2021 BMW M2 Competition review: Pint-sizer packs a punch
BMW offers a wide range of high-performance vehicles in its lineup, but with many of their releases pushing far north of 400 horsepower, people who don’t go to the track barely scrape the sticker off the performance bag. Thankfully, there is a Bimmer that, while still eminently capable, is far more suitable for drivers who want to have fun on normal old roads: the BMW M2 Competition 2021.
- 405 hp bustle
- Sublime engine note
- Surprisingly flexible in the city
I do not like
- Lower quality interior materials
- Situational rear seats
- No Android Auto
Now, that’s not to say the M2 Competition is lagging behind in the energy department. Its 3.0-liter straight-six, with twin turbocharging, packs a 405-hp, 406-pound punch. It’s the same engine as the 425hp M4, albeit weakened, and I dare to say, the I6 feels better in the M2 than in the big brother. Using two small turbochargers means locking the throttle produces almost immediate response, and BMW’s electronic nannies do an impressive job of adjusting the traction, leaving me with nothing but a whole bunch of torque pushing me to the next corner. The slides are more than doable by putting the intervention back together in M Dynamic mode, which allows me to engage my inner thug without securing a trip through the trees, but I recommend keeping those antics on track. Leave everything in its standard setting and it’s still there so very fun to have with little risk of things getting out of control.
The S55 also sounds a lot better here, with the odd engine note of the M4 disappearing in favor of a visceral growl that brings to mind everyone’s favorite ivory pedestal BMW I6, the E46 M3. The dual flap exhaust sounds good regardless of mode, and dropping a window to enjoy the soundtrack is half the fun.
That feeling of driver involvement in the M2 Competition is aided by a standard six-speed manual gearbox. The clutch pedal effectively communicates its point of grip, allowing for predictably smooth or abrupt starts, depending on mood. The fairly short pulls of the lever allow for quick shifts in both directions, and while it’s a little rubbery between gears, this is a trait I’ve come to appreciate in BMW lever shifts over the years. The M2 will automatically match scales with pinpoint accuracy, which is good, because the only way to turn that feature off in most modes is to turn off stability control, which again, I don’t recommend anywhere except from the track.
Speaking of the uneven edge, there is an option available that allows you to explore those corners intelligently and most importantly, safer. The $ 2,500M Driver’s Package boosts the car’s top speed, sure, but it also includes a one-day high-performance driving lesson that will allow drivers to experience their M2’s full potential on a racetrack. For anyone entering something this powerful for the first time, it can provide a wealth of experience that could help keep the bright side up if things get hairy later on.
The rest of the M2 driving experience is decidedly sporty, but that doesn’t relegate it to weekend warrior status. It lacks adaptive dampers, but the Competizione’s fixed suspension strikes a great balance, offering enough damping to navigate bumpy roads with relative comfort while keeping body roll to a minimum. Whether I’m throwing the coupe into corners or taking a lunchtime run to the supermarket, I’m never uncomfortable or upset. Standard iron brakes fill every inch of free space behind the wheels, and while they’ll rub speed with the best of them, they’re still easy to modulate for city driving.
The electric power steering of the M2 doesn’t feel as artificial and unnecessarily heavy as that of the M4, with more accessible weights in the Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes, but it’s still a bit light in the sensitivity department. A sturdy strut reinforcement under the hood means it’s very easy to change the nose direction on a whim while offering plenty of grip, which is only enhanced by my tester’s Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires. I only go through Georgia on connecting flights, but when I see one I recognize a peach.
However, there are some downsides to M2 Competition’s life. The trunk is big enough for a couple of people to carry groceries or shopping bags, but internal storage is obviously quite limited given the size of the car. While there’s plenty of room for those in the front, the M2’s tiny rear seats don’t have the space for adults to be comfortable for any length of time. The S55 engine is also… pretty thirsty, to be fair, with EPA-estimated fuel economy of just 18 miles per urban gallon and 24 mpg on the highway, numbers that plummet further as the fun factor increases. Throw a tiny 13.7 gallon tank into the mix and you’ll know your local gas station assistant well enough to send them a Christmas card.
The M2 Competition looks aggressive, but not overly. Sharp corners on the front bumper soften as they head backwards, with the aforementioned big wheels filling the fatter fenders. The M2 wears one of BMW’s older faces at this point, but is still adequately fresh in 2020. While the M badge strengthens the interior with some supportive front seats and a matte carbon fiber upholstery that’s pleasant to the touch , it’s still a 2 Series under the trimmings, so there’s quite a bit of cheap vinyl and plastic lying around here, which is harder to match the M2’s $ 59,895 starting point.
The full complement of BMW car technology isn’t offered in the M2 competition, but there’s a decent amount here for a bona fide sports car. Navigation comes standard on the M2’s 8.8-inch touchscreen, which runs a slightly older version of the iDrive infotainment system. It’s responsive and easy to get used to, but the age of the system means it’s unable to respondconnectivity that finally appears in other new BMWs, then remains the only smartphone integration on offer. Two USB ports are standard, and a $ 1,200 executive package adds wireless charging before cup holders, plus a Wi-Fi hotspot, heated steering wheel, and LED headlights with automatic high beams. On the safety front, the standard fare includes automatic low-speed emergency braking, lane departure warning, parking sensors and front collision warning, with no options to expand further.
The M2 Competition doesn’t have too many add-ons, so my tester is almost fully equipped at $ 64,415 including the destination. This gives it an adequately competitive price in its segment given its high production; the 394hp Audi TT RS starts at just under $ 70,000, while the 325hp Porsche 718 Cayman S can’t be bought for less than about $ 72,000, and that’s before options. Considering how fun the 2021 BMW M2 Competition can be while still delivering everyday driving behavior, this mini-Bimmer offers a lot of value.