After driving the BMW M2 CS on some killer roads outside Monticello Motor Club, I knew I needed to drive it again. My two half-hour drives were far too brief for a car as special as a manual-equipped M2 CS. So prior to leaving Monticello, and BMW’s Test Fest, I asked our press fleet contact there if it were possible to get that very M2 CS on a longer-term test, as we usually do. He told me it was possible but scheduling was a bit tricky.
See, that gorgeous Alpine White BMW M2 CS with its delicious manual gearbox was actually scheduled to head out to L.A. only a couple of weeks after that, a time period in which I already had test cars booked. So trying to squeeze the M2 CS in was going to be tricky. However, I knew I had to get it done because it would be the last time I’d ever see that M2 CS again, thus my last chance to test it properly. Considering that specific M2 CS is the only one in BMW’s fleet with a manual transmission, I knew I had to drive it.
Thankfully, we made it work and I had the chance to pick the car up and keep it for four days, in between other test cars. During those four days, I drove it quite a bit and now that I’ve driven the BMW M2 CS as much as I have — on both road and track, with both manual and DCT — I know exactly what the car’s all about.
Best by a Little is Still the Best
There’s no doubt in my mind — the BMW M2 CS is the very best driving Bavarian product on the market. Forget the BMW M8 Competition, with its world-destroying performance. It’s the M2 CS you want to properly drive.
Though, that’s because the M2 CS is built on an already excellent foundation. This current M2 Competition, the standard M2 in the model range, is already a brilliant daily sports car. So you’d imagine that adding a carbon fiber roof, a carbon fiber hood, more power and all-new adaptive dampers would make it an ever better driver’s car. And you’d be right. But what you might not imagine is that it also make it better to drive on a daily basis.
Somehow, the wizards in Garching have been able to make the M2 CS both firmer and more comfortable. So its body rolls less, it feels more composed, and it’s quite a bit more capable than the standard M2 Competition and yet it actually rides better over bumpy pavement.
The knee-jerk reaction is to just assume that the reason is why is its adaptive suspension, so you can stick it into Comfort mode, while the normal M2 Comp is stuck with passive dampers. However, the M2 CS’ adaptive shocks are far better tuned than most others from BMW I’ve driven before. Maybe I’m just smitten by the charms of the M2 CS but it rides better than even the previous-gen M3 and M4, by a good margin. Regardless of my feelings, it’s objectively a more comfortable riding car than the standard M2 Competition. I drove them back-to-back and there’s a difference.
On the road, the handling benefits of the BMW M2 CS are negligible, if I’m being honest. That’s because the M2 Competition is already capable of tackling any sort of on-road behavior you can throw at it, unless you plan on spending Christmas in jail. However, when you get it out on track, and can push it past your usual limits, you’re met with a car that’s so shockingly capable, you wonder how it and the M2 Competition are related.
Last I drove an M2 Competition on track, it was in the dry and it was a proper handful. It was getting sideways under power on corner exit without even trying. Yet, I drove the M2 CS on track in the pouring rain and it felt infinitely more confidence-inspiring. I honestly have not idea how BMW has managed that but I wasn’t the only on at Monticello to feel that way, so I know I’m not crazy.
That said, the adding handling benefits of the M2 CS aren’t as noticeable as you might hope when you’re actually driving it on the road, in the real world. And that’s really what the M2 CS — a road car. Unless you’re a millionaire, you’re not going to take your nearly six-figure, special edition BMW — that’s going to appreciate over time if kept in good condition — and thrash it on a race track. It’s just not realistic. Let’s be real — few M2 CS’ are even going to see the road, never mind a race track. They’re likely going to be bought, locked up for a few years while they appreciate and then sold on Bring-a-Trailer with eleven miles on their odometers for forty percent more than what they were bought for.
So as good as the M2 CS is on track, its impressive capabilities aren’t as important on how it drives on the road.
Special Feelings Matter
Having said that, even though the M2 CS is only marginally better than the M2 Competition on the road, it’s still better. Its steering is a schooch sharper, its more composed suspension not only makes it more comfortable but also makes it feel more stable when pushing it and its added power does make it a bit faster in the real world.
What really makes the M2 CS stand out is how much more special it feels, though. That massive Alcantara wheel (which is still far, far too big — it’s like grabbing a python), its killer sport seats and its carbon fiber transmission tunnel all constantly remind you that you’re in something special. And that’s just while sitting still.
The M2 CS’ exhaust is louder, there’s less sound deadening material on the inside and it seems (to my ears at least) as if BMW either toned down the speaker/exhaust fakery or eliminated it altogether. So it feels like a proper, raw sports car, even while driving slowly. While the exhaust noise is merely good, not great, it still sounds raucous and loud, which makes it more exciting to thrash around.
Looks Matter Too
While this might sound a bit silly, the BMW M2 CS looks fantastic and better that the M2 Competition. Its killer gold wheels, black and carbon fiber accents and its extra aero make the CS look like a proper menace. The M2 Comp is already a butch, angry looking car but the M2 CS looks even more ready for a fight. That matters because walking up to it, and away from it, never got old. Not once during my four days with it did I fail to smile and giggle upon seeing it. I don’t do that with many cars.
Like all things in life, the BMW M2 CS isn’t perfect. Far from it, in fact. The interior, while cool looking and special feeling, is frustrating. The steering wheel is just too thick. Does BMW think the average human hand looks like a batch of bananas? It’s absurd. Also, the seats, while great sport seats, are too slender. I’m a little fella, only 5’9″ and 165 lbs, but the seats were snug on me while in their widest setting. So a bigger person will struggle.
More frustrating, though, is the lack of any sort of usable center console. Sure, it has cupholders but no wireless charging and no place to actually put your phone. That sounds trivial but it matters. If you have to charge your phone, you get a little USB port behind the handbrake but once your phone is plugged in, nowhere to actually put it. There’s a little tray just ahead of the cupholders but it’s too small for anything bigger than an iPhone 4 and the material is too slippery, so your phone will go sliding all over the place, all the while the cable is getting wrapped around the shifter you’re trying to use. There’s also no real armrest there, so you have to sink your shoulder to touch your elbow to the Alcantara-covered console. While that’s fine for me, because I’m short and sit as low as possible, it might be uncomfortable for taller drivers.
Now I’m not an idiot (my wife might not agree), I get that the M2 CS is supposed to be lighter, which is why there’s no center console. However, the M2 CS isn’t that much lighter than the Competition. The extra pound two pounds of center console-armrest-cubby weight wouldn’t have made a difference. That’s what’s frustrating, as it seems like the lack of storage was done just to give the M2 CS the illusion of being some ultra-lightweight, stripped out sports car like a 911 GT3 RS, so BMW salespeople can pitch it to customers.
The exhaust should sound better, too. It sounds as good as an S55 engine can sound, I guess, but that’s still a bit disappointing in a car that’s as special to drive as the M2 CS.
It’s also too expensive. At around $83,000, it’s pushing entry-level Porsche 911 money and the 911 is faster (even in base spec), more luxurious on the inside and arguably an even better driver’s car. It’s also more than $20,000 more expensive than the M2 Competition and I’m sorry, but it doesn’t drive twenty-grand better.
Is It Worth Buying Over the M2 Competition?
Nope. It’s a definitive answer — no, the BMW M2 CS is not worth buying over the M2 Competition. That’s not to say I don’t love the car because I do. But I also love the M2 Competition and it’s a helluva lot cheaper. Unless you earn your living with race winnings, there’s no point in getting the M2 CS over the already brilliant M2 Competition.
Sure, it rides better and it looks better but $5,000 worth of mods and you can make an M2 Competition look and drive every bit as good as the M2 CS. New adjustable coilovers from a brand like KW or Bilstein and a Comp will handle and ride just as well as a CS, if not better. Hell, splurge and spend $10,000 and you’re still $12,000 in the black, versus an M2 CS. Take that extra money and go on a road trip with your kick-ass new M2 Competition.
The BMW M2 CS is a brilliant driver’s car, it truly is. Because it’s ever-so-slightly better to drive on the road than the M2 Competition, it’s technically the best driving BMW on the market. But that’s only because its starting point is already so fantastic. So it’s just not worth spending all of that extra money on something that’s a bit better. That said, I’m genuinely thrilled I had the chance to spend a few days with it.
2021 BMW M2 CS
Exterior Appeal – 9
The BMW M2 CS is the best driving BMW on sale at the moment but only by a bit. Its high price tag makes it an tough sell over the already excellent BMW M2 Competition.
This content was originally published here.