When you’re surrounded by cars most of the time and you review cars for a living, you’re rather spoiled. Not a lot of things get you excited anymore. Sure, you feel grateful for what you get to do on a daily basis and you appreciate it, but the truth of the matter is that most modern cars just don’t get your adrenaline flowing. They’re filled with technology and all kinds of safety features but have lost touch with what it means to be fun and involve the driver. So, naturally, when you get invited to a BMW event held at the Bahrain International Circuit, and the briefing says you’ll be driving the new M2 Competition and M5 Competition out of all things, you don’t hesitate in saying “Yes, please!”.
BMW M2 Competition
The BMW M2 is probably the most exciting small car currently on the market. Just think of its main rivals and you’ll no doubt agree with me. Most of its opponents have four-cylinders (A45, CLA45, RS3, Golf R) and either front or all-wheel drive. In that regard, the BMW M2 is the only true driver’s car with a six-cylinder and rear-wheel drive, the hallowed ground for car enthusiasts.
The BMW M2 was initially designed as a successor to the now-iconic BMW 1M Coupe, but in terms of power-to-weight, it was actually closer to its bigger brother, the M4. Although the rumors of a new BMW M2 CS model which would slot above the regular M2 turned out to be just that, rumors, we did, in fact, get an upgraded car in the form of the M2 Competition. And if you thought that this was just a marketing trick by BMW, a gimmick if you will, you’re in for a treat. The Competition brings a lot of new stuff to the table, including a vastly different power unit.
First thing’s first thought, let’s start with the exterior. The twin-kidney grille is now larger, the splitter has been revised and the honeycomb mesh is slightly different. Both the headlights and the taillights use BMW’s new adaptive LED technology too. The 19-inch bespoke rims reduce unsprung weight by quite a margin as BMW claims.
Changes are less obvious inside, as the M2 Competition doesn’t get a roll-cage or special race-spec seats. Instead, it features a redesigned instrument cluster, red M1/M2 buttons on the wheel and carbon-fiber trim as standard. You can also spot several M2 badges scattered around the cabin easier.
The real changes the Competition package brings to the table are obvious once you lift the bonnet. The 3-liter twin-turbocharged straight-six is actually the same engine as the one found in the M4. In the Competition, it now makes 404 horsepower and 500 Nm of torque. That’s an additional 39 horsepower over the standard M2 and just 16 horsepower shy of the old E92 M3, although thanks to some 170 more Nm of torque, it’s a lot faster than the last M3. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch. The latter is quicker but the former is more fun and involving.
Changes don’t stop there, however. The Competition also features a high-precision carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic strut and bulkhead strut for increased rigidity, a new cooling system, and a two-pass exhaust. The brakes are identical as the normal M2 but the M Sport optional brakes means the Competition gets larger discs and calipers.
On the track, the changes are immediately apparent. This isn’t just an M2 that’s been slightly tweaked, it’s a whole new beast. It wants to change direction at the slightest turn of the wheel. It’s actually more agile and nimble than the M4 at low-speed corners. The grip coming out of turns is mega, so you can use all of the available power. Naturally, if you want to be a hooligan and light up the rear wheels you can, even in third gear. A mountain of torque means it effortlessly picks up from anywhere in the rev range.
Well done BMW, you’ve truly outdone yourself. If anything, the Competition moniker is misleading as it hints at a mere upgrade package, but the M2 Competition feels like an entirely new model in the lineup.
BMW M5 Competition
We then got to drift the M5 on water, and boy was that a profound experience. Naturally, like the M2, the M5 Competition gets a host of interior and exterior upgrades over the standard car (new wheels, black diffusers, adjustable sport seats, etc.), but that’s not what really matters. With the new M5 Competition, as with any previous M5, it’s the drivetrain that counts. And what a drivetrain it is.
The revised 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 now churns out 614 horsepower and, get this, 750 Nm of torque. The official figures are as follows: 0-100 km/h in 3.3 seconds and a governed top speed of 300 km/h. Power is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed M-Steptronic transmission and BMW’s brilliant xDrive system. The latter can be switched off, turning the M5 into a proper rear-wheel drive beast. Expect tire spin in third and even fourth if you really want it to.
On a wet skidpan, with the xDrive system, it’s thoroughly planted. It will drift if you really provoke it, but the long wheelbase coupled with that AWD system means it’s so predictable anyone can master it. It breaks traction in a way you expect it to, and it’s so easy to get it back in line I kept forgetting I was driving on a wet surface. Turn the systems and the AWD system off and it’s a different ball game though. It’s still as predictable and adjustable, but it does require a bit more talent to keep it from swapping ends. Power delivery is instantaneous and the steering-wheel gives tons of feedback.
This is without a doubt the best M5 ever made, both subjectively and objectively. BMW has just put Mercedes on the back-foot with the new M5 Competition.