The BMW M2 Competition Is an Excellent Daily Sports Car
Your daily dose of 405-hp gutpunch.
Recently, we declared the Porsche 718 siblings as close to modern sports car perfection as we've ever driven. We stand by that statement, but a spending a week with a 2020 BMW M2 Competition has us readjusting our pros and cons list of what characteristics a daily-use sports car should possess. If it's a small, general purpose, but still very capable sports car you're after, the M2 Competition makes a wildly compelling case for the best daily driver sports coupe under the $75,000 mark.
If that comes off as a rather somber way to introduce a 405-hp tire-burnin' twin-turbo Munich-borne monster, we apologize; spending back-to-back weeks with two of Germany's greatest pocket rockets has us debating which one would claim the spot in our hypothetical one-car garage. After booting this little weapon up and down California mountain roads, slogging through traffic, taking a high-speed day-trip to see some poppies, and stopping to grab groceries, we find ourselves cheering "We could do this every day!" in the smallest of BMW's M family—just like we did in 2018 when we named it an Automobile All-Star.
That's not something we feel about most sports cars of this ilk. Many other examples of this type of car could be used daily without much issue, but even with the best of them, you're bound to make concessions for running costs, interior space, gas mileage, cargo capacity, and comfort. The M2 Comp manages to buck this trend, balancing impressive performance with an affable all-weather personality that makes a serious run for its place as our favorite daily driver—with a few caveats.
Heart of a Champion
More on the caveats later—we're itching to talk about the M2 Comp's party piece, the mighty 3.0-liter S55 twin-turbo inline-six it purloins from its big bro, the F80 M3/M4. Crammed under the hood, its hand-me-down heart rips out 405 hp and a thick 406 lb-ft of torque, excellent output for a rear-wheel drive coupe smaller than a Mustang. Buyers have the choice of either a seven-speed dual-clutch or six-speed manual transmission, and having driven the manual variant of the discontinued non-Competition M2, we'd say that's the one to pick, but we've yet to sample the M2 in Competition spec without the DCT.
We loved our year with our Four Seasons 2016 BMW M2, but some of us found its N55 3.0-liter lacked gumption just after attaining highway speeds. With an extra 40 hp and 63 lb-ft of torque, the M2 Comp does not suffer from the same breathlessness, force-fed by a twin-turbo setup rather than single twin-scroll turbo of the N55. The downside to this shot in the arm is the predictable tendency to shred those expensive rear Michelins if you don't meter your right foot correctly. Not that you'd know the rear would rather be up front, as BMW's traction and stability control is always on (sometimes intrusive) alert for pesky wheel slip. Pin it in a straight line, and you can feel the systems sweating the small stuff as you scream down the entrance ramp.
It sounds phenomenal, too. The original M3/M4 duo caught flak back at its launch around 2013 for the S55s gargled, gravelly—ahem, flatulent—soundtrack, but the M2 Comp's S55 tune is bang-on sonorous. BMW has nearly perfected the art of smooth powertrains, and the 3.0-liter zings up and down the rev range like Satan's nitro-powered sewing machine. Between the buttery crescendo on acceleration and the exhaust crackles on upshifts, it's easy to keep your right foot down longer than is legally, financially, or otherwise sane, so be careful. The 0-60 mph dash with the DCT takes just 4.0 sec according to BMW, but much like it is with the other Germans, we suspect that's a bit modest. In a favorable environment, we'd expect the tested time to dip into the high-three-second range.
How Does It Handle?
Cut out the straight stuff and escape into the mountains, and the M2 Comp earns its light-blue-darker-blue-red M stripes. Those fat Michelin Pilot Super Sports and wide-ish (for the platform) track yield a sense of sticky surefootedness, directed through some of BMW's best electric steering to date. On the M4 with Competition Package (there is no M4 Competition), the adjustable steering weight bounces between agonizing heft in Comfort and set-in-concrete for Sport Plus. BMW listened to complaints and fixed the modulation on both this M2 Comp and the later M4 CS to a more palatable weight range.
Interestingly, the M2 Comp rides on a fixed suspension set-up. No adaptive dampers here, just one setting to get you to work, the grocery store, the dinner date, the canyon, and the track day. In this regard, job well done: Bumps, bangs, and crashes are well-damped, and body roll is controlled enough to justify that "Competition" badge out back. From behind the steering wheel, the car feels a bit tall, but that boils down to the driving position and the platform. You quickly get used to it.
Braking is another matter. Initially, those big iron M stoppers have great firmness and stopping power, but thanks to (presumably) overactive traction and stability control taxing the brakes between braking zones, the pedal goes soft after a short blast through the switchbacks. Even if you're prudent with the throttle, and even if you stay off the brakes, the brake pedal is noticeably softer. Stopping power isn't unduly affected, but we can't say it wouldn't be if you continued to push.
This speaks to a problem found in many of BMW's modern M cars; an overabundance of pavement-cracking power. We know, we know—just a few paragraphs above, we mentioned how much we like the extra oomph compared to the older M2. That still stands, and we'd rather have too much rather than too little in this case, but balance between braking and power application would be the ideal solution. Regardless, unless you really want to pirouette something fierce, keep the nannies on and save the smoky stuff for the track.
Perfect for the Daily Hustle
When you've had your fill of fun, turn back onto the highway, put everything back in comfort, and marvel at how well this riotous little bruiser settles into its softer side. Again, there's no adaptive suspension, but the ride is more than pliant for daily use; even over ill-maintained LA-area expansion joints and unexpected crags, the ride is not so jarring you'd tire after a few days of rough commutes. Couple that to an interior dressed in the same finery expected of the BMW badge up front, and this is a choice little driver.
It gets better. A traditional trunk space swallows up luggage, groceries, and toilet paper, while a small backseat area serves as the perfect backpack, snack shelf, and overflow space for longer trips, especially since you can fold those rear seats down. In a pinch, we suppose you could stuff a pair of friends back there—but don't give us grief if that friendship soon fades. Trust us, there isn't much room back there.
(Mostly) Nothing But Smiles
The biggest problem we had with the M2 Comp is the same problem we had with the regular M2: Its 13.7-gallon tank is sucked down from full to empty like it's sprung a leak. We're not sure if it's a combination of that 3.0-liter guzzler or the aforementioned size, but we filled up much, much more often than we we're used to in something with fewer than eight cylinders.
If you squint hard enough, it's a bit of a bargain too. With prices starting at just under $60,000, our loaded-to-the-brim example stickered for $67,045, not a bad price considering that wouldn't even get you in the base Porsche 718 Cayman S. That means you'd settle for the standard 718 Cayman, and even with $10,000 in options, you'd still be down 105 hp and 120 lb-ft to the M2 Competition.
Aside from the small tank, though, it's all smiles. Tremendously quick, extremely powerful, and effortlessly usable, the M2 Competition is one of our top picks for a daily driver sports car—if you absolutely don't need usable rear seats and you're ok with the M2 Comp's relatively small size.
2020 BMW M2 Competition TL;DR
- A huge, much-needed boost from old M2
- Packs an extremely potent 405-hp wallop
- Perfect size, refinement for daily use sports car
- All smiles aside from small gas tank and aggressive traction control
|2020 BMW M2 Competition Specifications|
|PRICE||$59,895/ $67,045 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.0L turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6/405 hp @ 5,230-7,000 rpm, 406 lb-ft @ 2,350-5,230 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||18/25 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||176.2 x 73.0 x 55.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.0 sec|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph (174 mph w/ M Driver's Package)|