The BMW M2 Competition And Its Tasteful Cherry on a Chubby Cake
By Marc Rutten
The world of powerful mid-size coupe’s is not one that is loaded with the finest examples of powerful and engaging driving machines. The amount of cars available to us petrolheads can be counted on a few fingers. Among the likes of the Porsche Cayman and the Chevrolet Camaro 1LE, there is not much else to choose that comes close to the subject of this story; the new M2 Competition, BMW’s smallest coupe with a M badge and a pretty unique offering in the market today.
As a future owner I might be slightly biased when it comes to a review, so I feel this story should be aimed differently. I opted for a really in-depth piece into what the car has to offer and where the brilliance and flaws lay. The main reason is that due to a minor mishap by the BMW M team on site at the press drive location I never got to drive the M-DCT drivetrain, the exact drivetrain that I have on order and which was the base for my base M2. It would have allowed for the best possible comparison, which I now had to annoyingly flush down the drain of ideas.
Instead I was handed a manual M2C on track for about six laps and a manual M2C on the road for about 10 seconds. A set up I simply do not like, and I will dive into why this is the case. For those who are looking for more in-depth information and specifications, I would like to guide you to my previous story. For now let’s bring out the balance, touch on the main highlights and see what makes the car shine and where BMW M should be ashamed of itself, but first let’s have a short look back at the history of the M2.
Ever since the introduction of the M2 in 2015 and its release to the market in 2016, many true driving enthusiasts have found their way to this model. The highly successful Coupe was a wonderful choice for those looking for a joyful little machine that was capable of putting a M-smile on your face. Like any car these days, it also came with a bunch of flaws true fans spotted within an instance. No M-mirrors, a weak braking system, quite basic crocked front seats and a limited range of options to choose from. The market asked from the M department to up their offering, develop a more potent car and deal with the so-called flaws. Now let’s run through each of these changes in more depth and see if they hit the right mark.
For a passionate customer and future owner of a M car it is important to have a wide range of options and have the ability to be assured of an exclusive choice you are able to make when it comes to your new vehicle. The M2 Competition offers a wide range of options on the specification level. A new brake kit, new sports seats, two interior stitching options, and an optional carbon dashboard are on the list offering a wider range than the base M2. M-mirrors, front PDC and M1/M2 buttons on the steering wheel are also now standard!
The available colours however are a mismatch of two M-colours, one uninspiring new colour called Hockenheim Silver which is more grey than silver and an existing colour called Long Beach Blue taken directly from the base M2. The other options are Sapphire Black, Alpine White, and Sunset Orange, a colour available on every single car BMW seems to produce. The ultimate choice if you want to be friends among M140i and M240i drivers or you want to match your mum’s X1. In my opinion absolutely not a colour that should be offered on a M car. The absence of a more colourful distinctive choice is a clear miss on behalf of the Germans, which left many customers in complete brainlock on what colour to choose. Especially since the marketing teams at BMW aren't an excellent job of properly communicating the true essence of each colour. A bunch of unedited and user generated live photos are proving to be the solution.
My true amazement doesn’t stop there since it now brings me to the subject of the wheels. The BMW M2 Competition is available with three wheel options in a majority of the markets. The old base M2 wheel is the first option. The front 9x19 inch 437M wheel weighs 10.40 kg / 23.0 lbs and the rear 10x19 inch 437 M wheel weighs 10.60 kg / 23.37 lb, which are decent numbers for those wheels. The second option are the new 788M Competition wheels, which are the only stock options in many markets and available in silver and a bi-color black option. Although be aware the black is not black at all, you have to note it is more like dark silver. This new wheel comes in at 11.2 kg / 24.7 lb. at the front and 11.9 kg / 26.24 lb. at the rear. Uh what? The Competition wheels are heavier than the base wheel? M(otorsport) heritage anyone? It is not a little bit heavier, they are per wheel 7.7% heavier at the front and even 12.3% more at the rear. Luckily there is an aftermarket M Performance wheel from the M3/M4 CS available which sheds off a considerable weight and comes in at 9.41 kg / 20.75 lb and 9.89 kg / 21.80 lb respectively, but those are an aftermarket option.
Weight is not only a concern when it comes to the wheels. It is a main discussion point throughout the setup of this car. As mentioned in my previous in-depth story, the car runs a new engine, the S55 from the M3/M4. Add that to the new wheels, the new M Sport brakes which add a total of 16 kg / 35,3 lb of unsprung mass, new seats which seem to be a touch heavier than the standard ones, and we end up with a vehicle that is as heavy as a base M3 or M4 in access of 1600 kilos or 3600 lbs. Yes, you heard that well. A base M3 / M4, which is larger, more spacious and has more power, is as heavy as a M2 Competition, which is a much smaller car but features the highly needed upgrades the base M2 asked for and which are stock in some markets.
After reading all of this you might think, what the heck has BMW M done here, where is the Motorsport or Competition angle in all of this? Still there is one more burning issue to address with this vehicle and that is the appearance of the OPF filter in the exhaust, a particle filter that has heavily influenced the emission standards, the sound track of the car (it is less intrusive as a M2/M3/M4) and the tune of the engine (the engine feels less responsive). The OPF is the key to BMW’s race to be compliant to the new WLTP emission rules in Europe this year. Placed inside the exhaust it minimizes the exhaust emissions and keeps them within the new regulations.
To deal with the OPF and the shorter exhaust length in comparison to the M3/M4, the Germans developed a new exhaust system that has an overly large muffler hanging out of the back of it, a bit like fatass’s double chin. According to BMW M, the muffler’s size is all aimed at dealing with the OPF and its intrusive nature, while also allowing for a decent soundtrack which isn’t too bad just a bit bland and boring. Additionally, the engine’s ignition cut off was altered to not overheat or strain the OPF which is placed immediately after the downpipes. The cut interestingly eliminating the weird “farthing” exhaust noises while changing gear which are pretty common to many M3 and M4 F8x models and their owners. Luckily for non-European customers, they will not have the OPF, which means that they will definitely have a slightly different exhaust note coming from their cars than the Europeans do. However the double chin exhaust muffler is a standard option, a clear statement to the M2C’s chubbiness.
You might be thinking by now that I as a future owner shouldn’t be so immensely nitpicking on a car that will enter my garage over the coming weeks. If you have these kind of comments on it, then why get it in the first place. True! Luckily however, all the flaws mentioned above can be dealt with aftermarket parts (e.g. new exhaust, lightweight carbon parts, lightweight wheels, etc) making it a wonderful tuning project. It also allows us now to move onwards and touch on its sheer brilliance, which I experienced during my six track laps at the Ascari race resort.
Before touching on the handling and me simply leaving the best for last for you as a reader, let’s discuss the powertrain and the combination between the manual box and the S55 engine. Personally, I am not in favor of this combination due to the fast and high revving nature of the engine. Shifting manual in this car feels like being that soldier that is clinging in the back of the pack on a 50 km march. It is definitely more engaging, but you never have the feeling you get the full potential out of what the engine and the car have to offer.
On track, my initial impression was that the powertrain felt less responsive than my previous M2 or any M3/M4 I have driven before. The change in the engine ignition cut is here to blaim. To meet emission regulations and to not strain the new OPF with an unburnt mixture of fuel and air in the exhaust line, the ignition cut is minimized which means the responsiveness of the engine is decreased during the shifting sequence. The turbos are not spooled up as much anymore and therefore you lack the immediate response and pick up of momentum. The M2C feels a touch more lazy and sluggish, lacking that initial push. The engine therefore lost its engaging and rough edge so to speak, just to protect a piece of emission regulating foamplastic and of course the flowers and bees around us.
The track experience itself offered a great opportunity to test other features of the car such as the new M Sport brakes, which are wonderful addition to the M2C by not only adding too much weight but also offering some proper braking characteristics, something the M2 duly missed. For those interested, the front brake discs and calipers of the M Sport brake kit are from a F10M M5 and the rears are based on the E92 M3 set up. Their size comes at a consequence since you are unable to fit 18 inch winter wheels on a M2C fitted with this kit. On a personal note, I would have preferred more bite minimizing as well the minor wiggle at the rear under heavy braking. The brake paddle has too much transition under heavy braking for my liking. Still it is wonderful for daily driving, but on a track not my preference. I would therefore suggest to future M2C owners, who are absolute track junkies, don’t invest in this brake kit, but order a Brembo BBK and alter the brake lines and brake fluid offering a better bite while also having a more favorable weight balance.
On the subject of weight balance, the M2C’s balance between the front and rear has shifted slightly to the front. The main reason is of course the engine, but this is not the complete story when it comes to the subject of handling. To explain the true story of what was changed, I sat down with the chief engineer of BMW M at Ascari to run down the list of mechanical changes to the setup of the car allowing us to analyze the sheer brilliance of its new handling characteristics.
First of all, the Germans added a series of parts to the car but didn’t touch the spring rates or the suspension struts. With regards to the suspension hardware nothing was changed. A new front strut brace (combinatino of a bulkheat strut & CFRP strut) from the M3/M4 allows for a much improved stiffness, a noticeable more precise turn-in and better balance at high speed. The front has a tendency of communicating its lower amount of understeer better to the driver allowing yourself to minimize it where you can. The rear bushings for the suspension mounting points keep the rear better in line with the direction of the front.
In order to ensure extremely precise wheel location, play-free ball joints are used to transmit transverse forces, similarly to the base M2. The longitudinal forces passing through the chassis are transmitted into the torque struts directly via special elastomer bearings, which simultaneously deliver the desired rolling comfort. A noticeable difference is the decreased level of roll under turn-in, one of the M2’s noticeable flaws. According to the chief engineer, the steering software was finetuned to allow for a more precise turn-in using less lock on the steering wheel and therefore producing less roll.
Sheer brilliance of the M2 Competition is encompassed by another software change. The Germans tuned the MDM and oh good lord they have done a super job, it is the tasteful cherry on the chubby cake. Based on the M3/M4 CS MDM software, the engineers have developed a set up that allows you to lean on the traction of the rears and your steering lock in an immensely smooth, safe and non-intrusive way. The more open nature of the available playing room at the rear remembered me of the times I drove a E46 M3 (My M benchmark) aggressively. It is so lovely balanced and offers so much more sideslip that it becomes a challenging and playful game between you as a driver and the MDM who will win. In the end, it is an addictive game with the M2C in Sport Plus trying to lure you in with a rewarding present you cannot refuse, while you also know it will tell you “until here and no further” when you become too greedy.
The ability to lean on this open window within its suspension set up and not on its available powerband is what I want to see in a M car. I don’t need tons of horsepower, I need sheer brilliance through my hands on the wheel and my butt in the seat, and that is exactly what this car is able to do. The level in which it puts a M smile on your face and lets you scream of joy behind the wheel is an experience I do not often have any more behind the wheel of a car. Subsequently, it also lets you completely forget the worries about its chubbiness.
The BMW M2 Competition is definitely that notch of a better car than the base BMW M2 when it comes to its handling and steering. It solves many issues and flaws we M2 owners all screamed about, while also introducing unnecessary levels of extra weight that have to be shaved off again using aftermarket BMW M Performance parts or parts from other suppliers (e.g. carbon parts, lighter wheels, lowered suspension, etc). I am not fully blown away by the drivetrain yet, because I believe it lost some of its rawness from its bigger brother... Let's hope the first experience with a M-DCT fixes this, but currently I tend to believe it won't and that feels like a shame. All this in favor of a filter.
But I can ensure you that after an engaging drive in the M2C you are left with a feeling that the MDM mode is the new party trick in this car, and that you desperately need to look into your wallet and see how you can shave off those little bits of excessive fat and tune its engine characteristic to make it a true hero. If you have finished this highly required gym treatment successfully, then in my opinion it is the only model in the current BMW M lineup that can truly wear the M(otorsport) badge with historical pride. All the others are too big, too heavy, and/or too powerful.
BMW M2 Competition