The M2 Competition Isn’t a Better M2, It’s a Different M2

BMW's updated entry-level M car gives off a different attitude, for better or worse.

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Brian Silvestro

The M2 Competition is an odd duck. Rather than joining the M2 in the lineup as a track-ready trim package, it flat-out replaces the base model. However, this makes sense once you realize just how extensively it has been upgraded. The Competition has an entirely different engine—the S55 twin-turbo straight-six from the M3 and M4, making 40 horsepower more than the outgoing N55. It also has bigger brakes, a revised suspension, and a new fascia. This is a different car.

With all these changes, the Competition should be noticeably better to drive, right? Does the new car fix all of my complaints I had with the normal M2? Would the M3 engine overwhelm the chassis? I brought two together to find out. Both were equipped with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and had winter performance tires (The Competition had Michelin Alpins, while the normal M2 had Pirelli Sottozeros).

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Brian Silvestro

Aside from new wheels and some blacked-out trim pieces, you might not be able to see much of a difference in photos. In person, there’s a lot to see. The nose is stubbier, and features an angular one-piece kidney grille that covers a wider surface area. There are three slats on the splitter to optimize airflow. The entire car sits slightly lower, giving it a more muscular, hunkered-down look. It’s a bit much, honestly—I prefer the normal M2’s comparatively subtle approach.

The cockpit remains largely unchanged, save for a few extra buttons for drive modes and a lovely new gauge cluster. The font gives off a perfectly sporty vibe, and the analog speedo and tachometer work great with an integrated digital screen on the bottom right section. Why doesn’t every new BMW have this setup?

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Brian Silvestro

You’d be surprised how differently these cars drive. They’re not night and day, but driving them back to back highlights some stark differences. The steering is the most immediate thing you notice—it’s a lot quicker in the Competition, more precise and consistent. BMW has gotten a lot better with its electrically assisted racks, though the feeling you get through the wheel isn’t as tangible as it is in something like a Cayman.

Unlike the regular M2’s engine, which uses a hotted up version of BMW’s mainstream straight-six, this Comp unit is a proper S-branded M motor right out of the M3 and M4. It’s also a twin-turbo setup, rather than a single turbo with two scrolls. Output is up from 365 horsepower to 405, and you feel it. But the biggest difference isn’t in the power itself, but rather how it comes on. The M2 Competition’s torque delivery is very new-age-style turbocharging, with a flat curve that basically starts from idle. There isn’t any big swath of energy as you go up the rev range—it’s all very linear and undramatic. The normal M2, on the other hand, has a distinct “on-boost” kick in the mid-3000-RPM range. It kind of reminds me of the EJ boxer-four in the WRX STI or the twin-turbo V6 in the Giulia Quadrifoglio. It’s less convenient for normal driving situations because you have to rev it up to get going anywhere quickly, and it’s slower in every scenario. But honestly, I think it’s the more exciting motor when you’re actually pushing it. Holding your right foot to the floor generates a real sense of occasion, rather than a few seconds of monotonous acceleration.

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You’d have a hard time distinguishing between an M4 and and M2 Competition if all you had to look at were the engine bays.
Brian Silvestro

The Competition’s engine also sounds notably less exciting. I’ve never really enjoyed the M3’s or M4’s sound, so that’s not too much of a surprise. Both cars pump fake noise through the speakers, and you notice it immediately. But the normal M2 has a deeper growl without the generic rasp and engineered pops you get in the new car. It’s not like it sounds bad, per se, but it’s the opposite of memorable.

One thing I’m glad about is the retuned suspension. At times the regular M2 seemed overwhelmed by rough, uneven roads, but the Competition’s setup is better-equipped to handle those sorts of situations. It’s not perfect, of course—this isn’t 7-Series levels of ride quality—but it’s a step in the right direction. There’s only so much suspension tuning you can do for a car with such a short wheelbase. The brakes are a lot better too. I didn’t get the chance to do any real threshold-level decelerations, but any press of the pedal translated immediate and consistent grab. The silver-painted calipers also look a lot cooler than the outgoing blue items.

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Brian Silvestro

Is the M2 Competition a better M2? Depends on what you’re looking for. I think it’s fairer to say it’s a different M2. Both cars are fantastic to drive, and both have their own distinct characters. The Competition is more capable, that’s for sure, but it loses some of its rawness to the old M2. It’s a more complete M car, better able to play that dual-role of fun sports car and luxury commuter—if you’re only going to have one car in your garage, it’d be the one to get. The normal M2 is less refined, but ultimately more fun on a twisty back road. You’re doing more behind the wheel than in the Competition model; it needs you. You feel just that little bit more involved.

In a perfect world, I’d have the normal M2 with the suspension dynamics, the gauge cluster, and maybe the steering rack from the Competition. None of the updated looks, and the N55 engine under the hood. But this isn’t a perfect world. If I had to choose one over the other, I’d probably go for the regular M2, if not simply because lightly used examples have already taken a depreciation hit, and I’m a sucker for a good deal. But seeing as how the Competition does the normal commuter car stuff better, it is tempting, especially if it were my only car.

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