hills, nurs­ing the rear tyres makes all the dif­fer­ence.

The brakes, too, will after a while also feel the stress and the heat. Ab­so­lute stop­ping power does not suf­fer that much un­der pres­sure, but it takes a firmer stab to sum­mon it, the pedal travel in­creases by half an inch or so, and the ABS is al­most con­stantly on the alert.

So inevitably you start won­der­ing if van Meel is cook­ing up an even racier light­weight two-seat M2 GTS with car­bon-ce­ramic brakes. Which might be even more fun in those more ex­treme mo­ments. But it would un­doubt­edly also be much more ex­pen­sive. As things stand, the M2 Com­pe­ti­tion is an as­ton­ish­ing per­for­mance car at a re­mark­ably rea­son­able price.

LOVE More fun, speed and ex­cite­ment for a lit­tle more money

HATE Lacks a stealth mode

VER­DICT Costs half as much as an M5, is about 85 per cent as re­ward­ing

And this is the mo­ment Ge­org dis­cov­ered M Dy­namic Mode

M but­tons on the wheel al­low rapid switch­ing betweenfavoured modes

New Stuttgart Sil­ver paint op­tion shows o con­trast­ing black de­tail­ing to max­i­mum e ect

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