by Gabe Beita Kiser
Despite the constant evolution of in-car technology, the recipe for a fun sports car hasn't changed in decades: take a small, lightweight package, drop an engine in the front and make it spin the rear wheels. Simple right? BMW is renowned for building fun rear-wheel-drive cars, one of the most iconic being the E30 M3, an 80s legend that offered terrific performance, all neatly packaged in a compact executive coupe body style. Fast forward about thirty years, and BMW has done it again with the M2 Competition Coupe, which slots in beneath the current M4 and discontinued M3. The 2020 M2 punches above its weight class thanks to a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, which it borrows from the M4 albeit in a detuned state and a chassis honed for fast road driving and general hoonery. This simple recipe works, time after time, and we're grateful that we live in a time where cars like these are still being made.
It's hard to believe that the M2 has been around for four years already, but the good thing is that BMW has continuously worked on their compact sports car, and the 2020 model is more accomplished than ever. The 2020 car sees little change from the previous year, where it scored the competition-spec title, which included the wild S55 twin-turbo inline-six engine from the M4, albeit in a detuned form, as well as a nasty sounding exhaust system. For 2020 BMW has added standard rain sensors, a black kidney grille, and darker taillights.
The stubby design of the standard 2-Series looks planted and mildly aggressive, so what happens when you slap an M2 badge on the trunk lid? The M2 looks like it's been hitting the gym with its bulging body lines and flared arches being the most telling features; the M2 doesn't try to hide the fact that it's fast, and why should it? For 2020 BMW has made a few slight adjustments to the exterior of the M2 Competition by replacing the original grille with a blacked out number, and also tinting the tail lights for a more sinister look. Beneath those flared arches lie a set of 19-inch alloys wrapped in 245/35 tires in the front and 265/35s in the rear, which still lights up when the throttle gets a mild jab. At the front, the M2 features LED headlights, power-folding wing mirrors, and continuing to the back, you'll find a Shadowline trim kit, and a subtle but effective rear spoiler sporting M2 Competition badges. The whole deal is finished off with a set of black chrome tailpipes, which is the only exterior feature most road goers will get to enjoy.
Unlike its counterparts from BMW, such as the 2018 M3 and 2020 M4-beasts that take on the form of more traditional sedan and GT cars, the M2 bucks the trend by going small and squat. With a total length of 176.2 inches, you can start to get an idea of what the M2 would look like standing next to it on the showroom floor, or outside your local gym. The baby M sits 55.5 inches off the ground, over half an inch lower than the 2018 M3, but the M4 drops even lower at 54.4 inches. A wheelbase of 106 inches once again highlights the M2's diminutive stature when compared to the 110.7-inch wheelbase of the M3 and M4. With a curb weight of 3,582 lbs (3,655 lbs with the DCT transmission), the M2 isn't exactly lightweight, and actually weighs more than the discontinued M3; but it more than makes up for it with brute power.
The design team over at BMW didn't muck around when they decided on the exterior paint options for the 2020 M2, and in typical German fashion they have given new owners a choice between five different shades of muscle: those who want to attempt to fly under the radar can go for Black Sapphire, Alpine White or even the Hockenheim Silver, all of which look good on the M2's curves. But, there's no real point in hiding the fact that this tiny terror is here to party, so Sunset Orange Metallic or Long Beach Blue should suffice for the bold.
The 2020 baby M car is wilder than ever. The twin-turbocharged inline-six engine mated to the standard six-speed manual transmission and trick M differential, translates into a car that's as entertaining off the line as it is when driving at the speed limit on your favorite stretch of road. The 2020 car is faster than before, accelerating from zero to sixty in four seconds when fitted with the dual-clutch transmission, or in a still-speedy 4.2-seconds if you opt for the manual. The quarter-mile sprint is over in just 12.4-seconds. The M2 Competition is, without a doubt, a very rapid car, but it's in the way that it's been packaged that makes it truly special; drift happy when you need it to be, easy to park in the city, and a riot when the road ahead clears up. Like any dedicated performance car, the M2 has its drawbacks - such as a stiff ride and a healthy appetite for premium gas - but for those who buy these cars knowing precisely what they are, it's all part of the game.
At the heart of the M2 lies the S55: a twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six engine borrowed from the current M4 and discontinued M3, which in M2 guise produces 405 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque at 2350 rpm. Despite the S55 being detuned in this application, it still makes 40 more horsepower and 37 lb-ft more torque than the older engine previously used in the M2. And you can definitely feel that extra punch in the pit of your stomach when you press down on the go-faster pedal, and rev it all the way to its 7600 rpm limit. The 2020 car still comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission, but a dual-clutch unit is an optional extra. The quick-shifting DCT accelerates to sixty faster than the manual transmission, and is more comfortable to live with on an everyday basis. Power is sent to the rear wheels and gets channeled to the tires via an electronically controlled limited-slip diff, which can be set to grip hard or let the back end slide out when it comes time to impress those random guys at the local cars and coffee meet.
It should be noted at the start that those with back problems or recent hip replacements should give the 2020 M2 Competition a skip. At lower speeds on normal roads, the M2 bumps and crashes over even the slightest imperfections, and could get tiring very quickly if it wasn't for its other strong points. Drive the M2 as it should be driven, and you're rewarded with a balanced handling experience which is easy to modulate, and one which won't completely rip your head off when you make a mistake. One of the few negatives in terms of the M2's handling characteristics is the electric power steering system, which fails to communicate through the steering wheel, despite being adept at placing the car with precision. The combination of wide 265/35 rear tires, lightweight subframes, carbon fiber bracing and sharp brakes turns the M2 into a very accomplished - if somewhat compromised - sports car. Those who are looking for a softer experience should stick to the M240i.
Despite its diminutive size, the 2020 M2 Coupe is still a thirsty car, which is most likely the cause of the heavily turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine lurking beneath the hood. When calculated at 45% city and 55% highway driving, the M2 will return a figure of 18/25/22 mpg, but good luck reaching that number in the first few months of ownership. The slightly more powerful and heavier M4 gets close to that number with 18/25/20 mpg in its most efficient manual configuration, and the 2018 M3 will get more or less the same numbers. The M2 is a performance vehicle with notions of practicality and should be viewed as such. Mpg figures don't carry as much weight as they do in more pedestrian cars.
Once you step inside the 2020 M2 Coupe, it becomes evident that BMW has only provided the basics that would qualify the M2 as a premium car, and as always, the options list can fill the interior up with all kinds of gizmos, but in standard form the cabin is a rather spartan affair; that's not to say that it's a stripped out race car, though. Something we noticed is that the fit and finish of some interior pieces are below standard and somewhat disappointing for a vehicle in this class. The refreshingly simple dash layout is slanted to the driver's side, giving a clear indication of who is the most important occupant in this car. The features BMW does include is a three-spoke steering wheel with infotainment and drive mode controls, a rear window defroster, a rearview camera, a manually adjustable steering wheel, push-button start, and ambient interior lighting. There remain signs that the M2 can be semi-practical: an auto trunk release and two 12-volt power sockets round up the interior features, excluding the infotainment system.
BMW sells the 2020 M2 Coupe as a four-seater car, but anyone who's really interested in this car will know that you buy the M2 for its front seats; whatever fits in the back is a bonus. It's clear that the German automaker has gone through a lot of effort to make the front half of the cabin as comfortable and focused as possible for the person doing the driving, and his or her accomplice. The sport seats in the M2 offer just enough bolstering, and are adjustable enough to suit big and small, while the rear seats look like a leather-wrapped afterthought. Getting in and out of the coupe is made more challenging by its low ride height, but getting in the back should be left to small children and that one guy from the office who keeps reporting you to HR for bench pressing him in the parking lot. The measurements tell the whole story: front-seat legroom and headroom come in at 41.5 inches and 40.1 inches, respectively (taller drivers will feel constrained) while rear legroom and headroom measures 33 inches and 36.5 inches. The M4 offers 0.7 inches more front and rear legroom but has less headroom all round.
Step inside the 2020 M2, and you'll be greeted by an interior that uses black door inserts to accentuate the black headliner and black leather-covered dashboard. What we're trying to say is that you can expect to see a lot of black materials inside the M2. For some, this might be too much, but we think that BMW has added just enough differentiation with some brushed aluminum and contrast stitching. The end product is an interior that looks focused and ready to get down to business. One thing you'll quickly pick up is the fact that some of the plastics don't feel like they belong in a $60,000 car, but at least all the significant touchpoints have a premium feel. The Black Dakota leather seats can be had in black with blue stitching or black with orange stitching. It might sound like a sea of black, but attention to detail brings out the best in this interior.
Who said you have to compromise on trunk space in a small-two door performance coupe? The M2 surprises with a decent amount of trunk space, but overall, cargo space is limited. BMW sells their baby coupe as a four-seater, but if you're carrying extra cargo or planning a trip, it will be advisable to think of the M2 as a two-seater. Trunk space measures in at a decent 13.8 cubic feet, and stretches back far into the cabin, but is ultimately limited by a narrow opening. You should be able to fit a single full-size track day tire in the back, or if you're the sensitive type, two suitcases and a few smaller baggage items. Compared to its bigger brothers, the M2 surprisingly offers more trunk space than both, with the M3 offering 1.8 cubic feet less, and the M4 only managing 11 cubic feet. The already cramped interior can only provide a small center console and slim door pockets but does offer a set of cupholders and a small cavity in front of the shifter that can fit a set of keys.
Although the features list isn't as impressive as some of the other cars in its class, what you do get are all functional and welcome additions. Since the M2 is a performance car, it boasts a long list of exterior features that play to this character. On the inside, however, it gets an engine start/stop button, manually adjustable three-spoke steering wheel with driving mode and infotainment controls, as well as an automatic climate control system with windshield misting sensor and auto air reticulation. Features such as an auto trunk release, double 12-volt power sockets, and a locking glove box manage to add a sense of practicality, while fourteen-way powered front sport seats, black Dakota leather, M-themed seat belts, door-sill finishers, and gear shift lever round out the sporty aesthetic. Park distance control, rain-sensing wipers, and BMW's active driving assistant suite of advanced driver aids are all standard.
When it comes to infotainment, BMW certainly didn't cheap out. The 8.8-inch screen can display 3D maps in navigation mode with advanced real-time traffic info, and offers SiriusXM satellite radio with a one-year subscription, an old school CD/MP3 player combo, and BMW's suite of ConnectDrive and Teleservice features. Apple CarPlay is included, as is Bluetooth streaming and dual USB charging ports, but - as in all BMWs - Android Auto has been left out. The voice command system works relatively well, and BMW's iDrive system, which has been honed over the years, is quick to react to input. Your 2007 spring break playlist will sound better than ever through the M2's premium Harman Kardon sound system, which features 12 speakers and a 360-watt amplifier that delivers terrific clarity and deep bass. The infotainment system also has a 200 GB hard drive with 20 GB of extra storage for audio files. As a whole, the infotainment system on the 2020 BMW M2 is a well-rounded package and contains most of the features you'd expect to see in a modern premium vehicle; but new 3, 5 and 7-series cars get BMW's updated system which features integrated display functionality, while new arrivals from Mercedes-Benz get an artificially intelligent assistant, and Audi provides its vehicles with the brilliant virtual cockpit featuring more advanced technology.
BMW is renowned for building well-engineered cars, but the sheer amount of technology that goes into modern day vehicles means that some electronic niggles might present themselves from time to time. This goes for the BMW M2 Competition Coupe, which has, in one form or another, been recalled twice in the past three years. The first recall was issued in November of 2017 for a software issue with the M2's instrument panel, which could cause the display not to illuminate (arguably not a major issue). The latest recall was issued mid-2019 and affected most of the 2-Series range, including the M2 Competition. The recall affected about 5,100 units for knee airbags that could've been improperly folded upon assembly, leading to a potential safety hazard on deployment. BMW's warranty should put your mind at ease: new owners get a basic four-year/50,000 mile warranty, including 12 years of corrosion cover, a four-year/50,000-mile drivetrain warranty, a three-year/36,000 maintenance warranty, and four years worth of roadside assistance.
The 2020 M2 Coupe has not been tested by any of the major rating agencies, but the standard 2 Series for 2019 has been scored by the IIHS, achieving scores of Good in six evaluations. The IIHS was similarly impressed with the 2018 model, awarding it with a Top Safety Pick rating. For the 2020 M2, BMW has ensured that it is as safe as possible, and a long list of safety features is proof of that.
A high-performance vehicle such as the BMW M2 needs to be as safe as it possibly can be, especially when the majority of new owners won't have the skill or driving experience to truly handle the amount of performance on offer. That's why BMW has made sure that the 2020 M2 comes packed with standard safety features. The airbag system on this car is extensive: you get a dual-threshold, dual-stage deployment system with front, seat, and knee mounted airbags. Automatic pre-tensioners and passenger-occupation sensors make sure that those who are seated remain seated, and a standard LATCH system with automatic-locking retractors will keep the young ones securely in place. To help out the driver in everyday driving situations, BMW has included pedestrian detection and avoidance, front collision warning with a special mode for city traffic, as well as lane departure assistance and driver alert. In case of an accident, impact sensors will disconnect the battery and fuel pump and automatically unlock the doors while turning on the hazard lights. BMW's emergency assistance and automatic collision notification system will let the right people know when you're in an accident, too.
With a riot of an engine under the hood, a well-tuned chassis, and an engaging driving experience, the M2 delivers the type of performance that will impress the ordinary driver but will only be truly appreciated by enthusiasts. The interior and features list resonates with the focus on performance driving: interior materials and build quality take a slight hit, and compared to some rivals, the features list might seem short, but most modern amenities such as navigation, forward collision warning, and Apple CarPlay integration are present. The compromised ride comfort and thirsty engine will put off some buyers, but BMW fans and petrolheads, in general, will love it for what it is; a fast, front-engined rear-wheel-drive BMW Coupe that will shred its tires at a whim, put a stupid grin on your face when pushing through corners, and get nods of approval from those in the know. More horsepower can be had for $58,900, but very little can touch it when it comes to overall performance.
The 2020 BMW M2 starts off with an MSRP of $58,900, excluding tax, registration, and a destination fee of $995. The bigger and slightly more powerful M4 asks an extra $10,250 of your hard-earned money. For the asking price of the M2, you could easily get more horsepower elsewhere, but you'll struggle to find a more sorted chassis and pure driving fun.
The 2020 Competition Coupe is the only model on offer from BMW in the M2 range, equipped with a 3.0-liter M TwinPower turbo inline-six, that pushes out 405 hp and 406 lb-ft. It features a six-speed manual or seven-speed DCT, paired to a rear-wheel-drivetrain. This little beastie can hit sixty miles per hour in just four seconds with the auto 'box equipped and pushes on to 155 mph. Its lovely cabin features leather seats, M-themed interior accents, and a brilliant infotainment system.
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo Inline-6 Gas
The $1,200 Executive Package adds a heated steering wheel, adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams, speed limit info, wireless device charging, and a Wi-Fi hotspot to the M2. A moonroof is available for $1,050 as well. But, the most appealing packages are those of the performance variety. For $2,900, you get the highly recommended M Sport double-clutch transmission, which sharpens up gear shifts and provides better acceleration but detracts from driver involvement to some extent. The M Driver's package gets you a raised top speed and a one-day performance driving lesson to help you get the most out of your M2 as well, and will set you back $2,500.
There's no choosing models here, but the limited options list is there for those who seek some exclusivity. We would spec the 2020 M2 Competition with the $1,200 Executive Package, which adds wireless charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot as well as a heated steering wheel and adaptive LED headlights and avoid the exorbitantly priced optional carbon fiber pieces such as the $5,000 side panels or $4,280 tailgate. The optional DCT transmission will suit the more laid back driver while still offering an engaging driving experience, but we'd stick with the standard six-speed. An interesting option is the M driver's package, which raises the M2's speed limit, and also gets you a one-day performance driving class, which should go a long way to helping you get the most out of your baby M.
Many consider the M3 to be the stalwart of BMW M cars, even though it wasn't the first to wear the sacred M badge, and the now-discontinued F80 generation was probably the most accomplished. Both the M3 and M2 are powered by the same twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine, but in the M3, it produced 425 hp. Both cars come standard with a six-speed manual, with the seven-speed DCT being an optional extra, and they even share the same 18/25/20 mpg figure - but that's where most of the similarities end. The M3 is clearly the larger car, measuring 184.5-inches in length compared to the 176.2 inches of the M2, offering more interior space overall. But, it gets a smaller trunk. The M3 feels more relaxed on the road, whereas the M2 Competition feels more performance-focused, which compromises comfort. Both offer scintillating performance, and despite the fact that you can't buy a new M3, it all boils down to how much space you need and how hardcore you want to go.
The $69,150 BMW M4 is a powerhouse that checks all the boxes for what makes an M-car great; it takes the place of the M3. It's 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six engine, which it shares with the M2 and discontinued M3, produces 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, and despite being more powerful and heavier, the M4 delivers the same gas mileage numbers. The M4 offers marginally more interior space, but has a lower roofline, making it even more challenging to get in and out. In terms of features, both cars share a similar list of standard equipment, but the M4 receives a more extensive options list that includes a Competition Package, further improving upon the M4's already impressive capabilities. The M4 is a more grown-up offering that can be more comfortable or hardcore than the M2 depending on the occasion.
Although not a coupe, the RS3 nonetheless offers a great, sporty drive that can be compared to the M2's offerings. With its fixed sport suspension, potent off-the-line behavior, and posh interior, the Audi has numerous plus-points to consider. As a sedan, it offers naturally more usable space than the Competition Coupe and capitalizes on the brand's attention to detail in terms of its stunning cabin. Despite its nearly 400-hp motor, upgraded brakes, and sport suspension, the RS3 can't quite give the thrills the M2 does - also, while the legendary quattro system makes for excellent handling in adverse weather conditions, the rear-wheel approach from BMW is just that much more fun. We'd go with the fun-and-games the M2 Competition represents, although the Audi is a worthwhile all-rounder.