BMW M2 Competition 2018 Review
Already regarded as the best performance car in the M Division stable, BMW didn't even need touch its famed M2.
Despite the fact it is the cheapest, slowest and least powerful machine in its dedicated line-up, it had an essence of purity about the way it linked them all together that has been missing from M’s iconic M3, M4 and M5 models in their current guise.
Largely borrowing bits and pieces from various models already in existence - the suspension and steering from the M3 and a breathed-on version of the single-turbo six-cylinder already offered in the M235i, for example - the M2 felt like the perfect blend.
It was a genuine enthusiasts’ machine that wasn’t diluted by any luxurious overtones or dulled by electronic overkill. Simple, effective and bloody good fun.
And yet BMW couldn’t resist making it even better with this, the M2 Competition which effectively replaces the regular M2 Coupe and brings with it more grunt, improved dynamics and a raft of new features.
Firstly, you’d want to enjoy the thrill of driving, and be tempted to participate in the odd track day, if the M2 Competition is on your shopping list, as it’s primary focus is on performance.
Like its predecessor, it’s the flagship model in BMW’s baby coupe range that is stuffed full of go-fast gadgets. The Competition takes the concept a step further though - while becoming more of a genuine M car - as it now features the same twin-turbo 3.0-litre six-cylinder from the M3/M4 twins, revised chassis components, bigger brakes and redesigned body work.
Like before, the M2 Competition is available in two model grades, with the entry-level Pure starting at $99,900 (plus on-road costs) while the ‘regular’ M2 Competition commands a $5k premium. Both feature a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as standard, but can be equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox as a no-cost option.
They also come equipped with a generous level of standard equipment now including proper M Sport seats trimmed in Dakota leather with Alcantara side bolsters and a digitised instruments as well and an upgraded 8.8-inch colour infotainment display with sat nav, digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and BMW’s Connected Drive which allows for automated emergency calls, real-time traffic information, concierge services and the ability to remotely start and unlock the vehicle from a smartphone app.
The top-shelf Competition picks up electric front seat adjustment, keyless entry, a high-grade Harmon Kardon audio system, adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams and unique 19-inch alloy wheels.
Both, however, share the same level of safety equipment, with adaptive cruise control, low-speed autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning, as well as a reverse camera and front and rear parking sensors.
Like all BMWs, the M2 Competition is covered by a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and has condition-based service intervals where the car monitors vital components and alerts the driver when regular maintenance is required.
Owners can, however, choose from a wide range of pre-paid servicing packages with basic coverage for five years/80,000km costing from $2500 while a Plus package that includes some consumable items like brakes can cost from $7150 over the same time frame.
What's it like inside?
While the original M2 was built like any other BMW, it also looked like any other BMW from inside the cabin and was missing some of the specialness you’d expect from an M car.
The Competition changes all of that with a bunch of elements that improve its legitimacy, such as its proper M seats - complete with illuminated badges in the headrest - and signature M twin-spar wing mirrors.
It also looks more modern inside the cockpit too, with a prominent M2 badge displayed in the digital tacho, higher-quality materials within the mix of piano black, brushed aluminium and carbon weave trim highlights.
While the cabin now has a real presence about it, all of the M2’s best bits are hidden out of sight - at least until you open the bonnet and see how the M division has stuffed its twin-turbo six-cylinder into the engine bay, complete with a beautiful carbon fibre strut brace that cradles the engine like a high-tech sling. Apart from doing its job and improving the structural rigidity of the suspension towers, it gives the under bonnet appearance a real race car look about it - and an incentive to show it off.
As a compact two-door coupe, the M2 Competition isn’t designed to be an everyday family machine even though it does have four seats.
Like all other 2-Series Coupe variants, the M2 Competition offers decent cargo-carrying capacity in its 390L boot. The rear seat has a standard 60:40 split fold that allows for longer items to be loaded, but uniquely it can be ordered with a more versatile 40:20:40 option with a waterproof bag to carry items such as snow skis without the need for roof racks.
The upgraded M Sport seats in the front not only look better than before but offer greater lateral support too, thanks to figure-hugging bolsters, while providing excellent adjustment and a near perfect relationship with the gorgeous thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel. The bright red starter button is a nice touch too.
Beyond those elements, the overall quality of materials around the cabin is a step ahead of where it was before while the ventilation controls have a more premium appearance and the larger infotainment screen with its smartphone-like interface looks and feels like it belongs in a genuine luxury car.
What's it like to drive?
Here’s the real clincher. The M2 Competition replaces the N55 single-turbo 3.0-litre six cylinder engine from its predecessor with the more powerful, twin-turbo S55 version straight from the M3 sedan and M4 coupe.
While its peak power output of 302kW is slightly less than it is in the M3 (with 317kW) it is a little more accessible being generated 300rpm lower in the rev range, between 5250-7000rpm. Maximum torque, however, is the same as the M4 Competition, with 550Nm generated on a band of revs between 2350-5200rpm, giving the pocket rocket the ability to sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds when equipped with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which features launch control and three driver settings, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. The manual transmission is approximately half a second slower, according to BMW, and is equipped with automated rev-matching on downshifts.
Both variants drive the rear wheels only through an electronically-controlled limited slip differential that can varying its locking effect between zero and 100 percent within 150 milliseconds using a myriad of inputs to ensure consistent traction - and easily-accessible drifts in controlled situations.
While final fuel consumption figures for Australian models have yet to be confirmed, it isn’t expected to deviate too far from the 9.2L/100km figure it consumes on the official European combined cycle.
You betcha! As we’ve highlighted, the original M2 was already universally acclaimed as being the most appealing M machine of its generation for serious driving enthusiasts.
The Competition upgrade cements that status, as you’d expect with even more of the stuff that matters most - increased power, re-tuned suspension and electronics, bigger brakes and refinements to its steering.
Our brief preview drive was limited to a couple of quick laps around the fast and flowing Sydney Motorsport Park circuit and some loutish behaviour doing donuts on a sodden skid pan, so we’ll reserve final judgement on what it’s like to live with in everyday traffic on everyday roads.
But, in that environment, the M2 Competition has a sense of old-school charm and tail-happy progressiveness that has been diluted by the digitisation of the latest-gen M3.
The engine swap doesn’t drastically alter the M2’s overall character, but it does feel chubbier everywhere; revving quickly from the bottom end with barely a hint of turbo lag, while its mid-range is meatier and its top-end has the kind of fizz that was missing from the single-turbo six.
It also sounds better than before, with a deep-chested growl under load that segues into a snarling roar from above 5000rpm all the way to its 7500rpm cutout before emitting an addictive blurt on full-throttle upshifts or a series of firecracker-like explosions when you back out of the throttle.
Similarly, it drives in much the same way as before with incremental improvements to every dynamic attribute. Like before, the laws of physics cannot be changes and the combined effects of its stubby stance - with wide wheel tracks and a relatively short wheelbase - and the engine’s near instantaneous torque delivery means those behind the wheel need to have their wits about them at speed.
Even with the adaptive suspension hunkered down in its stiffest Sport+ setting it’s a lively little jigger, with razor sharp steering and super-strong brakes that offer great pedal feel. It’s all serious (and seriously good) at the front, but the back-end is where the party is and all it wants to do is burn up the dance floor - or, more accurately, its Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber.
Thankfully, the M2 Competition communicates exactly what it is doing - and what it wants to do next - to the driver so clearly that its attitude is easily adjusted through either the steering wheel or the throttle. It’s a heap of fun, and such a rewarding machine in ways that its all-paw hot hatch rivals simply cannot match.
What's the first impression?
As we said at the beginning, BMW certainly didn’t need to improve the M2 coupe. But, Jeez, we’re glad it did!
The M2 Competition amplifies all that was great about its predecessor and cements its status as a legitimate M car, now with even more authenticity.
We’ll hold back on a final verdict until we have the opportunity to give it the full road test treatment. But, rest assured there are few performance cars as good as the M2 Competition for the money.
2018 BMW M2 Competition Price and Specifications
Price: from $99,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol
Power: 302kW at 5250-7000rpm
Torque: 550Nm at 2350-5200rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, RWD
Fuel use: 9.2L/100km
As Editor in Chief of the Drive Network, Amac is one of Australia's most experienced automotive journalists with more than 25 years experience in newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and digital media.