Taking on Sepang with BMW M2 Competition

By Lee Pang Seng

THE BMW M2 represents a raw and brutal sense of outright performance being the first step to BMW’s world of M cars. This impression, gleaned from our drive of the M2 Coupé during the M Drive in Seoul two years ago, continues to hold after another exciting drive experience with the latest model, the M2 Competition, at the Sepang International Circuit.

Gone are the days when an iconic or benchmark model could stay little changed for a good number years (read that as beyond five years and even more for a few). These days, car buyers get easily bored and are always looking for something new to stay up to date and trendy, no matter how exciting the car might be in driving performance.

Carmakers are thus forced to update their cars a lot more frequently to sustain buyer interest and allow them to enjoy the drive in a newer guise. The M2 Competition is a typical reflection of this trend and while it is challenging to build on a very good and solid base, BMW has come up with the goods to make the drive that much more stimulating and exciting.

An important aspect of that upgrade is the car profile and styling as the visual attachment is often a strong one in buyer’s choice. There is no major change in the M2 profile but there are enough new styling cues to offer a fresh perspective. What might seem like a facelift to the general onlooker, the changes made are more than just a cosmetic exercise. They play an improved role to the car’s aerodynamic and performance functions.

Take the new front skirt; it is styled with a modified air intake on each end (when viewed directly from the front) to optimise air inflow to BMW’s sophisticated cooling system while giving the M2 a new visual presence. And of course, there is the larger kidney grille painted in high gloss black to establish the BMW character prominently and side gills on the front wings to ramp up this Coupé’s sporty profile.

Playing an equally important role in aerodynamics are the new M-specific twin strut door mirrors, besides adding a new visual touch, and supporting cues in the classic LED (light emitting diode) headlamps and sleek individual high-gloss shadow lines that build on its exclusive model standing in the BMW M Division.

The new M2 Competition also boasts a revised exhaust system with the dual-branch design featuring a new muffler and four tailpipes that are finished in black chrome to stamp its distinctive BMW M character. Two electronically controlled flaps ensure that the new M2 Competition continues to deliver the distinctive BMW M tune, which the driver could adjust by selecting a drive mode with the BMW Dynamic Performance Control button on the centre console.

Just as important to the new M2 Competition is the power aspect and this is fully re-engineered and delivered. The power unit at the heart of the M2 Competition is an optimised S55 BMW M engine similar to that powering the M3 and M4. This is a straight-six turbocharged 3.0-litre engine that is oversquare in configuration with an 89.6mm bore and 84.0mm stroke to displace 2979cc.

More output is extracted as represented by the 410hp from 5230rpm to 7000, an increase of 40hp, and 550Nm torque that develops at 2350rpm and holds till 5230rpm, up by 85Nm over the previous unit. The M2 Coupé launched here in 2016 delivered 370hp at 6500rpm and 465Nm from 1400-5560rpm. In outright 0-100km/h acceleration, the improvement is marginal at 4.2 seconds compared to the M2 Coupé’s 4.3 seconds, while top speed remains capped at 250km/h.

The transmission continues to be a seven-speed M double clutch unit with Drivelogic that is optimised to handle the higher engine output. BMW says the system effectively combines two gearboxes, each with its own clutch, to enable ‘ultra-smooth’ shifts with no interruption in power flow. In automatic and manual modes, Drivelogic offers a choice of preconfigured drive programmes; Comfort, Sport and Sport+. But should you prefer the new M2 Competition with a manual transmission, BMW Malaysia says that could be catered to as well. Just make your order for one!

Other improvements are in the lubrication system that includes an oil sump cover to limit the movement of lubricant movements during sudden directional shifts that are typical when the car is driven hard. BMW says uninterrupted oil circulation is maintained by an oil extraction pump and a sophisticated oil return system located near the turbocharger. The M2 Competition’s cooling system is also improved with a transmission oil cooler to ensure ideal operating temperatures during hard driving on the streets or tracks.

Just as crucial to the M2 Competition performance demand is an optimised chassis characteristic to complement the increased engine performance and raise its dynamic quality to a new level. In the engine compartment is the massive CFRP (carbon fibre reinforced plastic) high-precision strut to optimise front end stiffness and provide maximum steering precision. Although large, its lightweight build only adds 1.5kg, with the car’s kerb weight at a respectable 1575kg.
The high-performance chassis also includes lightweight aluminium front and rear axle components from the M3 and M4, while wheel location and tracking stability is further optimised by the motor sport-based solid-mounted five-link rear subframe and forged aluminium control arms.

The Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system is recalibrated in the M2 Competition to provide improved traction and control on slippery roads. This supported by the BMW Active M differential, an electronically controlled multi-plate limited-slip differential that BMW says takes traction and directional stability to a new level of precision and speed. A full locking power of 2500Nm is available within 150 milliseconds, allowing the system to prevent the wheels from spinning in dangerous situations.

For braking, the M2 Competition comes fitted with M Compound brakes that feature callipers painted in the iconic M blue metallic finish with perforated and inner-vented brake disc rings in grey cast iron. BMW says the M Compound brakes achieve ‘outstanding’ deceleration values and are extremely stable, while weighing less than conventional brakes. This improves the car’s agility, dynamism and acceleration without compromising safety and durability. The M2 Competition sports19-inch M light alloy wheels in double-spoke style 437 M that are fitted with 245/35 R19 Michelin Pilot Sport4 tyres.

Being an imported car, the new M2 Competition comes at a premium being priced at RM626,800 on the road without insurance. This includes a five-year unlimited mileage warranty, free scheduled service programme, two-year/24-month tyre warranty programme for its Run Flat Tyre services, roadside assistance and accident hotline, among others.

Sepang Drive
After our exciting drive experience with the M2 Coupé in South Korea more than two years ago, it was natural to look to more of the same and on home turf, too. As we are not new to driving around the 5.5km Sepang International Circuit, it would be interesting to check out the 15 corners of varying camber and tightness in the new M2 Competition.

As expected, the drive was conducted in a convoy grouping of five media cars, a lead/pace car and a sweeper car. The main difference in the Sepang drive with the one we participated in Seoul was that we had to follow the given car order for all of the six to seven laps in each round. We found the BMW M drive format in South Korea more practical as we could each take turns to follow the pace car, which was driven at a fast pace so that we could explore the M2 to the fullest in dynamic performance using the various drive modes available.

For the Sepang drive, we had to activate DSC to make it safer for the media in general and which allowed us only one aspect of the M2’s performance range. In addition, the drive was limited to the performance limits of the media in the car ahead of us although we did try to slow down a little on the straights to give us a bit more space to check out the M2 Competition’s dynamic prowess through some of  the corners.

As it were, we could brake later into the corner and not at the suggested braking point marked by cones (set by the organisers) as the car in front was braking sooner. We like to carry more speed into the corner to check out the car’s limits and adjust our drive accordingly, which we could only do a little of this time.

We did feel the DSC coming into play when we had the opportunity to charge into one or two tight corners quicker than usual, leading to a wider line through the corner as the M2 Competition went into an understeer. The DSC cut off the fuel flow to reduce road speed and applied the brakes on one side at the rear to restore dynamic balance and vehicle direction.

We also felt the DSC intervening during an oversteer when our media co-driver took over the drive in the second round and turned the steering wheel a bit too exuberantly trying to correct the car’s stability. This time the DSC applied the brakes to one side of the front to restore composure before resuming fuel flow for the drive to continue.

While the M Compound brakes worked fine when we hit the brakes hard for the tight corners, we could feel the brake pedal getting a bit spongy by the third lap. Nevertheless, the braking action remained strong and progressive as long as we hit the brake pedal hard to reduce road speed to take the corner comfortably.

An idea of the M2 Competition’s acceleration was clearly demonstrated as we could just about keep up with the faster M5 as it picked up speed quickly on the straights. On the main straight (where the start-finish point is), we could just hit 210km/h before hitting the brakes hard for the tight double corners that followed.

The M2 Competition had stiff anti-roll bars that limit body movements through the corners and we hardly felt the body lean greater than necessary. It was fantastic driving the car through the fast corners as it felt solidly planted while our problem corners – the first set of double corners and the sharp turn nine that leads up the rise – could be taken at a reasonably fast gallop.

It could have been a more involved drive if we were allowed to use Drivelogic for the respective lap to check out the M2 Competition’s dynamic range. But based on our Korean M Drive experience, we believe the latest M2 would live up to expectations easily in a thrilling and exciting drive for most, even the hard-core drivers. This is a true-blue BMW M car worth its salt as an outright performance sportster.

Specifications here.