► 404bhp BMW M2 Competition
► The fastest 2-series Coupe yet
► On sale now for £49,805
You're looking at the new BMW M2 Competition Pack, the successor to the original M2. Yes, this is the only model available of the maximum 2-series range - and with a brutish 410bhp output, it's stepping perilously close to M3 and M4 territory.
The range is streamlined such that it's this or nothing; there is no choice of which BMW M2 to buy any more (unless you consider a used one).
And it seems like something of a bargain. It costs around £3000 more than the 'regular' M2, yet you get a whole load more power from the 3.0-litre straight six turbo: up from 370bhp to 404bhp, while torque swells from 343lb ft to 406lb ft, available all the way from 2350-5230rpm.
And this despite the addition of a particulate petrol filter, in order to meet the new EU6d TEMP emission norm.
BMW M2 Competition: a raw sports coupe
You'll quickly spot the Competition pack's design changes. It's pretty brutal: the bumpers are peppered with gaping air vents to chill brakes, oil and engine, and we quickly stopped counting the numerous flares, spoilers and splitters. Quad tailpipes and full-width black diffuser are what most other motorists will see of it.
The maximum M2 rides on bigger restyled 19in rims, lowered suspension and we tested this fetching extra-cost livery named Hockenheim Silver. Inside, the M2 is a 240i with a twist - there are bespoke seats and fresh instrument graphics, but it's hard to escape the feeling the BMW M2 Competition interior is feeling old now.
What's it like to drive?
The red starter button fires up the 3.0 six to a noisy idle. A new sports exhaust is coming which should make it fruitier and less mechanical, we hear.
Choose from a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT); the latter will shave 0.2sec off the 0-62mph time, but both are good gearboxes. Pick the one that suits your preference, we say.
The manual 'box has a good fast action and positive feedback; allied with a smooth, light clutch, it makes gearchanges a pleasure to flick around. Gearing is well judged for typical usage - this car is built for your favourite back road, don't forget and throttle response is fast but never jerky.
Ride and handling
The M2 is shorter and narrower than the M4 and feels right-sized for British roads. It's so damn chuckable that it can do big smokey drifts like in our hero shot above all day long. That trick active M differential works hand-in-hand with the wider 35-section tyres.
Below 2000rpm, the 3.0 six holds back and works to rule, but as soon as you rev it out, the M2 Competition peels tarmac no matter which gear you're in. It'll cruise all day in a long-legged sixth, screech off the line in first violently enough to make the 265/35 R19 Pirellis scramble for traction, while third is perfect for the typical British back road.
The DCT twin-clutch 'box will suit those who regularly drive in urban areas, or like to drive on track with both hands glued to the wheel for maximum control.
After a bit of a battering on track, the brakes feel the heat. While absolute stopping power does not suffer that much under pressure, it takes a firmer stab to summon it, the pedal travel increases by half an inch or so, and ABS is almost constantly on the alert in high-speed driving on track.
Like every M car worth a pinch of salt, this one comes with two M buttons on the steering wheel which invite you to store the favourite set-up. In addition, the shift speed of the DCT can be increased in three steps from laidback to hurry-up. There is a separate ESP switch, but everything related to driving dynamics is best 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. While the redline sits way above the clouds at 7600rpm, anything over 5250rpm - that's where the power and torque curves intersect - is merely a Wagnerian encore for the claque, and an explanation why we are running on empty after only 180 miles in rural Spain where you will never ever come close to the extended top speed of 175mph (part of the extra-cost Driver's Package).
BMW M2 Competition: verdict
What's not to like here? You get significantly more power in a pert package we already fell for - for just two grand more. The BMW M2 Comp makes a lot of sense on paper and in reality. It's a sure-fire future classic (unless you want to hold on for the two-seat M2 GTS in the works, of course).
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Our earlier drive of the regular BMW M2 Coupe at launch in 2016
The UK is the second-biggest market for M cars worldwide, so you’d better get in there quick: the initial allocation of regular BMW M2s in the UK was just 1900 cars and they sold out pretty quickly. That’s a bit of a shame, considering just how much fun the M2 is.
The car you receive very much depends on the gearbox you choose. As standard you get a six-speed manual borrowed from the M235i, albeit one worked over by the M division. Key changes include a new dry sump for its oil, different gear ratios, and modifications to other internal components in the gearbox – which are designed to improve the gear shift.
The resulting shift action is a dramatic improvement on the vague, notchy sensation becoming more and more prevalent in BMW cars these days. There’s still an element of lateral play in the gear lever, but it’s clear this gearbox is no afterthought. Its shift feels solid and precise, which makes snicking through the cogs a joy.
In direct contrast to the Porsche Boxster, the M2’s gearing is very short, resulting in lots of revs (and associated exhaust noise) in sixth when travelling at motorway pace. It’s a small price to pay, though; across country, when you’re rifling through the gears at the vast rate of knots, this on-the-boil feel simply bolsters the M2’s addictive nature.
Just like the Boxster, there’s a rev-matching programme that blips the throttle when you change down (aping heel-and-toe), keeping the car stable and avoiding driveline snatch. Also, like the 718, you can only cancel this when you switch all the electronic assistance off. Obviously we had to do that to see what the raw experience was all about.
The resulting blast was a truly memorable experience. Rarely do we drive cars with such an accessible and enjoyable chassis. Think GT86 on steroids here: it’s a car that positively pines for oversteer at every corner.
Thanks to the talkative front end (when did electronically assisted steering get so feelsome?) you always know what’s going on, which affords you the confidence to employ your right foot liberally. There’s a microsecond of understeer when you initially lean on the strengthened chassis, but that’s easily fixed with the loud pedal.
Although the straight-six has a relatively basic twin-scroll blower, throttle response is incredibly sharp, and the electronically controlled rear diff – which ranges from being fully open to 100% locked – pushes the rear end around in a predictable and measured fashion. It eggs you on, breaking traction in a wonderfully progressive manner. All of this is aided by the 19-inch Michelin Pilot Supersports designed specifically for the M2.
Along with its sideways talents, if you want to drive it quickly and cleanly that’s possible too. The driving controls reward smooth and considered inputs, the pedals are beautifully spaced and the seats snug but comfortable.
I bet you’ve got to spec it to the nines…
Unlike most BMWs, optional extras aren’t really something the M2 needs. Our wishlist includes just two items, both dealer-fit from the M Performance catalogue: an Alcantara steering wheel (£649 - it’ll wear out quicker than the standard leather one, but it’s a nicer thing to hold) and a set of manually adjustable dampers.
The latter (£2221.92) can be tweaked for height, bump and rebound, offering the option of tailoring a set-up to your driving style or specific situations such as trackdays.
Not that the M2 needs any help in the suspension department. Its blend of ride and handling is imperious for a car of this type. Sure, we’ve yet to try it in the UK, but some of the roads around Malaga are just as poorly-maintained and damaged.
A comfy ride
The remarkable thing is how compliant it is. We were able to keep our foot firmly planted on the go-pedal on surfaces that would have unsettled almost any other performance car – including the M3/M4 combo. The damping is exceptional, tracking straight and true no matter which lumps and bumps are throw into its path. Off-camber corners with potholes followed by expansion joints? No worries. It eats them up.
There are no character-shifting adaptive dampers here, so nowhere for the chassis to hide, and M Division’s team have done a stellar job.
For those who want or need it, there is a twin-clutch seven-speed DCT available, which costs £2645. This is probably the one you want if you’re using the M2 as a daily driver. We didn’t enjoy driving it quite so much because having already sampled the manual, we knew there was so much we were missing out on by letting the car do the cog-swapping.
That said, you do get launch control and the unashamedly titled (and track-only, officer) Smokey Burnout Mode thrown in to sweeten the deal – and the car has far better motorway manners thanks to its extra ratios.
If you’re one of the lucky people who have secured an M2, you’re not going to be disappointed regardless of your chosen spec. The drivers’ choice is the manual gearbox, but go auto and you’re not going to complain.
Either way it’s an exciting, engaging and incredibly desirable car that flatters you yet won’t let you down if you fancy a bit of fun. And we do. Regularly.