BMW is no stranger to slicing a pie into ever-thinner pieces, as evidenced by its prolific (some might say confusing) lineup of numerically inconsistent body styles, and its practice of applying coupe terminology to practically anything with four wheels.
Now, BMW has taken that power of multiplication to its performance lineup. M Competition is a new standalone model, slotting a notch above the entry-level M Performance and storied M models, and below the hardcore CS and GTS (soon to be CSL) performance rungs. That’s a total of five separate performance levels. Take that, Audi and Mercedes-AMG, with your piddling two offerings each.
But the differences only matter if they’re meaningful, and BMW believes it can carve out distinct niches for each of these levels. For 2019, BMW has taken the M2 and elevated it to the M2 Competition.
More than any other car in the BMW lineup, the M2 represents the emotional and dynamic purity that have been the brand’s defining characteristics for decades. Indeed, we fell in love with our M2 long-termer, calling it a “Goldilocks ‘just-right’ benchmark, not only for the high-performance coupe segment but also for BMW itself.”
So what happens when Goldilocks is bestowed with a hotter engine and suspension bits from the M3/M4? Does it lose the balanced luster that makes it so special? On the contrary. The 2019 M2 Competition is better than the car it succeeds, retaining the magic that makes it so brilliant yet still benefiting from a number of substantial changes to the powertrain and platform.
Let’s start with that engine. Out with the rorty twin-scroll turbocharged N55 3.0-liter inline-six, and in with the M3’s single-scroll twin-turbo S55 3.0-liter inline-six, which ups the horsepower from 365 to 405 hp—a decent bump in a car that weighs around 3,500 pounds. As before, power is put to the rear wheels through either a standard six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. BMW estimates a 0–60 time of 4.0 seconds flat when equipped with the DCT.
Scrubbing off the power are new optional brakes, featuring six pistons clamping down onto massive 15.7-inch rotors up front, and a four-piston setup with 15-inch rotors out back.
BMW could have literally stopped there, but in keeping with M Competition’s mission of being a more track-focused variant, it also upgraded a fair number of bits throughout the chassis, pilfering bits from the M3 and M4 parts bin. Front-end rigidity is increased through a gorgeous lightweight carbon-fiber strut that arcs around the engine, augmented by a bulkhead strut from the M4. The M2 Competition also benefits from lightweight aluminum axles front and rear, and the rear five-link axle is bolted directly to the subframe without the use of rubber bushings.
These changes add up to a package that delivers a shot of caffeine to an already lively vehicle. The M2 Competition doesn’t feel so much transformed as it does reinvigorated, like it returned to its day job after a month of massages and personal training.
That refreshing spirit is echoed in the M2 Competition’s exhale. I was worried that the S55, combined with an electronically controlled twin-flap sport exhaust, would produce the same mechanical bleating that befalls the M3. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by a seductive growl that builds into a silken frenzy as the revs crescendo. There’s no mistaking the fact that a BMW inline-six is under the hood.
On the track, the M2 is right at home, with inputs and reflexes that are direct and satisfying. It’s ridiculously easy to explore the limits at any speed or angle and still have the confidence to rein it back in. There’s even more steering feel than before, though BMW could still use a master class in the art of servo tactility.
This playful nature is possible with the stability control set to M Dynamic mode, working in harmony with the Active M limited-slip differential to allow greater wheelspin before intervening. If you feel like a true hero, the stability control can be fully switched off. BMW has made it easy to cycle through various drive settings by placing dedicated buttons on the console to adjust steering, engine, and stability preferences. Further personalization is possible by programming your favorite two-mode combinations into the M1 and M2 buttons located on the steering wheel.
The six-speed manual features light, direct throws, though the movement between gears feels a bit rubbery. Each downshift is accompanied by a zesty blip from the rev-matching function whether you like it or not. The only way to defeat the system is to engage the aforementioned true hero mode. It would be nice to turn off rev-matching without risking a loss of traction. How about it, BMW? There’s room for one more dedicated button on the console.
Dial everything to Comfort, and out in the real world, the M2 Competition settles down to deliver a ride that somehow manages to be both sharp and supple. Best of all, despite the increased performance, this is a car that could handily work as a daily driver.
Visually, the M2 Competition incorporates both functional and cosmetic updates. Adaptive LED headlights flank the iconic twin kidney grille, which stretches even further out to the sides, now framed in high-gloss black trim. Wider openings in the valance encourage greater airflow, and an additional engine oil cooler is tucked underneath. Inside, the optional M Sport bucket seats are supremely supportive and comfortable, and there’s an illuminated M2 badge just below the integrated headrest, which I’m sure is great to look at when you’re not sitting in the seat.
For 2019, the M2 will only be offered in Competition form. Starting at $59,895, it’s not the performance bargain it once was, though it still handily undercuts the Audi TT RS ($65,875) and the 2019 Porsche Cayman S ($70,350) while trumping them both on horsepower. True, the Audi comes within 5 hp of the M2 Competition’s rating and has all-wheel drive, but it doesn’t offer a stick at any price.
Now that we’ve seen the outline of BMW’s performance hierarchy, it’s tantalizing to think what an M2 CS or CSL might look like. But in the meantime, the M2 Competition’s balance of power and poise earns it the right to stand at the top of the 2 Series lineup.