Initially there were some raised eyebrows amongst those who know this challenging 2.238-mile long, 11-corner circuit famous for its elevation changes and the notably tricky hard-left, hard-right downhill Corkscrew bend.
The underestimation by some no doubt was seeded by the fact that this car carries a ‘2’ after its M. Knowledge of BMW nomenclature instantly tells you that this means it is a two-door 1-Series, in short the Coupe version of BMW’s entry-level compact sedan. To doubters, creating an M car from the lowest ranks is akin to making the proverbial silk purse out of a sow’s ear. So it just has to be inferior to the M3 and M4, right?
Wrong! On the day it quickly became apparent that BMW had not been overly ambitious and the baby M proved to be one of the best stock road cars we have ever driven at Laguna Seca.
Stability through Turn One, the flat-out left-hand kink two-thirds of the way down the main straight was unerring, and the well-planted front end was responsive to trail braking deep into the long, late apex Andretti Hairpin.
Meanwhile the M2’s compact size and pointy front end helped it make short work of the Corkscrew. Even the brakes held up well to our merciless pounding despite the 30-degee plus ambient temperatures.
The key to the excellence of the M2’s behaviour is the fact that it features the complete front and rear suspension from the M3/M4 Coupe in a slightly shorter chassis. A major simplification is the conventional two-piece steel propeller shaft that replaces the lighter, more exotic, and much more costly carbon-fibre one used by its bigger brothers.
With cost as a consideration, the motor is not the S55 motor from the M3/M4, but rather a beefed up 370hp version of the mainstream N55 motor with some S55 components.
With all this as the backdrop, the M2 Competition removes all the stops put in place at the beginning of the M2 project. “It is normal to hold back a bunch of tweaks so we can do additional models like the Competition later on,” explained Dirk Häcker, BMW M’s VP of Engineering. “The M2 Competition tilts the focus more towards race track performance, which led us to increase the parts content from the M3/M4 models.”
Given that the bodyshell and front and rear inner structure was already modified to accept the M3/M4 suspension and wide rubber no further work was required here apart from stiffening the front end.
“This was achieved using the M3/M4 carbon-fibre front suspension brace, which bolted straight in as the track width is the same. The brace significantly reduces torsional flex in the engine compartment ‘box’ and keeps the front suspension geometry closer to spec under load,” said Dirk.
“We experimented with variations of the M2 spring and damper rates but found that with the improved front-end stiffness the original settings were ideal,” explained Peter Schmid, Project Manager for Driving Dynamics. “This is the first time ever in my career that this has happened, and all we needed in the end was some software recalibration of the control electronics.”
The biggest mechanical change lies under the bonnet where the modified N55 TwinPower Turbo engine is swapped for the M3/M4 S55 M motor, albeit detuned to 410hp for life in the smaller, lighter, and cheaper M2 Competition.
The precise numbers are 410hp between 5,250 and 7,000rpm, underpinned by the same 550Nm peak torque as the M3/M4 from 2,350 to 5,250rpm. By way of comparison, this engine is tuned for 431hp in the M3/M4, 450hp in the M3/M4 Competition, and 460hp in the M4 CS.
The M2 Coupe tips the scales at 1,495kg with the six-speed manual, and 1,520kg with the seven-speed M DCT dual clutch transmission with Drivelogic. With its more powerful engine and other upgrades the M2 Competition weighs 55kg more.
In DCT form with Launch Control activated, the M2 scorches to 100km/h in the same 4.3 (manual 4.5 seconds) as the M3/M4, and is also electronically reined in at 250km/h. The M Driver’s Package opens this up to 270km/h and comes with a BMW Driving Experience track-training course.
Despite carrying extra weight the more powerful M2 Competition model hits 100km/h in 4.2 seconds (manual 4.4 seconds) and tops out at the same limited 250km/h Vmax. The M Drivers Package raises this to 280km/h.
As it is a brand new model the M2 Competition has to meet the latest EU6D emission regulations that come into force on 1st September. It does so using a ceramic based, self-cleaning, exhaust gas particulate filter mounted in the exhaust system behind the secondary catalytic convertor.