Photos: BMW, Uwe Fischer
Ascari Race Resort, Spain
The M2 is the baby of the BMW M range, but it’s the BMW M2 Competition that might be the new darling.
Introduced in 2016, the smallest of the full-bore M cars was a brilliant move by BMW M: A relatively compact performance car with an emphasis on driver involvement, backed up by the classic BMW traits of rear-wheel drive and inline-six power.
The original BMW M2 debuted in 2016
While compact and enjoyable, it wasn’t exactly tiny, being 1,570kg, and seemed to have a bit too much ‘big M’ feeling, with wide tyres and less steering feel than its size implied, especially on tighter courses.
The M2 Competition fixes any niggles the M2 had, and then some.
That’s ‘Competition’ and not ‘Competition Pack’ too, with the introduction of the Competition models across the M line-up (see sidebar), the M2 Competition is a version that’s been sharpened up exactly where it counts, and by a considerable amount.
“We really wanted to increase the agility of the car, there is a bit more power and torque for fun of course, but the front end was really the focus this time around,” says Markus Schroder, head of project for the BMW M2 Competition.
That much is apparent from the changes the Competition has over the standard M2 (see sidebar), but there’s much more attention paid to the steering, handling, ride and braking, than outright power.
Visually, you can identify the M2 Competition by its blacked-out kidney grilles, M3-style aero mirrors, unique wheels, new colour (Hockenheim Silver) and M2 Competition badge.
Right into Ascari’s first turn on the warm-up lap, the improved front end bite of the M2 Competition is obvious.
Turn one is, like so many of Ascari’s corners, not at all straightforward and all about trade-offs and delicacy rather than outright, brutal power. It’s a descending, off-camber left-hander and the M2 Comp’s immediate and transparent report of what’s happening endears it to the driver right away.
Given Ascari’s nature, it’s an impression that isn’t just welcome at first, but which blossoms into a deeper relationship the quicker you go, after pushing through the circuit’s famously tricky corners, some modelled after iconic originals around the world.
For instance, Ascari has more than a few blind corners, and two fast, right handers that demand courage – or a very accurate, approachable car.
Since we’ve regular-sized cojones, only the latter could explain nailing the fast ‘Brundle’ right-handed at a near flat-out 160km/h after just a handful of laps, chucking the M2 Competition into the up-down-left-right ending section of Prior, Daytona, and Hill, with far more confidence that we’d have imagined with the standard M2.
We tested it with both six-speed manual, and seven-speed DCT, and came away convinced both are the proper choices for an M car, one furthering that plugged-into-the-machine feeling, the other snick-snack quick speed and efficiency.
While the M Sport brakes weren’t as powerful or direct as we’d wished, they were fade free after our six-lap sessions, but obviously for proper track driving, composite ceramics are the way to go.
The inline turbo six still sounds V8-esque at low revs, but the track is where it’s able to rev like hell and sing a proper inline six howl. It’s a turbo, and still boomy, so it’s not quite on par with the naturally-aspirated choirs of yore, but still very enjoyable.
It’s plugged-in and direct in a way its more powerful brethren often aren’t, but its lesser brethren – like the M140i – are.
Our impressions of the M2 Competition out on the narrow, twisty country roads surrounding Ascari back up that impression, it’s a real weapon on those ribbons of tarmac not because it has 410hp, but because it’s easier to handle, direct and accurate.
If BMW M’s aim was to make a full-on M car that brings drivers closer to the fore, and to its original ethos, then it has succeeded with the M2 Competition.
BMW M2 Competition
|Engine||2,963cc, inline 6, biturbo|
|Power||410hp at 5250-7000rpm|
|Torque||550Nm at 2350-5200rpm|
|Top Speed||4.2 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||TBC / 208g/km|
|Agent||Performance Munich Automobiles|
– 40hp more from the engine, additional cooling taken from M3/M4 Competition Pack
– New exhaust system with black chrome tailpipes, and twin sound-control flaps, regular version has a single flap
– A new aluminium bulkhead brace from the M4, not present in the regular M2
– CFRP brace that spans the engine bay taken from the M3
– New ball-joints for all four suspension members that reduce free-play and improve accuracy in placing the wheels
– New five-link rear axle section
– Recalibrated steering and Servotronic steering assist
– Recalibrated Dynamic Stability Control for more delicate intervention, improved traction in slippery conditions, a wider range of extreme behaviour in M Dynamic Mode
– Optional M Sport brake system with 400mm six-piston front / 380mm four-piston rear brakes, compared to standard 380mm four-pison / 370mm two-piston
With the introduction of Competition models, there’s now a new hierarchy in the power pyramid that is BMW M
The M2 Competition isn’t the first time the Competition label has been applied, and it certainly isn’t the last. In modern times, the Competition Pack label has been applied to the previous BMW M5, current BMW M3. But the new M5 Competition and M2 Competition usher in a new way of classifying BMW M models, as explained by Peter Quintus, the vice-president of sales and marketing for BMW M.
M Performance cars are the entry into the BMW M world, the latest models being the X4 M40i and X3 M40i. Above them are ‘M High Performance’ (Quintus’ terms), which comprise the regular, full-fat M models like the M3. Above them are now the M Competition models, and above them are the CS models, in an increasing spectrum of track-readiness.
As Markus Schroder, head of project for the BMW M2 Competition, puts it: “The aim of the M2 Competition is to add more dynamics and more fun, you have a car which is better on the race track, but also still very usable and comfortable for daily driving.”