There is no shortage of exemplary hardware coming from BMW's modern M division lineup. From 600-plus-horsepower sedans to off-road-capable SUVs that can out-drag a Corvette, these BMWs largely live up to the company's Ultimate Driving Machine tagline. But when it comes to preserving the truly connected driving experience that the original M3 and M5 cars offered, only the current BMW M2 will do. And for 2019, BMW has made the M2 even better. Welcome to the M2 Competition.
What Is the M2 Competition Coupe?
The 2019 BMW M2 Competition is the latest version of this high-performance subcompact coupe. BMW has previously offered Competition packages on other M models to provide additional performance, but this is the first time that it's making a stand-alone Competition model. The decision to make an M2 Competition (and the new 2019 M5 Competition), according to the company, came from the surprising number of people ordering the previous Competition packages. BMW says it doesn't have current plans to make a standard, non-Competition version of the M2 in the immediate future. For 2019, then, you'll just have to "settle" for this spicier alternative.
The M2 already has some of the best handling in its class, so BMW focused its efforts on giving the Competition more power. The engine is still a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, but it's different than the one sitting under the hood of the current M2. The new engine, which is shared with the larger M3 and M4, includes a stronger engine block design, a lightweight forged crankshaft, stronger pistons, and two turbochargers instead of one. It's a racier engine that revs to a higher ceiling of 7,600 rpm and generates a boast-worthy 405 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. That's a gain of 40 hp and 63 lb-ft over last year's non-Competition M2, though it's still a bit less than what this motor makes in the M3 and M4.
Since the new twin-turbo engine generates more heat, the M2 also gets the M4's cooling system. It consists of no fewer than five radiators — or six if you get the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission — mounted behind every opening in the front end. The signature BMW grilles have also been enlarged to allow more air through. They're stylistically connected now, giving the car more of a unibrow kind of look. You might like it, and you might not. BMW also altered the splitter on the underside of the front bumper to increase airflow through the lower opening.
Transmitting this newfound power to the rear wheels is a standard six-speed manual transmission. It has an automatic rev-matching function to smooth out downshifts. You can also still get the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, replete with launch control and that extra oil cooler we mentioned earlier. This coupe is quick any way you slice it, but BMW estimates the M2 with the seven-speed is slightly more fuel-efficient (no official mpg figures yet) and shaves off a couple tenths to 60 mph. With the automatic, expect 0-60 mph in 4 seconds flat.
All that speed requires more stopping power, so the M2 Competition's brakes are now six-piston calipers up front, four-piston units in the rear — a gain of two pistons at each wheel — and larger brake rotors all around. The new 19-inch Y-spoke wheels look a lot sportier than the old double-spoke wheels, but they, unfortunately, weigh a little more, too.
BMW decided it didn't need to do much to the chassis. The most significant change comes from the addition of a carbon-fiber front strut brace. Similar to the one in the M4, it wraps around the engine like a doctoral graduate's hood. It's as ornamental as it is functional. According to BMW, the strut brace, which weighs just 3.3 pounds, significantly reduces flex at the front end of the car to improve the response and accuracy of the steering. Other small details that differentiate the Competition Coupe include more aerodynamic-looking mirrors, a new exhaust system with active exhaust flaps, and Competition badging on the doorsills and rear decklid.
How Does It Drive?
Given the M2 Competition's stubby proportions, power increase and same-size tires as the previous M2 (245/35 R-19 front, 265/35 R-19 rear), you might expect it to be a power-drifting spaz. Rest assured, it's not. The easily accessible nature of the standard M2 is still there. The engine's power doesn't overwhelm, yet it's ample enough that you likely won't be wishing for more. And the sound exiting the quad exhaust tips very much resembles that of the bigger M cars, with a slightly higher pitch.
This 3,600-pound coupe goes where it's pointed and isn't overly eager to wag its rear, though now it's easier to induce a slide with all that extra torque. Much of the credit for its affable nature goes to the M Active Differential and enhanced electronics wizardry. The guiding hand of the car's dynamic stability control feels even lighter and all the better at convincing you that the training wheels are off. It works in concert with the M Differential that's constantly adjusting the amount of lockup between the two rear wheels to keep power going to the right places. The M Dynamic Mode setting, accessed in the sportiest drive mode, will even allow for moderately irresponsible drifts without anyone knowing that it may not be all driver talent.
Unlike the other M cars, the M2's suspension is of the fixed, nonadaptive type, to keep costs down. It balances the qualities of performance and comfort well. It has enough compliance to be driven daily, yet it's perfectly suited to handle a weekend high-performance driving event. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) is the more capable of the two gearboxes. It shifts lightning-quick when needed, but it's also smooth and on point when you're just idling through heavy traffic. You can also pick gears by using the paddle shifters. Of course, the six-speed manual is still a pleasant box to row. The gear gates have a typical BMW shift feel that's positive but mildly rubbery. So should you get the DCT or manual? Tough call. We say get the manual.
What About the Interior?
The M2 Competition interior hasn't changed much. The new standard leather M sport seats come from the M3 and M4. They look and feel far more substantial with the race-bucket style integrated headrests, larger lateral support bolsters, and M2 logos with contrast stitching and perforation. The carbon-fiber trim, iDrive navigation system, oddly placed door handles and chunky steering wheel with customary M-stripe stitching all remain.
The red ignition button adds a nice visual touch and is easier to locate on the dash than the previous black button, while two new M drive mode buttons on the steering wheel (previously blanked out) allow you to store preferred drive settings for easy access. There are also new buttons next to the shifter to adjust the steering and engine characteristics independently. Newly standard are parking sensors and the Active Driving Assistant safety suite that includes daytime pedestrian detection, frontal collision warning with collision mitigation, lane departure warning and driver attention alert.
How Does It Stack Up in the Class?
The M2 Competition Coupe arrives this summer with everything above. Its starting price of $59,895 (including destination) is $4,400 more than last year's M2. A short list of add-ons include a moonroof and the M Driver's package, which raises the car's top-speed limit from 150 mph to 174 mph. The M Driver's package also comes with a day of advanced driver training at one of BMW's coastal performance centers. For a heated steering wheel, adaptive full LED headlights with automatic high beams, wireless smartphone charging, Wi-Fi hotspot and speed-limit info display, opt for the Executive package.
A budget of around $60,000 opens some exciting car options. Domestic picks might include the Corvette or Shelby GT350. But the M2's closest competition remains the 2018 Audi RS 3, the 2018 Audi TT RS and the 2018 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLA 45. They are high-power turbo cars with all-wheel drive and hover around the Competition Coupe in price. The standard M2 was already the best handling of the bunch, but now it has the power to lead the pack in outright speed.
For most buyers in the segment, the choice will come down to the two Audis and the M2. The Audis have a traction advantage off the line with their Quattro all-wheel-drive system. They come standard with an adaptive sport suspension, and they ultimately have more to offer regarding advance driver safety aids and interior technology. But for those who prioritize the driving experience above all else, the 2019 BMW M2 Competition should be a clear choice.