2019 BMW M2 Competition Review - Still Waters Run Deep
2019 BMW M2 Competition Coupe
Water always finds a way. Our land masses are shaped by the movement of glaciers over millennia. Our geopolitical lines are often defined by bodies of water, be it a lake, river, or ocean. Importantly to this audience, many of our greatest roads owe little to a civil engineer and all to the meander of a mountain stream.
Water finds a way, trickling from the hillside to create a damp path across one of those roadways, just over a blind ridge beyond which a sextet of motorcyclists have stopped in the middle of a narrow roadway to discuss something most certainly of incredible importance.
Turns out other liquids find a way, too, as a wee bit of wee might have leaked as I engaged any number of acronym-laden safety mechanisms designed in Bavaria to prevent headlines such as “Journalist Slaughters Six.” With the slightest sideways step, the 2019 BMW M2 Competition heeled and heeded my commands upon the two leftmost pedals, and after a few minutes to reset my blood pressure and mutter contempt for the idiot bikers, I proceeded to enjoy the rest of my drive with a massive grin.
I do wish I had some legitimate competition with which I could test the M2 Competition, but a day in the Hocking Hills will have to do. Here, the perfectly balanced rear-drive chassis shines. While the ride is firm in daily driving, it’s by no means punishing. On the back roads, however, this BMW is a jewel, turning with ease via both the wheel and the throttle.
The six-speed manual transmission is one of the best-shifting ‘boxes I’ve ever encountered. It’s not as light and carefree as that in a Miata, but I always found the right gear without a single mis-shift or catching between gates. The three pedals have clearly been placed with care – heel-toe maneuvers while downshifting are cake, even though the engine will automatically match revs.
I was able to manage – with a struggle – to use the M2 Competition as a family car. Once the kids got into the rear seats, they were reasonably comfortable, though the eldest did cant her head to the side to keep her noggin from the headliner. Rear legroom, too, was at a premium.
No matter – this isn’t the family crossover. The M2 Competition is for the driver who might occasionally have to pick the kids up after returning from work, but normally would drive solo or two-up. For comfortable daily duty with weekend jaunts to the hills or the racetrack, there are few better cars.
The front seats, after all, feel perfectly formed to my body. While the drive to the best roads from my home is a bit over an hour of freeway, I felt as if I could stay in the seat all day. Subtle orange accents and stitching that match the marvelous Sunset Orange Metallic exterior is a wonderful touch.
The proportions of the M2 Competition are a bit jarring to some – the short overall length and wide fenders seem at odds with the tall greenhouse. All that glass means it’s easy to see all four corners when placing the sticky Michelins. But every line seems purposeful, with vents and inlets everywhere to feed and cool the beast.
There have been precious few times in the several years I’ve been testing cars where, given my own money, I’d choose to buy basically the exact car I’d sourced from the press fleet. Indeed, this may be the first instance. The only options fitted to this car are the $1,200 executive package (wireless charging, WiFi hotspot, heated steering wheel, and adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams), the $2,500 M Driver’s Package, which raises the speed limiter and admits the owner to a high-performance driving class, and the $550 Sunset Orange Metallic paint. That paint is incredible, catching the light differently depending on the time of day.
I’ve never been a wide-eyed BMW fanatic, unlike those who add tricolor slashes in their email signatures anywhere the letter M appears. I can’t overlook the serious flaws that persisted for years, such as the papier-mâché cooling systems on the E36-chassis 3 Series, or the Nikasil-plagued V8. Conversely, I can’t ignore the decades of success various BMW platforms have experienced across many motorsports disciplines.
Recall that much of the “ BMW as archetypical sports sedan” myth was written by a copywriter-turned-journalist in 1968. While indeed the early compact sedans from Bavaria were properly fun cars, they weren’t the first, nor were they miles better than the competition.
I must applaud BMW for (mostly) maintaining a rear-drive layout throughout its sedan lineup. That alone has converted enthusiasts looking for the traditional package for fun. And what fun! This BMW M2 Competition has seemingly been built strictly to induce smiles from the driver’s chair. Click the engine over to Sport Plus mode, and the exhaust baffles open to unleash pops and grumbles that delight the driver’s ear. I can’t help but think that the rear tires, at 265mm wide and mounted on 10-inch wide rims, could have been wider – but that would spare the driver from a bit of tail-wagging on corner exit.
Plus, wider tires are a bit more prone to hydroplaning. I’m happy with the grip I have in the M2 Competition when water finds its own way.
[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]
Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in ebay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.
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