BMW is as synonymous with racing as Porsche and Ferrari. But BMW is also known for making road-worthy sedans and coupes that offer at least a modicum of civility and practicality.
As its 3 Series and 5 Series cars have continued to grow, both in size and price, BMW wisely stepped back toward its roots to create both a 1 and 2 Series. These are smaller and less pricey, comparatively, from its mainstream offerings.
The 2 Series is embodied as a compact with 106-inch wheelbase and for 2019 offers an M2 Competition Coupe. The M signifies a racier attitude throughout BMW’s lineup and the Competition moniker speaks for itself.
So, in this modest coupe that’s just 176.2 inches long, BMW drops a twin-turbo inline 6-cylinder engine that boasts a startling 405 horsepower with nearly identical torque numbers. It’s said to do 0-60 mph in just four seconds and who are we to question that?
No, the M2 is quick. But it’s a racer meant for the track, yet with just enough street savvy to allow it to be driven like a normal coupe or sedan. I proved that by motoring from Milwaukee to Indianapolis for 500 race weekend.
There’s no denying it’ll scoot, even with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which the Sunset Orange (burnt orange metallic) test car added as a $2,900 option. Yes, the rear-drive M2 will rip up to highway speeds in a blink. Although, there is some hesitation under initial acceleration with the automatic. Stick with the standard six-speed manual if performance really is your thing. Why else buy this?
Handling is typical spot-on racy from BMW. If you doubt BMWs really are the Ultimate Driving Machine its motto claims, take a spin in the M2. This is a point and shoot car that clips apexes with ease on racy low-profile R19 performance tires and delivers grip that is best tested on a road course, such as Elkhart Lake’s Road America.
In fact, that’s just what a bunch of us Midwest journalists did in May. And the M2 was easily one of their favorites. While track-focused, the M2 does offer three drive modes, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. You can imagine which is meant for on-track activity, and it duly stiffens the steering and pumps up the I6’s revs.
In fact, it’s plenty responsive in any of those modes. But Comfort will ease the steering effort just enough to make a long straight highway drive (I’m looking at you northern Indiana), more comfortable. However, the Comfort mode does not soften the car’s ride by altering shock dampening. That’s too bad for Midwest drivers since the M2 pounds the tailbone a bit on rough roads.
Still, while the M2 is designed for performance, not rides in the country, it still believes in safety for its occupants (yes, there’s a tiny rear seat for petite friends). So there’s a complement of safety devices, from side airbags and rearview camera to frontal collision and lane departure warnings and a driver alert system meant to keep a driver alert on long drives.
BMW also loads up the braking system with giant rotors and what the firm calls “M compound 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes” for superb stopping. I tested them repeatedly and they did not seem to fade — a plus on any racetrack.
Outside, the M2 Competition looks as racy as its performance. In addition to the stunning bronze color, which costs $550 extra, BMW adds new front and rear fascia that give the tail a broader stance and the front a more aggressive lower nose to help this stand out from a standard M240 model.
Inside, the M2 upgrades from a typical black leather BMW interior to one with orange stitching on the seats and door panels, plus a subtle orange pattern on the seat cushions.
There’s also matte chrome trim on the dash air ducts and around the console-mounted shifter, and the door release handles. Other trim is a sort of gray straw textured material that is similar to a carbon fiber weave. It’s a modestly youthful look that adds a bit of pizazz, something you wouldn’t normally expect in a Bimmer.
Seats are powered and include a couple memory buttons, plus both front seats are heated with three levels to choose from. The M2 comes with highly contoured seats that were quite comfy as far as support on my highway drive. But they were rather hard and those blasted seat belts are near impossible to retrieve once you’re settled into the seat. They retract to the B-pillar with no catch on the seat back to snag them and hold them close for the driver.
While I’ve not always been a fan of BMW dash layout, this one is vastly improved with eight radio channel buttons you can program and a nice 8.8-inch infotainment screen to view a map or the radio selections. A fine Harman Kardon premium sound system delivers good sound quality, but the interior is loud on the highway due to tire noise. Listening to the radio was especially tough when driving on cement highways.
I was surprised too that the M2 doesn’t come with a race-oriented flat-bottom steering wheel. That should be standard here.
While whining (considering how much fun this is to drive), I should point out that the M2 requires you to pull the door release handle twice to exit the car. A minor, but repeated annoyance every time you want to get out. I know it’s a safety feature, but really?
Also, BMW has eliminated the Park position from its console-mounted shifter. Took me a few minutes to figure that out the first time I drove the car. BMW’s system is to leave the car in gear and press the power button to turn off the car. Then the car is automatically placed in Park. If you shift to Neutral, a simple error, the dash tells you it’s not in Park and that the car can’t be locked. Not sure this is an improvement in the age-old system of drivers manually placing the car in Park.
On the plus side, the test car added the executive package for $1,200. That includes a heated steering wheel, wireless charging (in the armrest, not in the usual spot under the center stack), a WiFi hot pot, and adaptive LED headlights that bend around corners and also feature automatic high beams.
An M driver’s package adds $2,500, but it includes professional driver-assisted training at a track. Plus, it electronically allows the car to reach a top speed of 168 mph, up from the standard 155.
Now you’d think a car with this much power and performance might suck gas heavily, but no. The BMW goes fairly easy on premium fuel. It is rated 17 mpg city and 25 highway, but on drives to and from Indiana, I got 26.6-28 mpg. Pleasant surprise!
Less pleasant, if you were expecting a low price tag from a little BMW, well, you’d be wrong. The base price of $59,895, includes delivery. My tester hit $67,045 after adding options. Note too that an AWD model, the M240i Xdrive, is available and the standard 2 Series Bimmer come in convertible form.
For folks who have access to a race track, the M2 Competition is basically track ready and a wonderful car to drive at its considerable race-bred limits.
Hits: Power and handling made for the track. Supportive seats, eight radio channel buttons, good highway gas mileage and an array of safety devices, plus three drive modes. Snazzy exterior.
Misses: Ride made for the moon. Seatbelts are hard to reach, no flat-bottom steering wheel, sun visors don’t slide, tire noise is tiring on the highway and makes it hard to hear the radio, exiting the car requires two pulls on the door handle, confusing shifter as there is no Park position (you must leave it in gear and turn the car off to place it in Park).
Made In: Leipzig, Germany
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo I6, 405 horsepower
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 3,450 lbs.
Length: 176.2 in.
Wheelbase: 106 in.
Cargo: 13.8 cu.ft.
MPG: 17/25, 26.6-28.0 (tested, mostly highway)
Base Price: $59,895 (includes delivery)
Major Options: Sunset orange metallic paint, $550
Executive package (heated steering wheel, wireless charging, adaptive LED headlights, WiFi hot spot, automatic high beams), $1,200
M double-clutch 7-speed automatic transmission, $2,900
M driver’s package (driver training at track, electronic top speed raised to 168 mph), $2,500
Test Vehicle: $67,045
Sources: BMW, Kelley Blue Book
Editor's note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.