We’ve reviewed the BMW M2 in various forms over the years at BimmerFile and loved them all. However this year was a big one for the M2. More power, torque and general tenacity has pushed an already good M car to a great one. Our first taste of the BMW M2 Competition was a few months ago at the BMW Performance Center in Thermal California and the winding desert roads surrounding it. And in those idealistic conditions the revised M2 impressed in every way imaginable. But how would it perform as a daily driver and (perhaps more interestingly) against the now mythical 1M we have in our garage? Let’s find out.
It sounds crazy but I love washing a car for the first time. It’s a great way to get to know car from the outside in. And since our 1M had a light layer of dust we figure why not do them together. What that allowed us was a great back to back view of how BMW M’s design language has quickly evolved from 2011. Where the 1M has moments of delicacy followed by lunacy, the new M2 Competition is full of exaggerated angular forms and shapes. There are creases and edges that take the 1M’s aggressive look to a different level.
It’s always hard to compare two cars from different generations but for our money, the 1M feels a bit more special. Those deep-dish wheels and classic rolled fenders give the car a less refined and more brash feel that’s increasingly rare. It’s not the most immediately attractive M car but it’s one that has character in spades. But none of that changes the fact that the M2 is a more immediately handsome car in the flesh. The proportions and aggressive angles and flares made it obvious to even non-enthusiasts that this is one of those fast BMWs.
Perhaps the irony is that the M2’s overall shape and size makes it feel like a heavily revised 1M. Crawl in and out of the two back to back as we did and you’re struck by the design and engineering similarities. But under the skin everything you see on the M2 speaks of further development and new thinking compared to the 1M.
But there are some key differences between these two that give these cars obviously different performance characteristics. Let’s start with weight. The addition of the M4’s S55 has increased power and torque and sadly weight as well. The M2 was already 154 lbs heavier than the 1M. Now in Competition trim it’s a whopping 3,655 lbs (with the DCT transmission we tested). That’s a full 359 lbs heavier than the 3296 lbs 1M. That change alone tells you most of what you need to know. The M2 more than makes up for that gap with power and torque on paper but you can’t add lightness with power. Thus the 1M always feels a bit more lively and on its toes. The M2 on the other hand feels more poised, planted and predictable. All good things but distinctly different.
The BMW M2 Competition is a revelation. Whether you’re coming from an M240i, 1M or the previous M2 this is a car that is immensely impressive. And it’s not just due to that M4 Competition’s potent M engineered S55. A healthy portion of its performance has to do with grip derived from the revised M differential and DSC programming. In concert they allow the M2 Competition a seemingly endless amount of grip and predictable drifts. Both something the 1M famously (and hilariously) doesn’t have.
There are two other key differences in how these cars steer. The first is the steering rack ratio. In this instance the M2 is more of a product of the M4 than a successor to the 1M. In the data above you can clearly see how the rear track and steering ratio in particular are taken directly from the M4. This results in a car with a slightly more relaxed steering ratio and (in our opinion) one that isn’t as lively or rich with feedback. The upside of this increased ratio is that the M2 is a slightly more poised at high speeds.
Compared with the original M2 you definitely feel a new level of sharpness in the handling. But more impressive is how BMW has also retuned the suspension to be more compliant without losing any precision. The Competition is a surprisingly easy car to live with.
So the M2 Competition has control and even precision but BMW still hasn’t been able to dial-in the rich feedback that you find in the 1M. In contrast the 1M is full of analog moments of feedback from the steering wheel, gearbox and even the throttle. Thanks to the ultra light flywheel there’s an immediacy that (combined with the car’s endless desire to be sideways) gives the car a playfulness that the M2 Competition doesn’t possess.
But make no mistake, the M2 Competition is blisteringly fast and for the first time since the M2 was released, feels decidedly more powerful than the 1M. Compared to the original M2, the Competition’s power delivery is instant and seemingly always on. It may not be has dramatic as the noticeable boost in the old M2 but the snarling soundtrack BMW has added combined with the sheer speed it delivers creates plenty of drama.
The M2 Competition is a car that feels both more brutal and composed – party trick that wasn’t achieve-able in 2011 or 2016 when the M2 first hit dealers. Now add a hair-raising soundtrack of pops and burbles on overrun and you have an experience that actually feels more on the ragged edge than the 1M despite it being more composed. It would seem that M has created the perfect combination of surface level drama with ultimate poise.
Why You Want an M2
This is the best car that BMW makes. Let’s rephrase that. This is the best classic BMW that BMW makes in 2019. The M4 Competition is faster. M4 CS is much more serious. And the M8 will hunt it down on a big track. But the M2 Competition is the one you’ll want to drive every day. Whether it be on the commute or in the canyons this is a car that will reward with every reaction to your inputs. It may not be as pure as the 1M but it makes up for it with brutal performance that is effortlessly deployed.