In da Club [COTY2020] : 2020 BMW F87 M2 CS Drive [review]

By davidkhoo, 11 February 2021

Singapore - Some people still get carded for clubs and alcohol purchase – I’m a prime example, and I left barely-legal territory when ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ by The Chemical Brothers was first released! We reckon BMW’s baby spice, the M2 faces the same issues, especially in the company of its big butch funksoulbrothers, the M3/M4.

(Click HERE to check out our COTY2020 Intro and have a look at the other Star Cars)

A passing glance at the Misano Blue M2 CS we’re driving might fool you into thinking it’s nothing more than a mildly modded version of BMW M’s popular compact coupe... except it isn’t, and we’ll get a lot more into this later.

If the regular M2 is House and the M2 Competition is Techno, the M2 CS is frenetic drum‘n’bass.

But first, a short history lesson on compact M models, since the 1 Series M Coupe (or 1M, for short) is all the rage these days.

With the M3/M4 growing ever-larger, driving purists clamoured for a back-to-basics return to the E30 M3’s blend of compact, agile driving fun that was fuss-free and uncomplicated by complex electronics.

(Click HERE to read about our blast in the E30 M3)

If anything, the only ‘complex’ we enthusiasts are after is a technical series of corners down our favourite empty stretch of road… and the right car for it!

We never hanker after the big power that is so popular these days for the benefit of making click-baity drag-race videos with bombastic headlines.

Instead, we’re on the look-out for an incisively manoeuvrable, intensely visceral driving experience that will make you take the longest, most winding route from start to end… and back again!

That’s all a lot of us driving enthusiasts are after: to recapture that honest and unadulterated bond between man and machine where both work as one to test the other’s limits and fortitude during a furious blast down some winding roads.

Photo Credit: Yang (Penoramic Publishing) for TopGear Singapore
Photo Credit: Yang (Penoramic Publishing) for TopGear Singapore

With that, BMW first brought us the 1M during the era of the V8-engined E9x M3s. With its distinctive bull-dog stance, brutish looks and outrageous flares, it cut a striking appearance that polarised opinions… even to this day.

However, the controversial looks are the least of what makes the 1M special. Compact proportions, a sub-1500kg kerbweight, 6spd manual transmission and punchy turbocharged inline6 were the ingredients for a veritable Molotov cocktail: fiery and furious!

(Click HERE to read about the time E82 1 Series M Coupe met F87 M2 Competition)

Conceived by driving enthusiasts for driving enthusiasts, the nippy 1M proved to be an intense driving instrument that was above all else, fun.

In case you haven’t noticed, ‘fun’ is an ingredient that’s missing in many of today’s ‘fast’ cars.

The 1M wasn’t a brilliant, scalpel-sharp instrument of driving pleasure in the same way the E46 M3 CSL was (is), but the charismatic ‘little’ package was a 340hp/450Nm boosty barrel of laughs that rekindled the joy of driving in many jaded souls.

In modern times, the ‘fun’ element has gradually been eroded in favour of ‘fast’, and the next evolution of the 1M came in the form of the M2.

(Click HERE to read about our favourite M3 to date, the E46 M3 CSL)

Photo Credit: Yang (Penoramic Publishing) for TopGear Singapore
Photo Credit: Yang (Penoramic Publishing) for TopGear Singapore

The M2 had all the rough edges of the 1M smoothened out, both in terms of design and powertrain, and was available in both manual and M-DCT transmissions to pander to even more buyers. However, it was a polished product that lacked the raw, diamond-in-rough appeal of its 1M predecessor.

There was nothing wrong with the M2, it’s just that the 1M left big shoes to fill, and then came the M2 Competition (or M2C for short), which finally got a proper M engine – specifically the 410hp/550Nm S55 twin-turbo’d inline6 from the F8x M3/M4 – in an even sharper handling package.

All good? Almost, because even though the M2C was now properly fast and furious, the clinical precision with which it accomplished its business left some missing the rough and tumble driving delights served up by the rowdy 1M.

Everybody then make some noise for the M2 CS, a road-legal Club Sport special that also serves as technical basis for the M2 CS Racing model. The vibrant Misano Blue of the M2 CS is unique to the model (don’t forget, the most venomous creatures tend to be brightly hued to ward off potential victims!), and the visual cues only tell half the story.

Extensive use of carbonfibre and lightweight aluminium components have maintained the CS’s weight at the same 1550kg as the M2C, even with the CS riding on adaptive suspension similar to the M4’s.

There’s a tasteful blend of painted and unpainted carbonfibre used so it’s neither plain nor OTT: exposed carbonfibre bits include front splitter, side fender vents and side skirt extension, roof, rear gurney lip and rear diffuser, while painted portions include bonnet and fenders.

With only a few options to tick, the configurator for the M2 CS is basic, because the whole point is to keep things simple: car colour, transmission choice (6spd manual or 7spd M-DCT), type of brakes (standard M Sport or carbon-ceramics) and alloy rim colour (black or matte gold) and tyre combination (Michelin PSS versus Sport Cup 2s)!

The optional body trim on this M2 CS has been selected from the M Performance catalogue, which includes side-sill garnish and carbonfibre fenders – compared to the standard M2/M2C fenders, these feature properly functional vents, and are left unpainted for a racy contrast.

Everything about the exterior is functional and focused for maximum attack, with none of the garish elements that some mistakenly feel should characterise a ‘sportscar’. There’s the same sense of focus in the cabin, with strategic use of Alcantara and carbonfibre, again with no superfluous embellishments, since the whole point of the M2 CS is to serve up a scintillating drive.

The M1 and M2 triggers on the steering can be pre-set with two different drive programmes, although with a car like the M2 CS, we left it in the more playful (and aggressive) M2 setting. The pace is exuberant and the M2 CS crackles like an electric-blue ball of unbridled energy.

It’s never just about being fast, and here’s the stark difference between CS and M2C: the M2 CS ditches the niceties that make the M2C so comfortable and pliant for the moments you want to take things easy. In fact, there’s only one acceptable mode (spirited!) to driving the M2 CS, simply because in anything less, it feels out-of-sorts!

The chassis is fluidly reactive to steering and throttle, and this unadulterated feel lets you drive the M2 CS like a natural extension to one’s body, which in turn inspires ample confidence to lean on the sticky Pirellio P Zero Trofeo R tyres in the less inhibitive M Dynamic Mode.

Progress is raw and explosive, with a shouty soundtrack that adds plenty of chutzpah to the proceedings. The shifts are snickety-slick positive with a short, authoritative throw that is emotionally rewarding.

The common thread that binds all such engaging sportscars is how sore you feel after the workout of a stirring, early morning shakedown – our interpretation of 'self-driving cars' is that we have to drive it ourselves!

Some might find the steering wheel too thick to handle, but there’s a satisfying weight to wielding it in anger, and it’s been a long while since we’ve felt so nicely plugged-into such a focused driving machine. Best of all, the compact proportions allow one to place the car with pin-point accuracy in the corners during maximum attack mode.

Cars that reward committed drivers with such an engaging, back-to-basics driving feel like the M2 CS show that big sportscar brands haven’t lost the plot as far as its inner circle of driving enthusiasts is concerned, even if their main products are increasingly geared towards a mainstream buying pool.

Like vinyl records, film photography and the print medium (wahey!), such ‘special’ cars just become even more exclusive (and expensive) due to their niche appeal, with entrance to this member’s club strictly by-invitation only.

PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals

BMW M2 CS
Engine 2979cc, inline6, twin-turbo
Power/rpm 450hp/6250rpm
Torque/rpm 550Nm/2350-5500rpm
Transmission 6spd manual
0-100km/h 4.2secs
Top Speed 280km/h
Kerbweight 1550kg
Fuel Consumption 10.4l/100km
CO2 238g/km

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