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Monday, September 27, 2021

2021 BMW M2 CS review

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Ever since I had the opportunity to go flat-out in the BMW M2 CS around Phillip Island earlier this year, I’ve been itching to get hold of one to find out if you can live with it as a daily.

Track tests are fun and provide a safe environment in which to push a car at full noise, but it’s on public roads where these cars are driven almost exclusively.

It’s a much tougher proving ground given the varying conditions drivers face.

It’s salient in regards to the M2 CS, given its position as the most performance-focused BMW driver’s car since the E46 M3 CSL.

It’s not just the performance claims that set the heart racing with the CS, though a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.0 seconds isn’t a bad start. This is a BMW coupe that delivers on so many more levels than outright pace.

Even before you climb aboard and punch the starter button there’s an awful lot of details to behold. The blown-out rear guards in the vivid Misano Blue Metallic of our tester are akin to automotive art alone, and a nod to those early E30 and E36 eye-popping Evolution models.

It gets better, because under there is a set of 19-inch M Light alloy wheels in a jewellery-like gold matte look that is bound to make you weak at the knees.

Best of all, though, is the head-on point of view, where you’re treated to one of the most masculine front ends of any car on the market today. There’s simply no mistaking the M2 CS as a hardcore road runner from the Bavarian Motor Works.

It doesn’t matter what you might be driving, if you see a BMW M2 CS appear in your rear-view mirror, there’s a brief moment of panic that sets in.

There’s carbon everywhere, including the entire roof – only in this case it’s a different type of weave to what we’ve seen previously, a large checkerboard style. The front splitter, rear diffuser, side mirrors and gurney flap have all been fabricated using a smaller weave with an extra thick lacquered finish.

The bonnet is 100 per cent carbon fibre reinforced plastic and delightfully weightless to the touch, despite packing a pronounced bulge and three vents to cool the M2’s hard-charging six.

That exquisitely-crafted splitter sits dangerously low, and is a direct result of the deeper front bumper filled with ducts for the brakes and mesh for the engine.

There are no bad angles for the M2 CS. Frankly, its powerful visual presence is more than enough to induce must-have desire in a car that’s so rare these days.

The only real downside is the price paid for such exclusivity, over and above its still capable M2 Competition stablemate.

For many that’s a deal breaker, plain and simple.

How much does the BMW M2 CS cost?

Even at its cheapest the M2 CS will set you back $139,900 before on-road costs for the six-speed manual.

Our tester included several options, including the dual-clutch seven-speed auto ($7500), 19-inch M light alloy wheels in Gold Matte shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres ($1000), and metallic paint ($1700), taking the final price to $150,100 before on-roads.

Things can also spiral out of control should you choose to add carbon ceramic brakes at $15,000.

Either way, it’s a hefty premium over the M2 Competition manual ($102,900) or seven-speed DCT ($109,900) – but again, I would argue this is a special BMW, likely to attain collector’s status in the future.

Comparisons will likely be made within the BMW camp itself, namely with the M4 manual ($149,471) or auto-equipped M4 Competition ($159,471).

Rivals to the M2 CS remain few and far between, with only the stratospherically-priced Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 coming to mind from $210,100 before on-roads.

From left of field is the highly-involving Alpine A110 Pure from $101,000 before on-roads with a standard seven-speed DCT. It’s an exceptional driver’s car with looks to boot, but only comes with a 1.8-litre turbocharged four-pot and no rear seats.

What do you get?

Notwithstanding the tasty options fitted to our tester, the M2 CS is still well-equipped as standard, including:

  • Active M differential
  • Adaptive LED headlights
  • Adaptive M suspension with pre-configurable drive settings
  • Carbon-fibre bonnet
  • Carbon-fibre roof and door mirror caps
  • Carbon-fibre door handles and centre console
  • Carbon-fibre strut brace
  • Keyless entry and start
  • Adaptive dual-exhaust system in black chrome
  • 12-speaker, 360W Harmon Kardon sound system  
  • M Driver’s Package with 280km/h top speed
  • Electrically-adjustable M front sports seats in leather/Alcantara
  • Alcantara trim on dash and door cards
  • M Alcantara steering wheel with 12 o’clock centre marker
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Heated door mirrors with auto-dimming function
  • Auto headlights and wipers
  • Tinted LED tail lights
  • Single-zone air-conditioning
  • M2 CS door-sill plates
  • Electric seat adjustment with driver memory
  • Velour floor mats
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay
  • Digital radio (DAB+)
  • 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment display with iDrive

There’s only one standard exterior paint finish, which is the flat Alpine White, while the three optional Metallic colours are Black Sapphire, Misano Blue, and Hockenheim Silver.

Is the BMW M2 CS safe?

While the BMW M2 CS is based on the 2 Series Coupe, neither has been crash tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP – so there’s no safety rating for the car.

However, the M2 CS is equipped with six airbags, adaptive cruise control, a rear-view camera, tyre pressure monitor, speed limiter, and speed limit information.  

It also means the M2 CS misses out on the now-usual suite of active safety systems, including autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.

What is the BMW M2 CS like on the inside?

It’s not exactly a luxurious cabin befitting a $150,000 coupe, but the M2 CS gets all important stuff like truly superb race-style buckets with illuminated badges, along with some lacquered carbon-fibre panelling and Alcantara trim bits that really do make this cockpit pop.

The same could be said of the M steering wheel. It’s round like the old-school versions and wrapped in Alcantara, but unless you’ve got a pair of huge hands, you’re going to find its chunkiness confronting.

There’s no cutting-edge digital instrument display, super-sized infotainment screen, or head-up display, but what’s there is functional and gets the job done without any fuss.

The infotainment screen offers access through touch and the iDrive rotary controller with a fast, reliable interface for those not using wireless Apple CarPlay, which proved robust over the week.

For those with kids, the rear seats offer slightly more space than a Porsche 911, along with a perfectly practical boot with 390 litres of luggage capacity to utilise.

However, the M2 CS gets little in the way of convenient storage compartments up front in the cockpit.

There’s no centre console bin and very little space for phones, keys, and wallets beyond the twin cupholders and door bins. It can be annoying at times, especially if you’re using it as a daily.

What’s under the bonnet?

It’s the same wonderful S55 engine from the M2 Competition, only for this application it’s been optimised with more power and a broader torque band.

Shoehorned under that lightweight bonnet is a 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline-six making 331kW of power at 6250rpm (up 29kW on the Competition), and a thumping 550Nm of torque between 2350 and 5500rpm.

It’s rear-wheel drive only, of course.

Buyers who want maximum driver engagement will go with the standard six-speed manual, but those who want to exploit the engine’s ultimate potential and daily usability will choose the optional seven-speed dual-clutch on test.

At the end of the day there’s not a lot in it. The manual version can scoot from 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds, while the DCT needs just 4.0 seconds.

Top speed is up from 250km/h to 280km/h thanks to the standard inclusion of the M Driver’s Package.

How does the BMW M2 CS drive?

The theatrics starts from the moment you hit the red start button, effectively hidden on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. Don’t worry, any ergonomic flaws are quickly forgotten the instant the straight-six comes to life with its trademark bark.

There’s some proper race-bred intent in the start-up sequence; which has a more metallic note to it than the stock M2 Competition, before settling down in to that familiar quick-tempo idle we love so much about BMW M cars.

Before you get going, it pays to take some time to configure your ideal settings for the M1 and M2 preset buttons on the steering wheel. Take some time to get this right and you’ll be rewarded when conditions allow you to take advantage of the hotter dynamic settings on offer.

Here’s a tip; forget about the Efficient mode for the engine, because it robs the car of decent response and sound.

Our tester had been pre-configured with two very usable menus in my book. M1 was set to Sport engine, Comfort steering and comfort suspension and that’s Just about perfect for the daily drive, with engine response nice and quick and there’s some good characterful noise from the M-power six when you give it a bit.

If your car control is good by all means try Sport+, which ups the ante with far more aggressive throttle response and mid-range grunt on tap. It’s more playful (and fun) with a bit of rear axle wriggle action, but it simply doesn’t get the power down as well as it does in Sport on the road.

There’s very little turbo lag to speak of, even in Comfort, but once you’re in Sport or above it’s a non-issue completely. Put the boot in and the M2 CS accelerates with a satisfying level of ferocity, and keeps on pulling with the added bonus of superb throttle calibration and feel under foot.

I’m addicted to this thing and that angry snarl of the M motor.

However, even with the engine set to Comfort, at times there’s some jerkiness at crawling pace. It didn’t really bother me, but rest assured this is a BMW that likes a more assertive approach to driving.

It’s a different kettle of fish when it comes to steering weight. Even in Comfort, the M2 CS is meaty enough, and quick enough for some spirited corner carving when conditions permit. Sport is almost too heavy unless you’re on track.

That said, you can’t always get the feedback you’d like through the steering wheel. You’ll get some idea of what the front wheels are doing, but it’s nowhere near as accurate as what you get behind the wheel of Porsche 911, or the BMW icons the M2 CS follows.

Don’t get me wrong, the M2 CS can string a series of tight bends together as well as anything this side of $200,000 and there’s little, if any, understeer.

In fact it’s exceptional in that regard, even on uneven road surfaces and wearing Cup 2 tyres with less than the ideal heat in them. Shows you how good this chassis is, given the car is so beautifully pointed and sharp at the front end.

Remembering this is a hardcore Beemer for enthusiasts, the suspension compliance is what I was hoping for on Sydney’s very average roads.

There’s good bump absorption over smaller potholes and broken edges, particularly in the Comfort setting.

Switch to Sport and the suspension is noticeably firmer, but there’s still a decent level of compliance remaining, enough to iron out all but the harshest impediments. Part of that is down the fact the M2 CS runs on lightweight 19-inch wheels and not the 20s that are so common these days.

That’s a plus in more ways than one.

With 400mm brake discs and six-pot calipers up front, there’s no issue with stopping power. We gave them a decent prod at times, but I’d argue initial bite could invoke a tad more pedal feel that you get.

How much does the BMW M2 CS cost to run?

Unlike Mercedes-Benz, which offers a five-year warranty, BMW only offers a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty across its range.

Buyers can also choose an a five-year/80,000km service package for $2869 for the Basic cover, which still includes consumables such as engine oil and filters.

Opting for the more comprehensive Plus package for $8497 adds front and rear brake discs and pads, clutch discs and plates, as well as wiper blades.

Factory fuel consumption claims vary from 10.3L/100km for the manual to 9.6L/100km for the DCT-equipped M2 CS tested here.

CarExpert’s Take on the BMW M2 CS

It’s not up to me to tell you if the M2 CS is worth the sizeable premium its asks above the standard M2 Competition, but the fact it’s a limited-run of just 84 examples guarantees exclusivity in this market.

I’ve only seen one other on the road since the launch.

Add to that the kick-ass looks and profile, the extensive use of lightweight composites in its construction, as well as its beautifully-tuned chassis and engine, it’s a very, very tempting proposition indeed, if only you can get your hands on one.

I also happen to know the M2 CS is the favourite choice of BMW M GmbH boss, Markus Flasch. Not a bad endorsement from a guy who has plenty of full-fat M cars to choose from.

But it’s not without flaws, either, such as the lack of space for odds and ends, and the sometimes jittery first-gear starts in traffic, but you also learn to live with those fairly quickly.

Click the images for the full gallery

MORE: Everything BMW M2

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