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Full Review – 2021 BMW M2 CS

Adam Allen Writer - Carpages.ca

A fitting farewell for the current BMW 2-series generation

Words by: Adam Allen

CS does not stand for Charmingly Serene or Criminally Subdued.

No, it sure doesn’t. The BMW CS (which actually stands for Club Sport) is neither serene nor subdued. If it were, it wouldn’t be nearly as remarkable as it is. Never mind that BMW is only building 2,200 of them which will ensure they will be exceedingly rare and therefore guaranteeing ‘special’ status. Our tester was blessed with a manual transmission, which will make it rarer still. Do you remember the BMW 1M from 2011? It too was an incredibly special car and it left an indelible mark on enthusiasts and collectors alike. Fun fact: you could have bought and driven that car for the last decade and sold it for pretty much what you paid for it. This M2 CS- the last of the current 2-series generation- has the same alignment of unique attributes and lofty fun to drive metrics that made the 1M such a hit.

Why would I spend a bunch more money and buy this over an M2 Competition? Just saying.

It’s a good point, and usually our sage advice would tell you that special edition cars, be they produced in volumes generous or scant, are usually not worth your time. There’s likely a legion of late 1990’s Chevy Blazer owners who perhaps wished they’d have shelled out the money for an LT trimmed version rather than the collaboration model with Rockport shoes. Simply put, they are a means for the marketing department to justify the immense amount of money they’re allocated and to try and grab just a few more sales on a car that isn’t much different than the one its based on. Our first concern: it’s common for cars like this that require you to pay more for less stuff with a so-called benefit to performance as justification- while looking at the spec sheet was that the M2 CS didn’t come with basic stuff that you would darn near insist be standard in every car on sale today, especially at this price point. Stuff like keyless entry and even a driver’s armrest. But where BMW taketh away, BMW giveth back a centre console and transmission tunnel made of carbon fibre, and even the rear diffuser and the roof are all composed of the ultra-light but super strong material. It also comes with achingly beautiful gold 19” wheels shod in Michelin Sport Cup 2 rubber (our tester was equipped with a winter tire package so they didn’t come on our tester) plus it’s the first M2 to be endowed with adaptive dampers. The chassis has stayed mostly the same- why change anything when its rather excellent as is?- but the engine has been upgraded to the S58 twice turbocharged 3.0 inline six from the current M3/M4 twins. We never complained about a lack of power previously; it’s likely anyone did but now you’ll be hard pressed to kvetch about nearly 450 horsepower in a little package. It is Munich’s take on the muscle car: stuff a seriously powerful engine into one of the smallest cars you make and watch as hilarity ensues. So yes, while there is a premium you’ll pay over the M2 Competition, we say it’s worth it, even more so if this car ends up holding its value like the 1M that preceded it.  

The Ultimate Driving Machine. Remember those days?

We have very fond memories of that time where every single car BMW built catered to enthusiasts in one way or another like a secret handshake. But the winds of change are gonna blow no matter what, and so today we have a BMW lineup that is starkly different from twenty plus years ago. What you see now is a portfolio boasting a lot more SUVs which are sold alongside cars that cater to an audience more interested in isolated luxury than sporting DNA. For those wanting something less bland, any BMW salesperson worth their salt will happily walk you over to the part of the showroom where M cars are sold- problem solved, right? Not exactly. We have never been shy about professing our love for pretty much anything with an M badge, but when your peddling a 600-plus horsepower SUV that looks like it’s fighting severe back pain (cough, cough, X6 M) you begin to wonder where priorities lie. Almost every car carrying an M badge is simply too powerful, its limits too high to approach in everyday driving. Luckily the M2 CS is a pharmaceutical grade antidote for stuff like this. It is, without a doubt, the best M car you can buy today and it’s usable too. Should you ever find yourself needing to explain to anyone what it was like to drive one of those greats from the past, throw ‘em the keys to this baby.

It's not THAT different than the M2 Competition, so how could it possibly be that much better to drive?

Look, the M2 Competition is not exactly a blunt instrument to drive, nor is it slow. The CS picks up where that car left off which had previously set the bar high. The two biggest changes are found in the chassis and under the hood. Like we said, this is the first 2-series to be fitted with adaptive dampers, and to say they are transformative is an understatement. The CS does away with the punishing ride of the Competition and somehow manages to give you some much appreciated compliance. That’s an accomplishment to be sure, but the fact that grip levels so not suffer at the expense of this newfound comfort is even more impressive. Also impressive is the thrust the 3.0 litre inline six sends to the rear wheels, hardly surprising given that they come fromM3/M4 twins, cars that are bigger and weigh more. Again, the M2 Comp was hardly pokey but this engine takes the proceedings to the next level. As far as turbocharged engines go, this is one of the best. And it gets better- our tester had a 6-speed manual transmission that was an absolute joy to use. Those obsessed with numbers will want the BMW M-DCT dual clutch unit, but we couldn’t fathom ordering this car with anything but the stick. Couple that with very short gearing- you almost never need to downshift to make a pass- and you have a car that’s piano wire taut and responsive but won’t tax you for the pleasure. This is a car that has towering- but approachable- limits and demands the skilled hands of a driver who knows what they’re doing. Yet its so well balanced and so predictable that it led is to declare it to be the most controllable car in performing gracefully executed drifts on sale today. We only drove this car on the street, so we were only able to experience a small glimpse of what this car is capable of. In order to truly appreciate the M2 CS as a whole, you must take it to the track. Finally, the brakes are so good and so easily modulated that you wonder why anyone would choose the ceramic option.

What might go wrong?

Are you the type who likes to use your sports car on a long road trip? If so, you may want to reconsider your next long haul because ‘relaxed’ and M2 CS do not coexist in the same sentence. There’s a good amount of road and wind noise and the engine spins a busy 3,000 rpm at highway speeds. And forget about resting your right arm because there’s no armrest. Now, we’re all for shedding weight in the context of chasing performance. But how much could an armrest really weigh, especially if it was made of carbon fibre? We’d welcome it back and not lose a wink of sleep on what effect the added pounds would have on lap times. Same goes for the lack of proximity entry. The car already has a key fob and push button start. Last time we checked, the few lines of digital code needed to make this feature possible weigh….nothing. That leaves us with one sizable gripe that is not just an annoyance but puzzling. See, our M2 CS came with a system that provides rev matched downshifts and in all honesty, the system works quite well. But we’re always keen to flex our shifting proficiency and thus prefer to blip the throttle on our own, especially when the gearbox and engine are this brilliant. Here’s the problem: if you want to do that for yourself, you have to switch off stability control. That’s right, the very same tech that’s designed to save your bacon and allow you to safely explore the car’s limits must be deactivated in order for you to rev match on your own. This, in a very powerful car with a short wheelbase that may tend to be driven in winter weather as we did. We’re incredulous how such an oversight occurred on such a spectacular car (especially one whose sole purpose is to deliver as much driving pleasure as possible) but when a Civic Type R will not force you to choose with a deactivated setting in the infotainment, we’re left wondering why BMW didn’t follow a similar path.

Should I buy an M2 CS?

If you have unshakable remorse and are prone to debilitating bouts of FOMO because of a missed opportunity to purchase the glorious 1M from a decade past, you have probably put your order in for this car already. The simple truth is that cars like this are few and far between from BMW- from anyone, for that matter. Do we have another 1M type of scenario followed up by the M2 CS? It’s hard to tell, we’re fairly certain that people will be talking about this gem long after production has ceased. Sure, there is going to be some hesitation when you factor in the lack of some basic equipment and the relatively dear price tag. The old adage of ‘you pay for what you get’ rings very true in this situation and the M2 CS nets you a lot of car that will never fail to put a smile on your face no matter the situation. In times like these where experiences that deliver unbridled joy are in short supply, there may never be a better time to grab an M2 CS. We knew we would enjoy this car, but we weren’t prepared for how much we were smitten by it.

2021 BMW M2 CS- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $99,595
  • Body Type: 2-door, 4 passenger sports coupe
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Engine:  3.0-litre turbocharged inline-6, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  444 @ 6,250 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 406 @ 2,350 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,608 kg (3,545 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 12.1 L/100km (19 mpg)