2019 BMW M2 Competition Review

The BMW 2 Series is a balanced vehicle that can be had with an automatic or manual transmission, rear or all-wheel drive, and either as a coupe or convertible.

Everyone should try driving a BMW 2 Series at some point in their life. It’s kind of like the Hogwarts Houses — there’s one for everyone. Put on the Sorting Hat and let it determine what’s right for you. Sit in the driver’s seat of a 230i, drive it around, and if you enjoy it but want more equipment and speed, go up to the M240i and give it a try. If you want a more pared down vehicle with even more thrills, well, BMW has the M2 for you.

Well, it used to have the M2 — now the car is officially called the M2 Competition, which is the only one you can buy going forward. This is a car that can turn jaded enthusiasts and uncertain car fans into believers of modern BMWs. The difference between the last M2 and this M2 Competition is important. The last model wasn’t a “true M vehicle” in some people’s eyes. See, M vehicles of the Golden Era featured bespoke components and were supposed to be much rarer and more special than the other models BMW offers. They were focused and lightweight. The engines, in particular, were also more robust and powerful, tweaked to offer ultimate performance. You could always tell this by the internal designation of the engines used in BMW M cars. They started with the letter S, as opposed to the letter N, which was used on the part numbers of the more mainstream cars.

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This is important to note because the outgoing M2 featured an engine dubbed the N55B30T0, an engine that is found elsewhere in the BMW lineup. For example, the X4 M40i features the same engine. But for 2019, the M2 Competition has the S55 engine that’s used exclusively in other M vehicles, like the M3 and M4. Hurrah! Now M aficionados can embrace the M2 Competition in a way they couldn’t with the old M2. The differences between the N55 and the S55 aren’t too drastic, but there are more lightweight components in addition to more robust, performance-oriented changes, as well as a new oil supply system that is derived from BMW motorsports division, ensuring the vehicle has sufficient cooling and lubrication during any scenario.

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The engine is brilliant, making 405 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque during broad spectrums of the rev range. It feels lively, building power up on the way to redline, and emitting some fantastic noises along the way. While the top speed is limited to just 155 mph, it can be unlocked to 174 mph through an optional package. The sprint to highway speeds takes about 4 seconds, and the M2 Competition puts that thrilling feeling right in your stomach and pulls it up to your throat every time you hammer on the throttle. Then that feeling escapes your body as a smile or a “Whee!” That’s what the new M2 Competition does and that’s what makes it so special.

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The vehicle is exclusively rear-wheel drive and can have either a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual clutch. We had the latter, and it worked quite well, except for the confusing manner in which it handles parking. You can’t just simply put the gear selector in to “park,” but putting it into neutral, pulling the handbrake, and then turning off the car results in a warning on the dashboard about the vehicle not being secured from rolling away. Turning the car off while it was in Drive, however, puts it into park. This isn’t the most user-friendly setup.

And while the powertrain is great, fuel economy is a sore spot. While BMW rates the combined fuel economy of the DCT-equipped M2 Competition at 27 mpg, we saw numbers that were 10-15 percent worse than that. It’s easy to have fun and get carried away with the throttle in this car.

Besides the weird parking thing, the transmission was a good partner, and what I really enjoyed about the M2 was the few selections you have to make as a driver. Sure there are a few drive modes, but unlike the M5, which had a bazillion settings for every component in the car, the M2 has steering and engine settings as well as transmission logic and traction control. The vehicle is always sporty and stiff and there are no suspension settings, but I’m OK with that. The differences between the Sport and Sport + modes are not that vast. So, yes there are still a bunch of settings to flip between before finding your perfect combination, but at least it’s not as confusing as other M vehicles. There are two M buttons on the steering wheel that allow you to quickly access the monster you’ve created.

The car is a joy to drive. Even in the winter and snow, the M2 Competition was thoroughly enjoyable. The provided winter tires, as well as the smart traction and stability control settings, helped the car feel stable and fast during our test.

The M2 also features a unique exhaust system with four black chrome tailpipes. Like the other aspects of the car, you can toggle a switch to make it loud or louder, and the noises are certainly pleasant, although you’ll hear it a lot during long highway sprints, as it drones a bit.

One of the elements the last M2 didn’t perfect was its steering. For whatever reason, it felt a tad bit slow and numb, and some drivers also feel the fact that the steering wheel doesn’t quite line up with the seat is an issue too. The M2 Competition has addressed that concern and has done the steering right, with good response and decent feedback. The weight doesn’t feel just right yet, but it’s definitely above average. At this level, it’s easy to start thinking of the ultimate in enthusiast cars like the Porsche Cayman and the M2 Competition can compare quite favorably, despite it having a front-engine layout rather than the Porsche’s mid-engine design.

The brakes on the M2 Competition are incredible. It has bigger brake disks compared to the old M2 (400 mm in the front and 380 mm in the rear now, compared to 380 mm and 370 mm before) as well as bigger six-piston calipers up front and 4 piston units in the back (compared to four and two piston units before). They’re massive, they feel great, and they do a fantastic job of bringing the 3,600-lb coupe to a stop. They’re noisy though, a reoccurring theme in this car.

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Style-wise, there’s a conservative design to the M2 Competition. It hasn’t changed much from the last one, so there’s no use dwelling on that, but the flares and haunches look great on the little car.

The interior is less impressive and equally conservative. It’s tight, small, and there’s an unusually high seating position that could be improved. You don’t feel like you’re sitting on the floor of the M2 Competition like you might in other sports cars. The rear seats are basically useless, but a decent place to throw things like bags, since the interior space of the car is quite limited. The trunk is fairly large, and the rear seats do fold down, allowing the car to be more practical.

There are M2 Logos found on the door sills and headrests, which are illuminated, and the leather seats feature contrast stitching. The seats are heavily bolstered, with Alcantara being the featured material. Other panels feature plastic, and there are some carbon fiber design cues as well, but the cabin doesn’t feel really high end or premium. The infotainment system as well is dated, especially in comparison to the rest of the BMW lineup, where the screen and layout have seen a very significant update.

The interior is a bit of a disappointment, but it doesn’t take away from the M2 Competition’s overall competency and fun-to-drive quotient. With a starting price of $59,895 USD ($71,750 CAD), its the most affordable M car you can get, and now that means that you’re getting a special S55 engine too, like the M3 and M4.

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The Verdict: 2019 BMW M2 Competition Review

It’s worth reiterating that the BMW 2 Series is among the best cars on the road today, with a diverse lineup that’s built for any kind of driving joy. Drive any of them around the block, and you’ll quickly find out whether you’re the type to want the high-horsepower and focused M2 Competition, the more customizable M240i, or the affordable 230i. And if you don’t like any of them, BMW will happily sell you a crossover.

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