I had this discussion with someone from inside BMW recently. We were discussing upcoming BMWs and he told me that the next big thing would be the M2 Competition. Although, he didn’t tell me anything about it except confirm what I already knew, that it would be lighter, more powerful and much more aggressive. Then I posed the question of whether or not that would actually be better that way. He looked at me perplexed until I gave my reasoning.
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See, the BMW M2 is a great car but not because it’s the fastest, most hardcore and most high-performance car in its segment. The BMW M2 is great because it’s simple, honest and pure. It’s a straight-six up front, a six-speed manual (or DCT) in the middle and drive at the back. It doesn’t have a carbon fiber roof, it doesn’t have carbon ceramic brakes and it doesn’t have a ton of power. It doesn’t even have adjustable suspension. Neither did the E46 M3.
The BMW M2 is a great car because it’s simple and set up to just be a fun driver’s car. It’s not trying to out-gun any Mercedes-AMG or Audi and it’s not trying to prove anything. It’s just been designed to have fun with and you can feel that from behind the wheel. When you get into a BMW M4, or especially the new M5, it feels almost overwhelmingly complex. There are a zillion different combinations of drive modes, two preset buttons, shift-aggression settings (on the DCT) and enough power to feel as if it’s trying to eat itself. The M2 is just a car you can get in and drive quickly without a tutorial first.
So is adding more anger, more aggression and more power going to make it better? It will be faster, for sure. The new BMW M2 Competition makes 410 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, which is up from the standard car’s 365 hp and 343 lb-ft. Though, it does so with the same S55 3.0 liter twin-turbo I6 as the M3/M4 and that engine is far less charismatic than the N55 engine in the standard M2. So while faster, it won’t necessarily be more enjoyable.
The BMW M2 also strikes a great balance in its suspension tuning. It’s firm but it’s not rattle-your-teeth-loose firm. It’s just compliant enough to drive everyday and seems to have that old-school BMW M car suspension compromise. But this new M2 Competition will be lower, stiffer and much sportier. That will pay off on track, without question. It will be sharper, more agile and far more capable. But will it be more fun? I honestly don’t know. There’s a lovely balance to the M2 that might be gone by just cranking its suspension up to eleven.
Don’t get me wrong. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the BMW M2 Competition. It’s going to be fast and it’s still going to be fun. I just worry that it’s gone too far the other way. The E46 BMW M3 CSL is proof that making it hardcore can be a good thing. But we’re long removed from that car and the more recent example, the BMW M4 GTS, somewhat proves otherwise. So I guess the best way to put it is that I’m cautiously optimistic about the M2 Competition and worried that the car we all love might be lost in it.