2019 BMW M2 Competition review: Track test

The new M2 Competition gets more M muscle, with a new twin-turbo engine and a bunch of chassis tweaks that make it even better than it already was.

I’ve never heard anyone say the M2 needed more of anything. This was an M-Car that delivered the goods straight out of the box when it launched back in 2016, sending enthusiasts the world over into bona-fide rapture.

BMW’s storied M Division was back, and not before time, mind you. This was a proper full-strength Bavarian coupe that nailed the performance brief on all accounts, from its tough-guy stance to the way it went and the noise it made. Everything was in perfect sync.

It wasn’t the fastest thing on four wheels, but it wasn’t slow either. More importantly, it delivered genuine thrills for those lucky enough to be behind the wheel, and it sounded like a proper M-Car should, rather than a rice-burner, which some say had crept into the M’s DNA.

But in typical M fashion, they’ve gone and made it better doing what they invariably do, and building a ‘Competition’ version with a more powerful engine and a host of performance tweaks to the suspension and geometry that could well elevate the M2 into the M-Car hall of fame.

It’s everything you could ask for and more, and it starts with the same twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six lifted from its big brothers – the M3 and M4 – thereby replacing the single-turbo unit of the previous M2.

And, with that, there’s been a big bump in the ‘stonking’ department going from 272kW at 6500rpm and 465kW from 1450–4750rpm up to 302kW from 5370–7000rpm and 550Nm between 2350–5230rpm.

That’s not all. The M2 Competition also comes with bigger radiators – three of them that give the car 20 per cent more cooling power, as well as a new oil cooler and bigger air intakes in the front bumper.

The end result of all this extra M muscle is acceleration from standstill to 100km/h is better by two-tenths at 4.2 seconds versus the old M2’s time of 4.4 seconds with the same M-DCT gearbox. And that’s despite tipping the scales at 55kg more than its predecessor.

For old-school enthusiasts, there’s the choice of a no-cost six-speed manual ’box, but you’ll be sacrificing two-tenths in the process for a more engaging drive, or at least that’s the promise. For me, personally, the seven-speed dual-clutch is so spectacularly good, I just wouldn’t bother.

There are other significant upgrades, too, like the new carbon-fibre strut brace under the bonnet – again lifted straight from the M3 and M4, and weighing all of 1.5kg. It works in concert with the M2’s bulkhead strut to provide increased rigidity and more precise steering in the new Competition model.

No changes to the springs and dampers, but the engineers have enhanced the car’s geometry and remapped the electric power steering and limited-slip diff for more precision.

And just to make sure that onlookers know you’re driving a Competition model, there’s another badge under the ‘M2’ that says exactly that.

Adaptive LED headlamps are standard and you’ll easily spot the M4 side mirrors, too, along with the high-gloss black side gills and new M light-alloy wheels.

Standard brakes are four-pots up front and two at the rear, but our tester on-track at Sydney Motorsport Park was fitted with the more serious M Sport braking system (a $3000 option), which deploys huge 400mm rotors up front (380mm down back) clamped by six-piston calipers and four at the rear, for track days like this when you need all the stopping power you can get. More on that shortly.

Inside, there are a few more M goodies to froth over, like the now-standard M Sport seats with M logos on the headrests that illuminate when you unlock the car. Also new is the red start/stop button on the steering wheel – exclusive to the M2 and M5 Competition models.

Firing it up in pit lane for the first time, you’re immediately aware of more bass in the exhaust note, thanks to a brand-new switchable exhaust system that boasts a new muffler and the four black chrome tailpipes.

Our testers had their M1 and M2 buttons pre-programmed with Sport and Sport+ settings dialled in, but we kicked off in Sport for the first lap or two before going all-out with MDM (M Dynamic Mode) selected for less electronic intervention and DSC off altogether, if you’re game.

With intermittent track sessions throughout the calendar year, it’s easy to forget just how capable the M2 really is. From the moment you first punch it out of pit lane, it’s a car that feels completely at home on a challenging track like this.

Though, in all honesty, it’s more difficult to pinpoint the big performance gains here on-track than it might be on, say, a Targa stage in Tassie for example. That said, at full-throttle down the main straightaway, there’s no discernible loss of torque – it’s still pulling hard at 200km/h plus.

The M2 has never come up short in its delivery of decibels, but this is even more intoxicating. It’s got more soul and sounds like it belongs right here at the track, though that probably won’t stop the aftermarket lads like Akrapovic from having a crack and turning the dial up even more.

But, I wouldn’t be rushing out and spending your hard-earned cash, either, as there’s real volume and depth to this exhaust note – inside and outside the cabin.

While there’s no shortage of grip from the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, you’re also keenly aware of the M2’s rear-wheel-drive character. It doesn’t take much to get this thing sideways out of a hairpin, but thankfully there’s more than enough feedback through the tiller to gather it up and be on your way without too much of a spike in your heart rate.

Don’t get me wrong, you can have a real crack on the racetrack, but this is a car that rewards clean lines and smooth driving more than ever if you’re after quick lap times.

It loves to rev – to 7000rpm and beyond – but I expected even sharper throttle response from the twin-turbo set-up. It’s obviously quick, but it still seems like a couple of beats before you’re properly in the powerband and hurtling towards the next corner.

Those suspension tweaks and more aggressive stiffening measures definitely translate into more cat-like reflexes with solid body control, but there’s no way to ascertain the M2’s ride-comfort merits until we get the car through the garage and test it in the urban jungle.

The new M2 Competition is a better car than its M2 predecessor, though not through any one component, including the new engine. Rather, it’s the sum of each and every component added and tweak made to the chassis itself that has produced a more precise, if not quicker, M-Car than that which it replaces.

In the end, it’s still the best M-Car under $150K that BMW builds.

The fully loaded M2 Competition is priced from $104,900 plus on-roads with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission as standard, though you can have a six-speed manual as a no-cost option, with the car available in dealerships now.

The less-equipped Pure version is priced from $99,900 and available from early 2019. While it gets the same engine and mechanicals, it does without electric seat adjustment, comfort access system, Harman Kardon sound system, adaptive LED lights with variable light distribution, BMW selective beam and anti-glare high-beam assistant, as well as differently styled 19-inch M light-alloy wheels.

Instead, the Pure version makes do with manual seat adjustment, Bi-LED headlights with variable light distribution including cornering lights, and a seven-speaker 205W audio system.

Apart from the standard three-year factory warranty, BMW offers five years/80,000km inclusive M Service packages for the M2, either in Basic or Plus terms for a one-off payment of $2500 or $7150 respectively.

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