The Goodwood Test: BMW M2 Competition

29th July 2018

Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.



Way back to the Sixties 2002 models, BMW's history lies in small, mettlesome two-door coupé/saloons designed and engineered by driving enthusiasts for driving enthusiasts. The front-engined, rear-drive 1-series first introduced in 2004 as the E87 and revamped in 2011 into the F20 was just such a car. It even sported a six-cylinder engine in the 2007 135i model.

The company's M Division first properly got involved with 2011 1M coupé, sporting BMW's second-ever turbocharged engine, a 330bhp, three-litre straight six. The subsequent M2 model was first launched at the end of 2015 and built on a reputation for fine handling, quick but unobtrusive Q cars.

Now that much-admired M2 has been replaced and upgraded with this M2 Competition model, due on sale this year.  



There's not a huge difference in appearance for the new M2: a new glossy black kidney grille; a new front air dam with bigger holes to cool the bigger motor; and grilles on the front wings to reduce under-bonnet heat. The door mirrors come from the M3 and there are M badges front and rear. 

The cabin is unchanged from the outgoing M2; cosy, with room enough for a couple of modest sized adults in the back. At 390 litres, the boot is adequate.  

The driving position is terrific, but the optional sports seats are uncomfortable and best left on the shelf. The interior feels well put together, with decent quality materials and simple but attractive design. There's even a manual hand brake and sat nav as standard, though it feels a bit mean to charge extra for a rear reversing camera and an Apple CarPlay preparation pack.

The outgoing M2's suspension is retained, though there's been a lot of work done on refining and titivating the software programming for the electronic steering system and the electronic limited-slip differential.



The main change for this new model is the replacement of the complete drivetrain for that from the M3 saloon/M4 coupé. This S55 unit is a straight-six with direct fuel injection, twin chain-driven overhead camshafts boasting variable valve timing and lift, and butterfly-less induction. It's boosted by two little conventional turbochargers down by the side of the block, there's a twin-pipe exhaust system, with valves in the silencer box to alter the exhaust note and it also has a petrol particulate filter. 

Compared to the old single-turbo M2 unit, power is up 39PS to 410PS (404bhp) at 7,600rpm and torque is 549Nm (405 lb ft) on a plateau that starts at 2,350rpm. Weight increases by 50kg to 1,550kg for the manual model.

Two transmissions are also sourced from the M3; a six-speed manual, which gives 0-62mph acceleration in 4.4 seconds and BMW's seven-speed dual-clutch unit, which does it in 4.2 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155mph, but that is unlocked if you pay £2,095 for the M Driver's package, which also comes with an optional BMW M driving course.

It's a mighty driveline with huge amounts of torque and simply humongous performance, accompanied by a spine-tingling soundtrack. While the manual transmission might initially feel like the driver's choice, actually the twin clutch is faster, uses less fuel and apparently will lap faster, too. 

You don't get 'owt fer nowt and you pay at the pumps for all this get up and go. The manual has a Combined fuel economy of 28.25mpg, the twin clutch 30.7mpg, with CO2 emissions of 227 and 209g/km respectively.



It might be understated in looks, but dynamically this extraordinary coupé is one of the most entertaining cars on sale, anywhere. A front engine means you initially ease it into the turns, but that drivetrain, including the active differential gives the most extraordinarily adjustable handling, with predictable oversteer at will if you chose to press one of two preset buttons (M1 and M2) on the steering wheel. The stability control flatters even the most modest driving skills, but even at modest speeds you can appreciate and relish this car's nimble handling and tactility.

Rivals in this sector such as Audi's RS3, or Mercedes-AMG's A45, are principally front-drive cars given 4x4 to control their high power, the BMW is designed to be rear-wheel drive and it shows. Sadly its effervescent rear-drive agility won't be repeated in the next year's Mark III 1-series, which will be front-wheel drive to compete with Mercedes-Benz's front driven A-class. So the M2 Competition is likely to remain the best sports coupé you've never heard of; buy it now before they're all gone... 

Cost of our car £49,805 (£60,056 with options)

  • The Goodwood Test

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