The new M2 is one of those things you never knew you wanted until you got it. Sometimes referred to as the real successor to the E46 M3, the baby coupe was well received for feeling planted but light on its feet with a well matched six-cylinder turbocharged engine.
In many ways, the mid-life update to the ageing M2 could have been no more than the facelift it needs. Instead, BMW went in completely the opposite direction.
Looking no more different than before unless you’re an eagle-eyed enthusiast, the updated M2 gets a completely new engine with honking new numbers, now developing over 300kW and over 500Nm of torque.
Vehicle Style: Performance coupe
Price: From $100,000 plus on-road costs (estimated)
Engine/trans: 302kW/550Nm 3.0-litre 6cyl twin-turbo petrol, 7spd auto or 6spd manual
Fuel consumption: TBA
The only real visual giveaways to the new model are a wider grille featuring an M2 badge and a redesigned front bumper with larger air intakes providing added cooling to the new engine. Buyers can order either chrome or black highlights, together with a choice of different wheel designs. The changes inside, meanwhile, are equally subtle, the biggest being the adoption of upgraded front seats featuring greater side support.
Behind the gratuitous styling tweaks brought to the junior M-car is a comprehensive overhaul to both its drivetrain and chassis. It’s such an extensive shift that BMW’s M performance car division no longer offers the M2 in standard guise for fear that it would be made to look, dare I say, a little bit ordinary next to its more focused sibling.
The most significant change to the M2 is beneath the bonnet, where the new Competition model forgoes the N55 designated six-cylinder engine that has powered the M2 since it joined the BMW line-up in 2016 for the more spirited S55 unit from the larger M3 and M4.
ON THE ROAD
At 3.0-litres, the new M2 engine boasts the same capacity as the one it replaces. But that’s where the technical similarities end. As well as twin-turbochargers, it also receives lighter internal components that allow it to rev 1000rpm higher at 7600rpm, flaps within its bespoke exhaust that open to enhance its sound in Sport and Sport Plus modes as well as a new particulate filter to capture CO2 emissions as part of measures that make it fit for new WLTP regulations – the latter also set to be incorporated on the M4 from later this year as part of a series of running changes for the 2019 model.
With a 30kW lift in power and 85Nm increase in torque over the N55 at 302kW and 550Nm, the S55 unit brims with bull bodied energy and, more so than the older unit, aural intensity, propelling the M2 Competition from 0-100km/h some 0.1sec faster than the discontinued standard M2 at 4.2sec with the optional dual-clutch automatic gearbox and up to a limited top speed of 250km/h.
Its turbine-like delivery is familiar but the performance is noticeably stronger at any given point in the rev range than the older M2 engine. There remains some faint turbocharger lag on light throttle loads in Comfort mode at typical city speeds, but there is sufficient torque to mask it on a loaded throttle in Sport Plus mode out on the open road; once you’ve got it percolating at 2350rpm, the point at which peak torque is delivered, the response, tractability and overall performance is exemplary.
The biggest difference over the old engine, however, is reserved for the top end; the new engine revs with greater intensity and smoothness beyond 5000rpm, providing the M2 Competition with truly memorable qualities when you get to explore the full extent of its rev range in lower gears.
The flexible delivery dovetails nicely with the characteristics of the optional seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. I’d choose it above the standard six-speed manual, which in typical BMW fashion boasts an overly springy shift action and unnecessary long clutch travel, on the grounds of its efficiency alone; the speed at which the Getrag produced auto gearbox shifts in Sport Plus mode, either via a nudge of the gear lever or via the steering wheel mounted shift paddles, is perfectly suited to the more urgent qualities of the new engine.
The driveline changes are just the start, though. A reworked chassis with a boomerang-shaped strut brace across the front suspension towers, revised steering software and more rigid fixing points for the rear suspension among other detailed changes also provide the M2 Competition it with more eager dynamic properties than the standard M2 despite a 55kg increase in kerb weight at 1550kg. It’s a delight on the road, and a right blast on the track.
The new model retains the highly agile handling traits for which the M2 is renowned, but there’s now added precision to the way it goes about its business. The steering, in particular, is a big improvement, offering greater feel and feedback on centre as well as a more linear build up of weighting and greater accuracy as you wind on lock. While it’s never really lacked for response, the most affordable M-car is now even more alert than ever before.
It also stops with greater intent, too. With an upgraded brake package featuring 380mm steel discs up front and 370mm steel discs at the rear, the new M-car delivers powerful and fade-free braking even after repeated hammering on the track.
The improvements to the steering are allied to a more stable rear end, allowing you can carry greater speed through corners. This is important, because many M2 customers are also avid track drivers, according to BMW’s M division. You can be judicious with your throttle input, relying on the inherent purchase of the 19-inch tyres to catapult you out of corners at great speed and confidence. With the driving mode switched to Sport Plus and the MDM (M driver’s mode) button on the steering wheel engaged, the M2 Competition can also easily be provoked into lurid slides in more tightly apexed corners.
Additionally, changes to the spring and damper rates and detailed changes to the anti-roll bars have brought improved body control. There’s less lean upon turn in than before, particularly at the front end, and even without the adjustable damping control that’s available on the M240i, it also manages to deliver acceptable ride quality. Vertical movements within the suspension are better damped and altogether less aggressive in nature, providing the M2 Competition with improved long-distance qualities.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The changes BMW’s M division has brought to the M2 in the creation of the new Competition model helps to elevate it to an altogether higher level than before. The new engine not only provides it with added performance, it also injects it with added character as well, while the changes to the chassis have brought greater sharpness and response to what was already a highly capable car. The crowning achievement is that this added focus has not come at the expense of everyday driving ability. For those prepared to forego some of the compact two-door coupe’s ultimate potential, it still remains a highly capable, practical and refined car… one I could easily entertain using on a daily basis.
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