5 Ways the 2020 BMW M2 CS Marks the Glorious End of an Era

Massaging seats. Myriad driving assists. A cosseting ride. These are all things absent from the BMW M2 CS—and no self-respecting buyer will care.

In nearly every metric most people use to determine if a car is good value, the 2020 BMW M2 CS falls flat. But the M2 CS is not for most people. Hell, it’s not even for some people, since this was a one-model-year-only affair. This ultimate M2 is for but a select few—2,200 globally—a car singularly laser-focused on driving enthusiasts. If they all aren’t sold off already, it won’t be long. Those lucky enough to snap the CS up will find one of the very best drivers’ cars BMW has made in years.

So when my local, friendly BMW PR rep offered me a week in one, of course I said yes. What resulted was a seven-day ode to an ending era, of a refreshingly analog car in an increasingly digital world. BMW will make another rear-drive M2, sure, but it will have some huge shoes to fill, and it will undoubtedly adopt a lot more modern tech in its attempt. Here are five ways the M2 CS cements its place in the history books.

1. Fun is more important than the stopwatch

As standard, the M2 CS comes with a six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed dual-clutch is available, but this tester skips it, and it’s better for it.

The M2 marked an important change within BMW’s CS lineage. It was the first of its kind to come with three pedals and an honest-to-goodness manual. The stubby little shifter is a not-so-subtle reminder that even the quickest road cars are just that—road cars—and driving enjoyment is about more than a fractional improvement against the clock.

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As the important first contact point in the M2, the transmission is a charmer. The clutch travel is pleasantly short, with an obvious bite point you hear as much as feel. The shifter has a positive, notchy action, slotting into first with the right amount of effort required. It doesn’t like to be rushed on the 1–2 shift, but everywhere else, the six-speed is a peach. Heel-and-toeing quickly becomes second nature, with the satisfaction of matching the revs goading you into doing it more often. If you’d rather not, the computer can always do it for you. Simply put, it’s a pleasure.

2. The engine is just a little old-school

The best BMWs utilize an inline-six (don’t @ me), and the M2 continues that proud tradition. At 444 horsepower, it’s 39 ponies more powerful than the M2 Competition, which continues on for one final year in 2021. Torque is an equal 406 lb-ft of twist in both models, but the CS sustains it for longer, from 2,350 to 5,500 rpm.

Mash the throttle and there’s just a hint of turbo lag. Before you can even count it though, the M2 rockets forward, pinning your head against the seat like it ran over one of those multi-colored boost pads in MarioKart. BMW has tuned this S55 3.0-liter to deliver its power linearly, like a larger naturally-aspirated motor. Like everything out of M these days, it feels under-rated, winding the speedo’s needle around from any speed, in any gear. Find yourself stuck behind a dawdler? You could shed a few gears if you’d like, but the M2 will happily slingshot past in sixth, too.

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The active exhaust valve system lets you choose just how delinquent other road users think you are, too. Truth be told, it’s the least impressive part of the M2: the loud option amplifies the slightly diesel-like note of the S55. Stick to the regular setting and the soundtrack attracts less attention. Plus, it cleans up nicely in the higher reaches of the tachometer. Unlike plenty of other modern turbo engines, the S55 doesn’t run out of steam as it approaches redline.

3. Bulldog looks, poodle demeanor

As strong as the M2’s engine is, it’s not the star of the show. The secret weapons in the CS arsenal are the adaptive dampers it’s snatched from the previous-generation M3 and M4. Staying in Comfort offers a reasonably pliant ride, one comfortable enough to handle the worst of early-spring city roads. Ratcheting up the stiffness is overkill around these parts, but on smooth asphalt the M2 corners with a level stance. A locking rear diff ensures all that turbo power makes it to the road cleanly in corners, actively shuffling power between the rear wheels.

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Even on winter rubber, the M2 CS has bags of grip. A gorgeous carbon fiber strut brace under the hood increases front-end stiffness, enabling the CS to turn in without any hesitation. It’s resolutely planted: while there’s the very real sense one can overwhelm the rear tires, they’d have to be really asking for it.

With its pumped-up fenders, carbon fiber bits, and slotted hood, the M2 looks like a pugnacious bulldog. Yet throughout the week, it was as friendly and approachable as a poodle. The feedback from its wheel and the progressiveness of all three of its pedals make the M2 a joy to drive at any speed.

4. A simple interior focuses the mind

There are not a lot of creature comforts inside the M2 CS. BMW has draped much of the interior in soft-touch Alcantara, but you won’t find anything so luxurious as a central armrest in here. The sole USB port is found aft of the front passenger’s elbow. There are only two seatbelts in the back, but it’s not really a space for adults anyway. BMW didn’t offer things like the heated steering wheel or wireless charging pad found in lesser M2s. And what are those behind the wheel … analog dials? How vintage.

The 8.8-inch iDrive screen runs the last-gen software too, so Android users are frozen out of phone mirroring. You won’t be twirling your fingers in the air to raise or lower the volume. On that last point, I say good.

The M2’s cockpit is an office, one made for the business of driving enjoyment. The steering wheel suffers from the same too-thick cross-section as every other BMW, but it has zero slack and a wonderful amount of heft to lean on in the corners. Heavily bolstered seats hold you firmly in place through the corners. They don’t make ingress and egress any easier: the combination of the lower bolsters and a phone in the back pocket tore a pair of jeans. True story. The pretty carbon fiber roof means no natural light filtering in from above, either.

Thanks to its compact dimensions, the M2 is easy to see out of. In that sense, it’s safe—the usual suite of driver assists isn’t available here. It’ll even swallow a week’s worth of groceries for two, but that’s about the extent of its practicality.

5. It’s priced like a limited edition, too

All of this fun doesn’t come cheap. The M2 CS listed at $84,595 including destination, and that was before options. This very lightly optioned Canadian-spec tester rocked up at 102,075 loonies. That’s a huge sum of money for a small sports coupe. Even one as preternaturally muscular as the M2 CS.

For reference, you can find a 405-horsepower M2 Competition at your local dealer for an MSRP of $59,895 ($74,680 CAD). Is the CS really worth almost half as much again as the Comp? Or, here in 2021, substantially more than the new M4? How about a Porsche 718 Spyder?

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On paper, probably not. This isn’t a car for rational thought, though—this is M. The M2 CS is a wonderfully indulgent car, flattering the driver at every opportunity without hand-holding. It encourages you to be an active party in proceedings, nudging you along with natural feedback, a great transmission, and prodigious, predictable power. The folks who picked up an M2 CS paid a lot for what will undoubtedly end up a future collector’s item. My only hope? Every single one of those 2,200 people drive the snot out of them. It’s the right thing to do.

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