The greatest BMW in a generation has been all but snapped-up here in Australia, with just two examples of the M2 CS remaining on sale.
The BMW M2 CS is a throwback to when BMW had a much clearer idea of what kind of cars they really wanted to build: small, light, often two-door cars with rear-wheel-drive and an inline six-cylinder engine.
These days, BMW has amazing bandwidth, with a huge range spanning from the entry-level 1 Series hatch through to the X7 three-row SUV. There are plenty of highlights in the current lineup, with favourites including the G20 3 Series and the G05 X5.
However, fans of the brand have been frustrated in recent years by a campaign at BMW to pivot the focus to new avenues that don’t jibe with the usually quiet sophistication of the Bavarian marque: think the attention-seeking grille on the new 4 Series and the bloated-looking new iX electric SUV.
But squirreled away in Munich there remains an engineering A-team at BMW who haven’t forgotten what has traditionally made this brand so highly regarded in the field of driving dynamics – and that team was responsible for the 2021 BMW M2 CS.
The CS, or Club Sport, is the swan song of the F87-generation BMW M2, the lightest two-door rear-drive model in the BMW Motorsport range since its introduction in 2016.
Initially launched with a 272kW N55-series three-litre inline-six cylinder petrol engine, the M2 was refined in Competition trim, where the old M4’s S55 engine making 302kW was subbed in and the damping was refined considerably.
Now, as BMW farewells the F87 M2 in anticipation of the new 2 Series arriving in 2022, the M2 CS turns the heat up to the full 331kW whack offered in the previous M3 and M4.
But that’s not all: a swathe of carbon lightens the CS at strategic points, while the suspension and steering get another going over in the interest of offering the most driver engagement in any BMW on sale today.
Has it worked? Well, despite the additional $30,000 to $40,000 premium over the already superb M2 Competition, nearly the entire Australian allocation of the CS has already been snapped up – largely by BMW aficionados. Just two demonstrators remain.
The M2 CS reminds you of why BMW’s pure rear-drive, inline-six layout is such magic. Nested within the compact 4.46-metre frame of the M2, BMW’s strong S55 engine offers such fine control over the attitude of the rear-driven chassis. The driver is an integral part of the M2 CS experience.
That’s the case whether you opt for a six-speed manual or the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that commands about a $7,800 penalty. Alacritous and manually controllable through large, metallic paddles, even the auto offers a good level of engagement, though our preference would be for the stick-shift – even if it’s not as fast.
Producing 331kW of power and 550Nm of torque, there’s no shortage of propulsive effect and the claimed 4 second 0-100km/h time feels accurate if not a little conservative – if you’re able to find traction.
Our test car’s optional gold wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 racing tyres made for incredible grip on the few dry days of our loan, but in a mostly wet week the combination made for a few hair-razing – but ultimately giggle-inducing – oversteer moments.
Endeared with BMW M’s terrific MDM halfway-house stability control mode, this hugely torquey vehicle when equipped with semislick tyres allows hair-trigger control of the attitude of the rear end – via the throttle pedal.
The steering itself is more feelsome than just about any other BMW of the last ten years, with a fast ratio and chatty feedback from the surface beneath – but it’s the adjustability on throttle that is the defining characteristic of the handling of the CS.
That’s also a feature of the M2 Competition, which shares the same 550Nm whack of torque but trails the CS on power to the tune of about ten per cent.
So powerful is the ful-fat S55 engine that the M2 CS at times doesn’t feel turbocharged: sure, there is more than ample shove at low RPMs, but wind the engine right out and it’ll touch its 7,600rpm fuel cut in a blaze of sonorous glory.
Where the CS feels more focussed than the Competition is in the suspension, with even higher spring rates strictly limiting wheel travel. There are adaptive dampers but even the softest of three settings feels more than firm enough for traversing Sydney streets, but on a country road or track, the hunkered-down stance and deeply disciplined body control pay dividends. There’s no roll to speak of.
Our test car was not fitted with the $15,000-optional carbon ceramic brakes though we did experience their fade-free bite on sustained hot runs at Phillip Island earlier this year in a CS equipped with the manual gearbox.
For most purposes the standard brakes, measuring a huge 400mm in front disc diameter, provide more than sufficient stopping power.
There is plenty of road noise and chop from bumps in the road and nobody will confuse the M2 CS for a refined luxury car – and for some it may be too much to daily.
But the comfortable, low-slung, legs-forward driving position, supple merino leather seats and grippy alcantara steering wheel all cosset like they should.
Being based on BMW’s older small-car platform, the M2 CS distantly trails the competition – cars like the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 – on safety tech. You won’t find adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance or blind spot monitoring here – and for many buyers that will be just the way they like it.
The cabin of the M2 CS is effectively that of the underlying BMW 2 Series, though with some concessions for weight-saving.
We say some, because BMW didn’t go the whole hog and turn this into a CSL – or Club Sport Light. Merino leather seats with electric adjustment and memory, an 8.8-inch touchscreen, and Harman Kardon audio are all still here.
What you will notice as missing is a centre armrest, which is removed in favour of a slick carbon-fibre belt line down the centre of the cabin, and climate control, which is subbed out in favour of a simple single-zone air conditioner.
Likewise, there are several trim panels cast from alcantara rather than leather or plastic but in the end, the M2 CS weighs the same 1,543kg as the M2 Competition. Most of the effort to simplify the interior is cosmetic and intended to create the picture of the CS as a final nod to analogue driving dynamics.
We appreciated the terrific seats of the M2 CS, which cosset for a few hours at a time – which is all you’ll get before the small petrol tank is drained in any case. The quality of the black leather is excellent and there is a plenty of adjustment.
While the older-generation BMW steering wheel looks good, though, the diameter is too wide and the rim a little too thick for our tastes. The metallic paddle shifters add a tactile touch, though.
Driving the infotainment is a generation-or-two old version of the BMW iDrive software but it works perfectly, allowing a choice of casting wireless Apple CarPlay or using the car’s intuitive menu systems instead.
Handsome analogue dials sit ahead of the driver with just enough digital information presented beneath the 300km/h-indicated speedo.
You do get a couple of cupholders and a single USB-A port and there are small door bins. Plus, there is a (folding) back seat that is actually spacious enough for adults thanks to the two-door sedan silhouette of the car, but we think most will use this area for extra bag storage.
No serious performance car is cheap to run if you intend to exploit the dynamics of the vehicle with regularity.
That goes for the M2 CS, which will consume 98-octane petrol, tyres and other consumables with ferocity if you intend to track the car.
Fuel consumption is not great at about 10L/100km combined or around 15L/100km when driven with intent on road. And only the priciest petrol will do.
Likewise, you can save some money by purchasing a prepaid servicing plan – but “save” is a relative term, with a basic oil and filter package priced at around $2,800 for five years and 80,000km of coverage, while a more inclusive package that caters for clutch and brake replacements is priced at about $8,500 for the same timeframe.
Still, these costs are realistic.
Less impressive is the limited three year warranty on the M2 CS. Mercedes-AMG have moved the game on with their more generous five years of coverage.
For the BMW collector the M2 CS will be a “had to have” proposition. In decades hence we’ll look back at this car sitting alongside the E30 M3 and E39 M5 as one of the greats of BMW’s Motorsport division.
Like the underlying M2 the CS has some identifiable flaws, but the package has been so refined after six years that the experience feels so complete.
The CS is composed, entertaining, and engaging on every level. If you’re sitting on the fence on one of the remaining examples, we suggest diving in.
Key specs (as tested)
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