BMW M2 Competition: the 'M' isn’t merely for 'Marketing'
Added power makes the littlest of the M-car litter even more of a livewire, writes Brenwin Naidu
Philosopher John Locke, lauded as the Father of Liberalism, asserted that knowledge cannot go beyond experience. What is the consensus among enthusiasts these days when asked what the BMW M GmbH subsidiary stands for?
You have to concede: that a customer can have "the most powerful letter in the world", but affixed to a modest 116i hatchback may have diminished the gravitas of the M badge somewhat. Some have opined that it now stands for Marketing.
But back to the experience thing. Some time ago this publication was afforded a go in the official M-car genesis. A note, for the record, that the 530 MLE preceded the M1 by a few years - but remember, we said official. BMW SA had restored an example of the iconic, wedge-shaped E26, resplendent in red and handed us the keys.
There is no better way to pursue knowledge of a brand's sporting wares than by being thrown into the first chapter. "Judiciously" would be my adverb of choice in describing how the special Bimmer was commandeered, sans electronic active safety features that allow one to take liberties in this era. It was 1978 after all and performance cars required commitment from the person at the tiller. Then there were those offset pedals, the steering on the wrong (left) side and a shifter erring on the recalcitrant side.
Still, the encounter felt like a rite of passage and inspired sycophantic gushing for days. Years, actually. Obviously it would. Imagine the sweet din of that 3453cc, six-cylinder engine being wound-up, zinging heartily and in unfiltered fashion from its position behind the passenger compartment. We never touched the Becker Mexico radio, with its cassette player. But we did use the pop-ups to shoo obstinate Volkswagen Golf GTI drivers out of our way.
So, there it was. An acquaintance with the (official) original M-car imparted sensations that added depth to a personal frame of reference. And offered a smidgen more qualification to my ramblings on the subject.
M2 THEN AND NOW
Which brings us to the M2, the littlest of the M-car litter and, some argue, the purest distillation of what the sub-brand is about. Versus the larger M3, M4, M5, M6, X5M and X6M, it stands out as a youth in revolt.
And we are not strangers to its charms. Flip the calendar back to June 19 2016, where a shootout in this supplement saw the BMW stave off rivals from Mercedes-AMG and Audi Sport. At Red Star Raceway, our resident racer, Mandla Mdakane, former Volkswagen Motorsport factory driver, finessed the M2 around quicker than the A45 and RS3 respectively. Its rear-wheel drive layout and comparative lightness held it in good stead.
Criticisms? Well, there were the initial reservations when comparing the outputs between it and the M235i of the day (240kW and 450Nm versus 272kW and 465Nm - or 500Nm in short bursts with the overboost function). And why did they not endow it with bespoke side mirrors? We also said that the interior was drab and failed to mirror the raucous exterior.
If you held these gripes, too, take heart that the M2 Competition addresses deficiencies (perceived or otherwise) quite convincingly.
For starters, look at the side mirrors! Additional visual addenda includes glossy black paint for the kidneys, a restyled frontal apron, new 19-inch lightweight alloys plus an extra pair of colours: sunset orange and Hockenheim silver metallic.
Inside, the instrument cluster was revised and carbon fibre inlays were splashed into the mix. Seats were lifted from the M3/M4 - bearing an illuminated M2 badge - and the safety belts feature the famed trio of stripes. In all, it looks suitably different to the standard car.
And there is an equal distinction in the way it performs. Output is bumped up to 302kW and 550Nm. You can have it with a six-speed manual or M-DCT choice, with seven forward gears. In this guise, BMW promises a sprint time of 4.2 seconds, 0.2 faster than if you opted to row your own.
On start-up, it barks into life rambunctiously, fettled dual-exhaust system operating as it should. As with its meeker sibling, the suspension, steering and engine feature three modes: Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. And there are selectable levels as to the intensity with which the M-DCT swaps cogs.
The additional power has transformed the M2 into even more of a livewire. You may find yourself astounded by how it scrabbles for purchase under hard acceleration even with all the aids on. Indeed, the exhilaration factor is high.
That said, measures were taken to provide a tidier driving character. The engine compartment features the same one-piece strut from the M3/M4, machined from carbon fibre-reinforced polymer composites. BMW says the stability control programme has been recalibrated. Its efficacy is aided by an electro-mechanical limited-slip differential. Better stopping is delivered by larger brake pads and calipers.
Your experience with the standard M2 might leave you thinking it offers enough. The next-level thrills afforded by the competition are likely to cast doubt on that view. Prices start at R959,000.