To say that BMW’s current lineup is diverse is an understatement. When you factor in the high-performance M models, the German automaker currently has a whopping 23 different models for sale in the U.S., including coupes, sedans, electric cars, and SUVs, thoroughly covering every possible niche in the luxury car market. With such variety it may seem difficult to pick a favorite, but one model in particular rises clearly above the rest: the M2 Competition Coupe.
The M2 is the high-performance version of the 2-Series, which slots in as BMW’s entry-level sport coupe. Instead of the standard 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder turbocharged inline engines, the new M2 Competition Coupe receives the same twin-turbocharged inline-6 from its big brother, the M3. This bumps the M2’s power up to 405 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, which is crammed into BMW’s smallest rear-wheel drive car. This power is fed to the rear wheels via a choice of either a quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic transmission or, to the delight of car enthusiasts everywhere, a traditional 6-speed manual.
BMW has tweaked other things as well with the M2. Like all M cars, the M2 receives a plethora of chassis and suspension tweaks like carbon fiber strut towers, alongside massive brakes and enhanced aerodynamics. In order to keep the car cool even on the hottest days at the track, the M2 comes standard with the same enhanced cooling set up with three radiators, an engine oil cooler, and a transmission oil cooler for cars with automatic transmissions. In the back, BMW has blessed the M2 with an active differential that will adjust how much power is sent to each rear wheel to maximize traction.
As you can imagine, all of this adds up to one fast car. BMW says that the M2 will sprint to 60 mph in just four seconds for the automatic models. While the M2’s biggest competitor, the Audi RS3, can hit 60 mph half a second quicker due to its all wheel drive system, numbers can only tell part of the story.
Yes, the RS3 may be faster than the M2 off the line, but the BMW brings much more to the overall driving experience. For one, you can’t get a manual transmission in the Audi, which denies purists the fun of rowing their own. Secondly, the RS3 is built off a front-wheel drive platform that has been adapted to all-wheel drive. It has grip for days, but because at most only 50% of the engine’s power gets sent to the rear, it tends to have the same dynamics as a front-wheel drive car when you start pushing it to the limit.
On the other hand, the M2’s rear wheel drive platform allows for all sorts of fun shenanigans if you turn down the traction control nannys. If you’d like to get a little sideways, the rear end will step out predictably allowing for almost effortless donuts or power slides, and the relative unpredictability of the rear end makes the car feel more alive compared to the Audi. The BMW is certainly less forgiving to make a mistake in, but that adds to the fun of it all.
So then, why is the M2 the best BMW overall?
Over the years, BMW has built many fine automobiles, but lately their offerings have started to go a bit stale. In order to better address market demands, their cars have grown larger and more appealing to broad tastes. In a move that probably surprised BMW itself, they’re now even selling front-wheel drive cars. Where the 3-series used to be BMWs small luxury sport compact, it’s grown up into what used to be considered a mid-sized sedan. The M3 and its M4 coupe variant are still incredibly fast performance cars, but many feel they’ve lost that special sauce that made them legends in the first place. They’re no longer small and agile like they once were, and seem to resort to extra horsepower to make up for that softening around the edges.
The M2 on the other hand feels like the successor to the BMW cars that enthusiasts and auto journalists nostalgically remember. The M2 slides into a market niche that requires fewer overall compromises, and its small size allows for it to change direction playfully. It’s got almost as much power as the M3 and M4, but with much less weight to carry around the M2 is just as fast.
Best of all, the M2 is much less expensive than the M3 and M4. While $60,000 may seem like a lot of money for a small performance car, the M3 and M4 start at $67,000 and $70,000 respectively, before you start adding in options. Even at this level, that’s a hefty amount of extra cash to lay down for a car that’s arguably no better. Sure, those cars have a more spacious rear seat, but nobody ever buys a 2-door coupe with the idea that they’re going to be regularly driving passengers around. On theoretical levels, the M4 may be more practical due to some extra cubes of room in the back and in the trunk, but in the real world it would probably be a wash for most people.
All in all, the M2 is the performance car we’d like every BMW to be. It’s fast, small, and playful, and most of all, it lives up to the brand’s promise of being the Ultimate Driving Machine.