BMW M2 CS — Smoking hot land rocket

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(September 12, 2021) There are some Ultimate Driving Machines that are more "ultimate" than others. In fact, BMW's limited edition little two-door 2020 M2 CS coupe might be the most "ultimate" of all. BMW upped the horsepower ante of its standard M2, a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine, from 405 to 440 stuffing it into the miniature beast dovetailing with extraordinary handling and cornering grip. It proved a driving delight — a pocket rocket on steroids.


The M2 CS is a hardcore track-oriented variant of the standard M2, a more powerful, more pumped-up version of the two-door performance coupe. It has several standard features and options that are lacking on the standard 2021 M2, and it leans heavily toward track-day type performance enthusiasts.

Some of the CS features are available for the regular M2 through BMW's aftermarket parts catalog, such as the special wheels and carbon-fiber hood. Perhaps the most desirable CS-exclusive features are the boost in power and the standard adaptive suspension dampers. The dampers help smooth out the M2's ride quality, which can otherwise get pretty fidgety on bumpy roads.

The bad news is that the 2020 M2 CS is a limited-run car, with only 2,200 units produced globally and only a fraction of those sold in the U.S. In that regard, the CS is all about setting a benchmark for what a small driver-focused M car can be. It's is a reminder that BMW can still build the kind of nimble and raw performance vehicle that made enthusiasts fall in love with the brand in the past.

With two doors, four seats, rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission and track-day-ready tires, the BMW M2 CS sounds a bit like an American muscle car dressed up as an Ultimate Driving Machine. Competitors include the Porsche 718 Cayman and the Audi RS 5 — and on the American side the new mid-engine Corvette.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but for those people who use their car for more than track day — say commuting to and from work where constant manual shifting in rush-hour traffic can be wearing — BMW offers a surprisingly engaging seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that actually brings down 0-to-60 time from 4.0 seconds with the manual to 3.8 seconds. We drove the automatic, and we loved it, not that we don't also enjoy a slick-shifting manual on occasion.

We ate up our usual twisting rural-road "test track" with ease finding higher speeds possible on our second time through the several-mile stretch of curves and short straight-aways. It took us a little time to safely learn the limits of the CS.

Much of our driving confidence came from the braking system that includes 15.7-inch steel rotors with six-piston calipers in front and 15-inch steel rotors in back with four-piston calipers. We were blessed with the $8,500 optional carbon-ceramic brakes that pulled the light-weight sports car down in amazing fashion. If you are into weekend track days and have spare cash to invest, the ceramic brakes may be worth investment.

Measured times for the M2 CS according to BMW are 0-to-60, 3.8 seconds; quarter mile, 12.2 seconds @ 120 mph; and top speed 174 mph.

Inside, the M2 CS is standard BMW with the infotainment screen sitting high up on the dash over air vents, then a row of push buttons for radio station presets (a feature we very much like in BMW products), and finally over climate controls. Large tachometer and speedometer gauges sit in front of the driver.

The distinctive M2 seats are well bolstered and comfortable even for old spreading bodies. While there are technically four seats in the car, the rear seats should be left for children or for storing a brief case or groceries. There's also ample storage in the trunk, which has a very adequate 14 cubic feet of space.

Standard equipment in addition to the myriad of go-fast parts includes adaptive cruise control, navigation, Harman Kardon premium sound system, and Apple CarPlay capability.

We found the M2 CS a hoot to drive, but it has downsides. One is its very high price of admission carrying a base price of $84,595 — if you can find one. Our test car with the ceramic brakes and a couple of other options came in at $96,545. The M2 Competition, which has all the credentials of the CS outside of some track-ready equipment and a handful of horsepower, starts at about $60,000, and may be a good buy for someone who wants to get in on the M2 fun at a more pleasing price point.

And while the BMW 2-Series is a handsome small car, if you are looking to turn heads or earn neighborhood driveway bragging rights, the M2 doesn't have the glamor of a Corvette or a Ford Shelby GT350 or a Porsche Cayman.

2020 BMW M2 CS


Base price: $84,595; as driven, $96,545
Engine: Twin-turbocharged inline 6
Horsepower: 444 @ 6,250 rpm
Torque: 406 pound-feet @ 2,350 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 106 inches
Length: 175.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,489 pounds
Turning circle: 38.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 13.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.7 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 16 city, 23 highway, 19 combined
0-60: 3.8 seconds (manufacturer)
Also consider: Chevy Corvette, Porsche Cayman, Shelby GT350

The Good
• Outstanding performance
• Practical enough for daily use
• Manual transmission available

The Bad
• Priced much higher than standard M2

The Ugly
• Limited number available worldwide