The year 2016 might not have been the watershed moment for some, but for us automotive journalists, we finally got acquainted with the BMW 1M Coupe’s successor, the M2. Now the former was the entry-point into the M car range at the time and shared a great deal of componentry with the then E92 M3 - the suspension and brakes among others. Thus, it was an incredible car to drive. Stubby in size with a short wheelbase, front engine and rear-wheel drive layout all connected via a 6-speed manual - it was motoring nirvana.
As such, the M2 had big shoes to fill, so when I was tossed the keys to review it for my then publication, I always had the 1M Coupe as my reference point. Boasting even beefier looks and a wider track than its predecessor, the M2 was impressive, but it was decidedly missing something. For me, everything else was there - from the suspension to the brakes, to the M differential - but the engine lacked fizz. This was mainly because the M2 didn’t feature a bespoke M engine, but instead had an M Performance derived powerplant from the M240i. Don’t get me wrong, it had all the urge you could hope for, but it never felt as awake as that S55 engine from the outgoing F82 M4.
Thankfully, this anomaly was swiftly addressed with the more impressive M2 Competition, which borrowed that much-vaunted S55 engine in a slightly detuned form of 302kW. However, it still had the 550Nm and that spikey power delivery that some loathed, but I absolutely adored, brought a layer of enjoyment that simply lacked in the standard M2. As though just warming up as a prelude, the Bavarian firm had another ace up its sleeve to bring us the swansong in the current M2 chapter in the form of the M2 CS.
Still blessed with that 3-litre, twin-turbo inline six - the CS has the wick dialed up to 331kW, which many will recall is what the F82 M4 Competition mustered. With only 30 units brought to Mzansi, the M2 CS features some carbon composite items such as the bonnet, replete with an S duct. There are are lighter, forged 19-inch wheels wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres, while a titanium exhaust and M carbon fibre items are all there to reduce overall weight, the M2 CS still weighs in at 1 570kg, similar to the M2 Competition, so the lighter materials haven’t particularly shed any kilos from the M2 CS.
The cabin is wreathed in leather and alcantara, the latter quite liberally commissioned on the tiller and dash, while conventional door handles make way for straps. Meanwhile the centre console, which doubles as an armrest, has been deleted altogether. All this in the vain of making the CS look and feel as close to a track car as possible. There are CS motifs peppered about the cabin as a gentle reminder of the model's pecking order on the M2 hierarchical totem pole.
Steering the M2 CS requires you to ditch any mundane driving antics and simply grab it by the scruff of its neck and give it the proverbial horns. It is here that its character truly shines, with grip levels being prodigiously higher than in the M2 Comp, while the M-DCT in our tester is impressive in dispatching gears, particularly via the paddles in manual mode. The more I drove the M2 CS, the more I felt that the M4 Competition was somewhat obsolete as this, in my opinion, is all the modern M car you need.
Under the skin, the standard adaptive dampers have been stiffened somewhat, while the M differential does its damndest to quell understeer and promote grip, but traction can be breached at the driver’s whim. It rides exceptionally well even with the stiffer dampers, hardly feeling brittle even while traversing over the most scarred of tarmac. Switching the drive mode into the intermediate MDM mode, there is just enough wheel slippage to get the back to step out ever so slightly, but you can switch things off completely and drive like an absolute yobbo. The M2 CS rewards the keen driver and while the steering feels a tad too big in here, it remains communicative and fairly direct so that you can place the car exactly where you want it. I found that the best settings for daily escapades was to place the engine in Sport Plus, the dampers and steering in Comfort. The latter, in particular, is ideal in its slackest of modes as anything beyond that is simply horrid.
The M2 CS’s compact dimensions makes it fun out on the road and having that much power under foot, means you can take liberties with the throttle out of corners, and get the rear to pivot. However, due care still needs to be exercised as getting giddy with that loud pedal can see you heading boot first into the nearest roadside hedge. Front-end grip, meanwhile, has always been part of the CS repertoire and the M2 CS is no exception with the front feeling ever so buttoned down to the road that turn-in into corners remains an incisive, drama-free exercise.
All 30 units of the M2 CS allocated to Mzansi have been snapped up, meaning many will be in the hands of collectors and those who flip cars for a profit. Most of these were auctioned off to the highest bidders, which meant that the below base price was nullified as those private buyers will more than likely slap a further premium on these cars when selling them on. That said, any M car bearing the CS suffix will be more desirable and thankfully there is substance to back that up, not to mention the exclusivity quotient thrown into the equation.
At R1 741 522, the M2 CS is punching in the realm of the latest G80 M3 Competition, Alfa Romeo Giulia QV and the Mercedes-AMG C63 S, which respectively offer more car for the money. However, as an old-school, compact sports coupe, the M2 CS is a stellar product and arguably the best M car I have driven since the inimitable E46 M3 CSL. However, when all is said and done, the M2 Competition is all the M2 you will ever need, while the M2 CS will remain an exclusive offering for those with the wherewithal to shell out on one.