BMW M2 Competition — Driving thrills in a small package

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

While the popular BMW 3 Series has grown bigger and more expensive over the years, the German company known for its "ultimate driving machine" has filled the space once occupied decades ago by a smaller 3 Series with the compact 2 Series giving buyers the opportunity to purchase a smaller point-and-shoot fun-to-drive car.

Sold as a coupe or convertible, the 2 Series has been on the market since 2014 and now comes in two standard formats — the 230i with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and the M240i with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder making 335 horsepower and 396 pound-feet of torque.

Both provide true BMW ultimate driving machine performance, but BMW has taken it up a notch for 2019 with a new 2 Series "flagship" called the M2 Competition. We joyfully lived with the small performance beast for a week of exhilarating driving. We like "smaller" and the M2 Competition gave us everything that we enjoy in our driving life.

The car sets itself apart from other 2-Series models sporting a low front fascia with large air intakes, 19-inch aluminum wheels in familiar M double-spoke design, muscular flanks, and a low, wide rear with a M-specific twin-tailpipe exhaust system.

To start with, the M2 is motivated by the same twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine found in the larger M4, with a slight decrease in horsepower from 425 to 405,  but with the same torque measured at 406 pound-feet. it's not hard to imagine that the muscular six is capable of propelling the 3,655-pound M2 in breathtaking fashion. For example, 0-to-60 has been recorded at 4 seconds flat with a quarter mile time of 12.4 seconds @ 116 mph.

Although the engine appears similar to the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six in last year's M2, it's fundamentally different with a stronger internal structure. It receives a lightweight forged crankshaft, stronger pistons and two turbochargers in lieu of one.

The power is routed through an optional seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission ($2,900). A six-speed manual shifter is standard equipment for those who want a true sports car experience.

We found the M2 offered rewarding performance on our usual rural paved road "test track" eagerly lapping up the twists and turns like a hungry dog with a bowl of tasty treats. It remained pleasingly planted in the sharp curves and the steering was spot on.

On the flip side, the suspension may be too stiff for some backsides, but we thought it was spot on — a good compromise between cruising and handling. BMW says it has revised the spring rates, dampers and anti-roll-bar tuning over an earlier version of the M2 for a more compliant ride.

The interior is definitely small although it's possible to get two average-sized people in back for short jaunts. For practical purposes, consider the M2 a very comfortable two-person joy ride. Most operating controls are handled via buttons and knobs on the center stack, with some redundant controls on the steering wheel. BMW’s iDrive touch-screen infotainment and navigation system is user-friendly. The sport seats are extremely comfortable and fit the M2's persona. Trunk space is huge for a sub-compact coupe measuring 13.8 cubic feet.

The M2's standard iDrive infotainment system works through an 8.8-inch touchscreen that has a clean interface and above-average response times. Although Android Auto is unavailable, Apple CarPlay is standard. The M2's infotainment screen is angled toward the driver atop the dash. Along with anticipated standard features such as Bluetooth and voice recognition, the M2 has a premium Harman/Kardon stereo. It also comes with dual USB ports and three 12-volt outlets.

On the safety front, forward collision warning and mitigation (with automatic emergency braking), lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, and driver alert are all standard.

The M2 is considerably more pricey than the standard 2 Series coupe starting at $59,895 including a $995 destination charge. The base 230i starts at $36,295 while a well-equipped 230i will run into the low 40s. But for those of us who value sports car performance, the price difference is tolerable.

There are very few options on the M2, the most desirable the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that adds $2,900. The other three big options are the Executive Package that includes LED low and high beam adaptive headlights, wireless charging, and Wifi hot spot for $1,200; the M Driver's Package that includes a one-day high performance driving school and a more liberal top speed limiter; and a moonroof ($1,050). Our test car came with the Executive Package and the automatic transmission carrying a bottom line of $67,045.

Base price: $59,895; as driven, $67,045
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6
Horsepower: 405 @ 5,230 rpm
Torque: 406 @ 2,350 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 106.0 inches
Length: 176.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,655 pounds
Turning circle: 38.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 13.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.7 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 17 city, 23 highway, 19 combined
Also consider: Audi RS 3, Porsche 718 Cayman, BMW M4

The Good
• Scads of horsepower and torque
• Outstanding handling traits
• Practical enough for everyday use

The Bad
• Lacks some common driver aids

The Ugly
• Suspension too stiff for some