Palm Springs, CA – Those of you in the 40-to-60 age range will remember a time when BMW offered all of three models to the world: The 3, 5 and 7 Series. Enthusiasts will also recall that the first two of those were offered in performance versions.
Of course we’re talking about the M3 and the M5, both of which debuted in the mid-1980s.
The M3 in particular played a starring role in many a driving fan’s best dreams. The second did as well, but its hefty price point did cool the passion for it somewhat. Let’s just say the M3 as more “accessible”.
Evolution and… weight gain
The model has definitely evolved over the years. It’s gotten more refined, for one, but most of all it’s gotten bigger. A lot bigger. It’s true that the powertrain grew along with that expansion in size, the performance as well. But the M3 of today is not what it once was.
Let’s be clear: that car is still one exceptional machine, but the spirit of the original has been partially cast aside over time.
Fortunately, BMW had the bright idea of producing models below the 3 Series since the start of the 2010s, and by giving them the M treatment, they’ve been able to recreate the magic we thought had been lost forever. That magic being the experience of driving a small-format speed demon.
Ladies and gents, meet the M2 Competition.
The old 3 Series
Over the generations, it’s an inevitability that our cars get bigger and put on weight. I guess they’re just mimicking our own transformations. Fortunately, in the case of humans it’s possible to get back into shape… and so it is with cars. At BMW, the 2 Series is its way to get back into shape. Really, if the 3 Series of old had seen its styling evolve without bulking up along the way, this is what it would look like today.
Before we continue, a fun comparison: The wheelbase of the M2 is only 13 cm longer than that of the M3 in 1986. Width? Also 13 cm. The total length is 17 cm more, and height is just 4 cm more. We’re talking about more or less the same dimensions.
In terms of weight, the difference is bigger; the new M2 weighs close to 1,600 kg, while the classic 80s-era car tipped the scales at around 1,200 kg.
On the other hand, the powertrain is the source of a ton more explosiveness. The new M2’s engine makes 405 hp, more than double the old M3’s 200 hp. It took the older model 7.1 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph (0-196 km/h); it takes the new M2 just 4 seconds.
The spirit of the models
That’s all fine and dandy, but if the experience at the wheel of the M2 wasn’t positive, any comparisons or similarities between the two models would be beside the point. Now, after taking the wheel of BMW’s M2 Competition and driven on road and on track, I can confirm that the spirit of the old model is alive and well.
Even better, the limits of what it can do have been redrawn.
So careful, this is the stuff that can cause an addiction.
Everything a dream car should be
Who hasn’t imagined themselves at the wheel of their dream car? Without fail, it’s a sublime experience. In that kind of reverie, after all, everything’s perfect. Do you see where I’m going with this with respect to driving the new M2 Competition?
This car is so good it even puts the kibosh on the notion that the reality never matches the dream. The experience of driving the M2 might even surpass the imagining of it.
Checking off all the boxes
There are few essential ingredients required for a sports car to deliver a truly magical driving experience: a responsive engine, a well-calibrated transmission and a finely-tuned chassis. And these ingredients must meld together in perfect harmony.
The M2 has all the ingredients, and they work together flawlessly.
First off, the heart of the M2 is a new engine. The inline-6 twin-turbo unit delivers 405 hp between 5,230 and 7,000 RPM. The bloc is derived from the one found in the M3 and M4. As for torque, the car gets 406 lb-ft of it, available between 2,350 and 5,230 RPM.
Other than that very impressive output, it’s the linearity of its delivery, constant through the range, that is truly jaw-dropping. Imagine a buffet table on which sit all your favourite meals; you can revisit the table as often as you want, and the food never runs out.
The M2 comes with either of two transmissions. A duel-clutch automatic gives slightly quicker 0-60-mph acceleration time – a few specks over 4 seconds. With the six-speed manual gearbox, that inches up to 4.2 seconds.
For having test-driven both, two words come to mind: impeccable work. Each serves the model flawlessly, but let’s be clear on one thing: for the fantasy to really work at its finest, the manual is the one to go with. Quite simply, the clutch offered excellent feedback and the lever stroke is both short and precise.
I get the feeling that trying to improve on it would be a futile endeavour.
I’ll spare you most of the technicalities here, but suffice to say that BMW’s engineers have chosen a set of components that dance a beautiful choreographed ballet together. The front suspension strut, for example, comes from the M3 and M4. It helps with making the front-end structure stiffer and the steering more precise. It also happens to be made of carbon-fibre and weighs all of 3.3 lb.
The aluminum used for the front and rear axles is also borrowed from the M3 and M4. Ball joints able to tolerate a lot more abuse help manage the transversal forces and they ensure an optimal positioning of each wheel in all situations.
A quick mention of the brakes is also in order. The six-piston calipers in front and four-piston units in back guarantee capable stops, almost enough in fact to reintroduce you to the lunch you just had.
I could go on. Already though, you get an idea of the seriousness with which BMW approached the design of the chassis.
It’s simple: every moment spent at the wheel is a joy. The M2 meets every expectation one might have of a model like this. Check out this video that gives you a taste of what it was like to take it around the track at BMW’S performance centre.
The BMW M2 Competition’s target audience is driving purists. You can get it with a full set of equipment, or not, but that’s secondary. What matters with a car like this is the adrenaline it conjures up.
In that respect, it’s a success from A to Z.
There is the matter of the price tag – starting price is $71,750 – as well as BMW’s sometimes iffy reputation for reliability. Although, things seem to be looking up in that regard. J.D. Power’s recent updated ranking of brand dependability shows the German automaker moving upwards on the list.
So there’s hope there. In any case, with the M2, more than anything there’s emotion.
And that’s priceless.