Allow me to begin this story with short sentence dedicated to Sergio Marchionne, one of very few men and women that made it apparent that having zeal, passion and discipline can turn a company that was making multimillion dollar losses into a profitable one in just two years. The industry and the world has lost a true inspiration.
The automotive industry’s economics are perplexing, profits are harder to achieve than ever before and technology to meet ever evolving regulations must always be pushed to the limits. It’s brutal and new generations of cars must regularly be introduced to keep up with the competition. At dinner in London yesterday evening I debated with an inspiring young lady, who is embarking on what is assured to be an astonishing career. The subject was competition and how it brings out the best. Whether you are in education, chasing sales targets or partaking in any sporting activity – competition is what allows for ranking and all those involved to be deemed successful in retrospect of those aspiring for similar achievements. My beguiling Sushi partner disagreed stating that competition often corrupts and promotes negative environments between peers. We concluded that we would agree to disagree and then competed to pay the bill…
The competitive edge in the industry has resulted in some of the greatest machines that may ever exist. Think of the road homologated racecars such as the Ferrari 288 GTO, BMW E30 M3, Porsche GT1, Mercedes CLK GTR and to an extent the Porsche Carrera GT (the engine was finally shoe horned into a road car after rule changes prevented it from being used in a number of racing series). None of these legendary cars would exist if their competitors had not pushed their creators to innovate and experiment with the
Fierce competition in 2018 ranges from the titans of top speed such as models from Bugatti, Koenigsegg and possibly McLaren with BP23/Speedtail, down through the echelons to hot hatches like the Mercedes-AMG A45 and Audi RS3. That brings me onto the BMW M2. Back in 2016 I flew to California and drove the first M2 on Highway 1 and Laguna Seca (tough gig, I know) and concluded that the M2 stood head and shoulders above its all-wheel-drive transverse engined rivals. You can’t beat rear-wheel-drive dynamics and a creamy six cylinder. The rate of acceleration that the markets have demanded meant that the RS3 and A45 engaged in a power battle that made Trump and Kim look like whining school girls, now we have 400 horsepower hatchbacks. What a time to be alive…
The BMW looked a little impotent alongside, yes, the experience of driving was still magical but something had to be done to keep it looking comparable to its rivals. The competition pushed BMW’s M department and resulted in the BMW M2…Competition. This is not to be confused with something like the BMW M3/M4 CS, the M2 will only be offered in Competition guise and that is wonderful thing.
The chassis was already described as being a ‘shortened and widened version of that in the M3/4’ and the headline is that the engine is now too shared with the M2’s bigger brother. The 410 horsepower double-charged, twin-turbo, six-cylinder in-line unit is a peach. There’s a swell of torque throughout the range with 550Nms on tap from 2,350 to 5,200rpm. Now the carbon strut that makes the front-end of the M3/4 so agile has found its way under the hood of the M2 Competition, as have the sports seats and M style mirrors.
Truth be told, the engine S55 change is a result of the EU law changing and now requiring a rather hefty Otto particulate filter (OPF) be fitted to the engine to reduce fine dust pollution. Politics aside, the M2 Competition is quick by any measure. With the M DCT option 0-100km/h is over in 4.2 seconds, the manual (yes, they really do still offer one!) is a couple of tenths slower at 4.4 seconds. Don’t fret; the driving experience is worth far more than a couple of tenths.
Driving experience, let’s talk about it. It’s fantastic. Configure the M1 and M2 steering wheel buttons in anyway you feel comfortable with and you have the shortcuts to happiness. BMW has loaded M2 with DSC off (it’s not actually off) and the traction control into MDM (M Dynamic Mode). This is a golden recipe where there is a safety net that lets you have an absolute ball without crashing the party.
It’s breathtaking and where the rear wheel drive dynamics and fabulous balance show up everything else in the category. Then you look at the manual and have the ability to be even more involved with one of the greatest manuals on sale. The DCT option follows closely behind with the finest and fastest shifts available today, it gives PDK a run for its money. Option either gearbox and you will not be disappointed. You apply more and more throttle earlier and earlier, balancing the car on sweet little steering angle adjustments. The creamy power and torque delivery is on tap to help the car rotate the rest of the way around a corner and the rear bites into the tarmac to catapult you towards the next corner. The M upgraded brakes are a dream and remain faithful even after a pounding.
The road is where most drivers would enjoy their M2 Competitions but increasingly, events such as M trackdays are luring more and more M2s to circuits around the world. Seeing as I was already in Ronda, Spain, it seemed wrong not to head over to the Ascari Race Resort that is one of the most testing racetracks in Europe. The M2 Competition took it all in its stride, the changes from the original M2 were there to be felt and enjoyed. Unlike bigger cars such as the M3/4 the M2 relies on its poise and nimble short wheel base to come alive in a fashion that no cars in the segment can come close to. The fun factor is addictive as the limits are in reach and there to be played with. The tarmac of Ascari is a great place to toy with the M1 and M2 buttons where the engine and steering can independently be adapted. There are not a million different option to overwhelm you, but just enough to suit a plethora of different driving styles in a quick and easy way via the buttons on the centre console.
It could be argued that the interior is where levels of specialness flounder. The BMW range is great in the 5 and 7 series but everything below is somewhat lacking and where competitors have a clear edge. There’s nothing wrong with it, the materials are great, as is the iDrive system, but is just a little dated when you look at the A-Class Mercedes. The looks of the exterior to my eyes are well judged – there is immediate aggression but it’s not garish and childish like a Ford Focus RS.
Back to the overwhelming number of positives – it is immediately clear driving the car on road or track that the dynamics and changes brought in from the M3/4 are undeniably effective making this a car like no other. It’s a scrumptious proposition that has me rubbing my eyes in disbelief when I see the prices and order lists on cars like the Audi RS3.
Perhaps my intellectual sushi eating acquaintance was right after all, it’s not the competition that always brings out the best in anything, sometimes it’s about being so boldly unique in a category of sterilised clones that speaks for itself and oozes appeal. I’ve said it before and I shall say it again, this is a car like nothing else on the market today.
The most fundamental issue with this car is its name – it shouldn’t be badged the BMW M2 Competition but the BMW M2 No Competition…take a bow BMW M.