2020 BMW M2 CS review: One-upping itself

Not only is the M2 one of the best-driving BMWs, it’s one of the best-looking, too.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The M2 Competition is my favorite BMW, so obviously I’m pretty jazzed about the M2 CS. It’s faster and sharper than the standard Competition, and a little bit lighter, too. It’s a more focused version of an already delightful performance car. And you can even get it with gold wheels. Awesome.

LikeSuper-sharp handlingGreat turbocharged powerOne of BMW’s better designsGold wheels!

Don’t LikeSuper expensive with optionsExhaust doesn’t sound all that greatNo Android Auto

The CS uses the same 3.0-liter twin-turbo I6 as the M2 Comp — BMW’s S55 engine for you internal-code nerds. Horsepower jumps from 405 in the Competition to 444 in the CS, but both cars make an identical 406 pound-feet of torque. The low-end thrust fully arrives at 2,350 rpm, meaning there’s little in the way of lag when launching. The CS’ 0-to-60-mph time clocks in at 3.8 seconds, making it 0.2 seconds quicker than the M2 Competition. Negligible stuff.

The CS gets a dual-branch exhaust design with electronically controlled valves. This makes it louder than the M2 Competition, but it also makes the CS sound a lot like the M3 and M4, which isn’t a compliment. You can turn up the volume on the exhaust note if you want, but this is one case where it doesn’t really seem necessary. The M2 CS actually sounds better when it’s quiet. Weird, I know.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard and it’s the correct choice. I say that having spent a week with a DCT-equipped M2 CS, which offers smooth, quick shifts at speed, but is kind of a pain in the ass to live with day to day. There’s no torque converter to get the CS rolling at idle when you take your foot off the gas, so pulling away from a stoplight can be a little jerky. The car will even lurch backwards if you’re on an incline, which is to be expected with a manual, but can sometimes catch you off guard with an automatic. Oh, and the DCT option adds $2,900 to the CS’ bottom line. Yes, it makes the M2 CS 0.2 seconds quicker to 60 mph than the manual car, but seriously, who cares? I’ll take driver engagement over bragging rights any day.

BMW’s Adaptive M suspension tech comes standard on the CS, but it doesn’t do much to really distance this car from the M2 Competition. You can toggle between Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus settings, all of which are pretty stiff. But honestly, there isn’t enough of a meaningful difference between the three modes to really warrant frequent fiddling. Maybe Sport Plus is slightly better than Sport on a race track. Maybe.

No-cost gold wheels? Definitely. $8,500 ceramic brakes? Ehh.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

All the reasons why I enjoy driving the M2 Competition are still plenty alive in the CS. It’s a nimble little thing with quick reflexes and appropriately heavy steering, plus the thick strut brace under the hood keeps the nose nice and stiff so it’ll change directions lickity split. The CS has the Competition’s active locking rear differential, which can vary power delivery between the rear wheels, giving you better grip while cornering and improved stability on slippery surfaces. The CS also rides on Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tires, which are a godsend as far as performance rubbers are concerned and they do a lot to let the M2 really hang on during high-speed cornering.

Carbon ceramic brakes are available, which provide longer-lasting stopping power without fade. They aren’t as squealy and hard to modulate as some of BMW’s prior ceramic brake efforts, but they also cost a whopping $8,500, so choose wisely. If the M2 CS isn’t going to be your track car, maybe skip this option.

The DCT and ceramic brakes are about it as far as optional equipment is concerned, save for premium paint choices like my test car’s $550 Misano Blue. Even the gold wheels are a no-cost choice, meaning you should definitely choose them. I’m getting a total Subaru rally vibe from the blue-and-gold combo, by the way. Hubba hubba.

Aside from a few extra carbon fiber bits, the CS’ interior is the same as the standard M2.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The M2 CS gets a whole bunch of carbon fiber bits, all of which help reduce weight. The vented hood, roof and extra aero components are all made from this super-light material, as are a number of interior pieces like the center console and transmission tunnel. The CS ditches the M2’s center armrest for the sake of another pound or two and there’s a generous helping of Alcantara suede on the dashboard, doors and steering wheel. All told, the CS is 55 pounds lighter than an equivalent M2 Competition, which is a fair amount of heft-removal, even though a DCT-equipped CS still weighs 3,600 pounds.

Functionally speaking, the CS has the same tradeoffs as the standard M2 Competition. The trunk is small and there are only a couple of small places to store items inside the cabin. BMW didn’t go so far as to remove the rear seats, but they’re better left for backpacks and grocery bags than actual adult humans, anyway. The CS’ 8.8-inch central touchscreen runs the same, last-generation iDrive tech as the base M2, meaning embedded navigation and Apple CarPlay¬†are on offer, but Android Auto is nowhere to be found. The CS can’t be had with some of the M2 Comp’s more luxurious niceties, either, like a wireless charging pad or heated steering wheel. Driver-assistance features are on the sparse side, too, but given the CS’ performance-focused mission, I’m OK with that.

Great car. Expensive car.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The CS is a real sweetie and it only furthers my love for the M2 line as a whole. Problem is, it costs $84,595 including $995 for destination, making it $24,700 more expensive than a base M2 Competition. Add in the premium paint, dual-clutch transmission and ceramic brakes — all of which are fitted to my test car — and you’re looking at $96,545. That’s a bunch of money for a 2 Series and puts the M2 CS well into the territory of much more capable sports cars. If I’m spending that much, I’m getting a Porsche 718 Cayman GTS with the new 4.0-liter engine.

On the other hand, a 2021 BMW M2 Competition painted in Long Beach Blue with the manual transmission and Executive Package slides in at $61,645 including destination. And since the CS’ tweaks don’t really raise the M2’s performance to a new level, it’s hard to argue against that kind of value. Besides, the M2 CS is a one-year, limited-run deal and I’m sure the vast majority of the US allotment is already spoken for. The CS is great, but like I said earlier, the M2 Comp is my favorite BMW. Guess I’ll just need to source a set of gold wheels.


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