If there’s one car left in the BMW lineup that can claim the clearest link to the driving spirit and purity of purpose that made the brand a legend, it’s the M2 coupe. In 2018, BMW tossed the original M2 to the curb, replacing it with the M2 Competition. In most M models, that appended word simply means a slightly spicier tune for the engine and suspension; here, though, it means a whole new motor beneath its hood. Specifically, the inline-six known as S55, which first appeared in the current M3 and M4 cranking out 425 horsepower. The 2 Series version is tamped down to just 405 horses — but odds are good you’ll never notice the difference.
The Good: The M2, in effect, takes all the good things about the M4 — power-rich inline-six, a choice of seven-speed dual clutch or six-speed manual transmission, the M Division’s trademark blend of ride and handling — and folds them into a smaller, (ever-so-slightly) lighter package. It’s living proof that the company hasn’t completely cashed in on its reputation as the maker of Ultimate Driving Machines in order to pay for a profitable future packed with crossovers and electric cars.
Who It’s For: Driving enthusiasts with a little money to burn, but who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Chevy Camaro ZL1 or Shelby GT350. Also, purists who still haven’t forgiven BMW for creating the X5 back in the late Nineties.
Watch Out For: Your annual gasoline, tire and oil expenditures may quadruple, because you won’t be able to stop driving the damn thing.
Review: My BMW M2 Competition test car, regrettably, came with seven forward gears in the case and flappy paddles behind the thick-rimmed steering wheel. Not that that’s a bad transmission, per se; it clicks off gears with militant precision with the transmission dialed up to its most aggressive, and sashays between them almost imperceptibly when left relaxed. But the stick shift simply feels like the more appropriate fit for the car. (Bizarrely, not only does it deliver better fuel economy than the automatic and its extra cog, it also delivers faster acceleration, according to Car and Driver.) The tiny two-door’s proportions sit within inches of the beloved E36 M3 (the wheelbase is actually identical), so each and every trait that brings it closer to feeling like the reboot of that car is appreciated — and none more so than a manual gearbox.
The M2’s taut lines might be exhibit A in the case that BMW’s current styling language succeeds in inverse proportion to the size of the vehicle it’s slathered on. (Exhibits B and C: the new X7 and facelifted 7 Series.) The hips are curvy enough to make a Kardashian insecure, the sheetmetal forward of the A-pillar an intimation of muscle and sinew quivering beneath the surface. But those tidy proportions come back to bite the car’s owners in the ass when he or she climbs inside; the front seats have enough space for most adults, but largely at the cost of rear legroom, which diminishes to Aston Martin-like levels.
Not that you’ll give an owl’s patoot about that once you fire this car down a back road. That chunky steering wheel may not offer the same levels of feedback as its spiritual forbears, but the M-developed electric-assisted power steering is quick and accurate, working with the suspension to carve through corners with unerring precision.
Lying smack between those thicc rear wheels lies an electronic limited-slip differential, which helps distribute the meaty stream of power flowing from the engine from where the torque plateaus at 2,350 rpm until the horsepower peak falls off as 7,000. The resulting combination of go-fast and turn-fast bits makes the BMW positively addictive when the asphalt starts bending — or when you need to go all Ronin through a wolf pack of slower cars on the highway.
It’s so compelling, once you blast down a dreamy stretch of winding, empty two-lane, you’ll probably spin the car around and take it the other way all over again. I say this because, well, that’s exactly what I wound up doing. Whatever you’re heading to, it can wait. Besides, with all that power under the hood, you can always make up some of the time along the way, right?
Verdict: While you certainly can pile options onto the M2 Competition, you can’t do so to the extent possible with other cars in the lineup; fully loaded, it still doesn’t crest $70K. More importantly, though, you don’t need to in order to experience the car at its best. Even the stripper model you can buy for a shade under $60,000 will deliver more real-world thrills than many sports cars costing twice as much.
That, perhaps as much as any transmission or engine, is proof that BMW has something special on its hands. If I were a betting man, I’d snap one up tomorrow and sit on it on the expectation that low-mileage examples will prove pretty much depreciation-proof. But I’m a driver, not a bettor — and there’s no way I’d be able to keep from putting way too many miles on it.
*For the record: “Ma Deuce” was the nickname for the WW2-era M2 .50-caliber machine gun.
BMW M2 Competition Key Specs (Dual-Clutch Model)
Powertrain: 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six; seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox; rear-wheel-drive
Torque: 406 pound-feet
0-60 MPH: 4.0 seconds
EPA Fuel Economy: 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
BMW provided this product for review.
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