I’m fortunate. Every time I look inside my garage, my heart fills with joy. Right next to the iconic BMW 1M Coupe, now lies another limited edition BMW – the M2 CS. Both M cars are great in their own way and a simple glance over their design tells the story of different decades. But today, I wanted to share with you my impressions of the two and whether this proud dad has a favorite son.
But before I dive in, allow me to list some of the 1M modifications I’ve done over the years. My 1M came with all factory options. But the mods list include the following:
- BMS charge pipe
- AD Engineering FMIC
- MadDad midpipe, Lightweight Ti exhaust
- Custom oil cooler/thermostat setup by AD engineering
- Custom MHD tune by AD Enginering (450+ WTQ 3000-4500 rpm, 380 WHP @ 5900rpm)
- Ohlins Road and Track coilovers
- Vorschlag camber plates, custom alignment (-2.7 camber front, -2.2 camber rear)
- OEM M3 convertible front sway bar with Turner adjustable end links
- Stoptech Trophy Sport BBK
- Michelin PS4S
On the other hand, the BMW M2 CS is stock with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, steel brakes and DCT instead of manual.
The Engine Differences
The 1M’s N54 tune (370 ft-lb, 332 hp) felt linear and responsive in stock form, although despite coming from a much lower powered car, I always though it needed a little more. With basic mods and a tune, the car now has what I consider to be the perfect amount of power for a track toy. But of course a larger intercooler and tune that asks for more boost does enhance the lag. The power is more in the midrange (450 ft-lb and 380 hp 5900 rpm at wheels).
There is no reason to rev out beyond 6,000 rpms unless there isn’t enough straight left to make the shift worthwhile. On the flip side, the torque at 3,000 rpms often eliminates an otherwise necessary downshift. I’ll take it.
The S55 engine as tuned for the M2 CS is more linear, as evidenced at a glance by having more horsepower than torque, and it delivers that to redline with nearly no lag. I recently posted some spreadsheets calculating optimal shift points and it is actually best to rev this baby out to 7,000. It is predictable, smooth, and easy to modulate. I don’t think the car needs more. The locked DME software doesn’t bother me a bit.
Verdict: The win goes to BMW M2 CS which has plenty of power, more than advertised, obviously a more refined twin turbo engine with a volumetrically efficient intake setup, and excellent drivability.
The 1M 6MT was a challenge when new because I had driven manuals all my life and knew what they were supposed to feel like. Installation of a BMS clutch stop and elimination of the CDV made it behave like a “normal” MT. And that was easy enough to do, although irritating to have to do that. Before those mods (my only mods until warranty expired), I couldn’t make a smooth shift if I tried. Now the clutch action is perfect and the gear changes are quick, light, mechanical and accurate. I love rowing the gears, and rev matching with heel-toe. The pedal position is perfect for heel-toe.
For the CS, I chose the DCT because I wanted a DCT before they (sniff) become extinct in BMWs. I also still have two fun manual cars (including both track cars) to play with. I struggled with the decision a bit, especially with everyone’s emphasis on weight and purity, but now having gotten used to it I have to say I love the DCT. In D2 mode, it reads my mind of how I would drive every day. Set it and forget it. If I am going to go into sequential manual mode, I use S3 since I never use that mode if I am looking for smooth comfort.
I want it to just do what I say when I say, and it does. It’s awesome. I honestly don’t know if I would use D3 or S3 on track. It’ll be a few years before I find out.
Verdict: This one’s a tie since I can’t really compare them. They are both great at what they are. While the manual in the 1M is great now, I had to change parts to get there. It not for that, I may have given it a win. I have heard a rumor the CS manual is plagued the same way, but the fixes are now harder.
Steering Feel and Responsiveness
The 1M has the best steering feedback of any car I’ve owned. This was the case new, and was only enhanced with the solid spherical upper mounts in the camber plates. Turn-in response was lacking when new, but that was really improved with the camber plates. The steering wheel always communicates what is happening under the front of the car, making it easy to find and maintain the limit.
The steering in my 2018 BMW X5 was a clear example of how NOT to program EPS, and driving it back to back with the 1M for the past three years really helped me identify what EPS does wrong. The BMW M2 CS’ EPS is clearly a world ahead, but driving the CS and 1M back to back still demonstrates the difference. The EPS responds to inputs as well as the hydraulic rack in the 1M, but it does not instruct the hands nearly as well. Better, but not perfect.
I may roil a few feathers here, but I still think the EPS in my 2005 Mazda RX-8 is still better at feedback. It’s so good, I forgot it was electric and asked the dealer to flush the power steering fluid when I bought the car last year. It comes out of storage today, so I’ll be able to compare more soon.
Turn-in response is very crisp in the M2 CS, and it rotates really well. It is difficult to remember precisely, but it is definitely far better than the 1M was stock.
Verdict: The win goes to the 1M for steering feel, but also to the M2 CS turn-in response in stock form.
The 1M chassis had way too much understeer at the limit, and most efforts to induce rotation with throttle resulted in snap oversteer. It was very difficult to set up the perfect corner without excessive push. I have methodically dialed that out over the years with camber, coilovers, front sway bar, and it is now a very fun corner carver.
Amazingly, I think the M2 CS has more mechanical grip that the 1M in its current state. I am certain the chassis would still understeer at the limit, but I have been truly impressed with how well it holds the road at 8/10’s, and it is a steadying more grip from the PSS than I expected, being used to PS4S on the 1M.
Verdict: The win goes to the BMW M2 CS.
CS wins. No further discussion needed.
The CS in comfort mode is really nice. I don’t think the 1M was ever this comfortable, and mine definitely isn’t this comfortable now. Even in Sport+, the M2 CS is more comfortable than the street settings on my Ohlins, and the chassis feel nearly as sharp. I commented above on the mechanical grip, and what is most amazing is that it feels more grippy in all chassis modes, despite the better comfort.
Verdict: The M2 CS takes the win.
The seats in the M2 CS offer more lateral support than the 1M seats, but I would say comfort level is similar. I think a true racing seat would be needed for both if the car was going to spend its whole life on the track.
Road noise may actually be worse on the M2CS, but that’s hard to say because the 1M exhaust is louder. Yet, I swear the 1M’s tires are quieter despite being worn. The newer iDrive and Nav features are clearly better in the CS.
I am not sure I love the Alcantara steering wheel. I need to grip it more firmly than I like to keep my hands from slipping down, or I need to support the weight of my arms somewhere, either on the bolsters or just hold them up. I may buy a leather performance wheel. I don’t miss the armrest at all and may actually delete the armrest from the 1M, so that isn’t the issue. I just like having a light grip on leather and letting my arms relax.
I didn’t think I would say this, but I miss Comfort Access. The 1M has it, the X5 had it. Every time I approach the M2 CS, I forget to reach into my pocket for the key until I have pulled unsuccessfully on the door handle. Every time!
The 1M’s Harman Kardon sound system is better, has more bass punch, crisper highs, higher overall volume capacity, and 5 band equalizer.
Verdict: Advantage BMW 1M. Out of the box the 1M was better on creature comforts, but of course I ruined many of its comfort attributes. This is why I was wanting something as fun out of the box, without needing mods, and found the M2 CS.
Appearance, Rarity and “it” Factor
The 1M is a Frankenstein monster with a combination of classic BMW styling and caricatured flares making it clear that hit was an afterthought. The story is as cool as the look. The M2 CS is more subtle while being far more featured. My wife thinks the 1M will age better with time from a design standpoint. I’m not sure.
I have grown accustomed to seeing people stare and take photos and video while I am driving or parked in public places. Over time, that has faded slightly with the 1M, and it is definitely happening with the M2 CS. With both cars, it seems to be only the people who know what it is who get excited about seeing it.
Verdict: The 1M takes the win. The M2 CS looks amazing, but the bulldog stance of the 1M is hard to beat, and I still think the E46 M3 was the best looking BMW of all time, with a steady decline since then, 1M, CS, and G8x following suit (although the G-series may have fallen off a cliff).
So, here we are with the M2 CS picking up more wins for me, especially when it comes to the driving dynamics. I have tried to remember how the 1M was when stock, as many of the driving dynamics comparisons are much closer (and probably advantage to the 1M) in its current form. It is truly amazing how good the M2 CS is while being so well mannered on the road.
Could I pick an overall winner? No!
Could I choose one to let go of? No!
If a friend had both available to buy in stock form, a brand new M2 CS vs. an ultra low mile 1M in mint condition (which would probably sell for at least CS money) which would I recommend he buy?
That’s easy: The BMW M2 CS, but only because it isn’t possible for him to go back in time and buy the 1M at its original MSRP, or even 5,000 over which is what I had to pay. So that isn’t really an answer, is it?
This was a fun exercise. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.