Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: January 10, 2021
The CS is the swan song for the current generation M2. It’s a lighter, more powerful, more exclusive, and significantly more expensive version of our favourite sports car from 2019. Only 2,200 units will be built for the global market, making this one of the most exclusive BMWs to date but it comes at a cost. The 2020 BMW M2 CS will set you back a cool $97,750, a $25,500 premium over the M2 Competition.
The M2 CS receives a gem of an engine, the same S55 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six from the Competition but it’s been massaged to produce an extra 39 hp. The grand total is 444 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. For reference, that is 79 hp over the base M2 that they don’t sell anymore here in Canada. Rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual remain standard fare, with an optional 7-speed dual-clutch for $3,900. With three pedals, the M2 CS will rocket from 0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, while the dual-clutch goes two-tenths quicker.
CS upgrades include a newly tuned adaptive suspension, the first on an M2, optional carbon ceramic brakes ($9,500), and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. In an effort to reduce weight and improve aerodynamics, carbon fibre elements have been added to the roof, diffuser, rear spoiler, front splitter, mirror caps, and even inside with the center console and door grab handles. The front hood is also made from carbon fibre, is 50% lighter, and even has a hood scoop, which serves as one the biggest visual differentiators from the Competition. That and the exclusive shade of Misano Blue, matched with optional gold-coloured wheels. Our tester bore winter tires with a more conventional black rim setup. Inside you will find the same M2 steering wheel wrapped in standard leather or optional alcantara, and a dotted racing stripe at the 12-o’clock position.
We have always been wary about BMW’s CS upgrades. We’ve driven the M3 CS and M4 CS before, and while the subtle tweaks were effective, within city streets we could barely notice that extra tenth of adrenaline. The M2 CS also holds true to that, upgrading an established formula but not with the amount of pizzazz that beginner drivers can easily detect or exploit. Still, the CS builds upon a wonderful foundation. The straight-six engine screams up to 7,600 rpm, quite high for a turbocharged engine. The acceleration is addictive too, with a 0-100 km/h time that is somewhat competitive with other sub-$100,000 sports cars like the Mercedes-AMG C 63 (3.9 s) and Audi TT RS (3.7 s).
You can tailor the power delivery with three selectable modes: Efficient, Sport, and Sport Plus. The CS pulls smoothly in its calmest Efficient mode, but ramp it up to Sport Plus and it gets a little too abrupt, spinning the wheels even in third gear. Overly pokey for the street, it becomes a starved bulldog that got its first glimpse of a sausage. I actually prefer the more gradual and less peaky powerband of the mid-grade Sport mode instead, which transitions better between on and off throttle, and makes a significant difference in usability and comfort.
The CS also offers three selectable damper settings: Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus. The differences in ride comfort are surprisingly palpable. The CS is not much lighter than the Competition because of that adaptive suspension tacked on, but the damping feels perfect and keenly isolates occupants from harsh impacts. The front nose is slightly more eager to rotate than the Competition, and the carbon fibre front brace keeps it stiff and free from too much roll. It’s an effective concoction of a lively rear-biased chassis supported by unintrusive electronic systems.
Pressing the traction control button once engages MDM mode. Think of it like a mid-way point between full and zero traction intervention. It lets you do little drifts without big cojones. The way the M2 rotates and steers makes it effortless to catch a slide and play with the rear using nothing but throttle and a whiff of steering input. It’s lovely to drive, especially when the roads are caked in snow, reminding me that BMW still makes some of the best driving machines out there. I sincerely hope the upcoming M3 and M4 can match this. That said, there isn’t much natural steering feel pulsating through the wheel, and I still think you sit too high up in the M2, but it’s a deeply compelling machine that trades nothing to deliver on pure performance.
The proof in the pudding is the standard manual transmission, a beautiful specimen going extinct in the field. Both Audi and Mercedes refuse to offer these negative-profit gearboxes anymore, and I’m sure the writing is on the wall for BMW as well. The gearbox is notchy enough so you never question the intended gear, and short enough that you’re not moving mountains to travel. There is a positive and confirmative clunk on each move, and shifting from third to fourth gear feels like money. The clutch uptake is light on your calf muscles but the bite point is precise and easy to find. The manual handbrake is an added bonus.
The exhaust is not obnoxiously loud and you don’t get any of that piped-in speaker noise in the CS, so it might sound somewhat quieter from the driver’s seat than the Competition. There are no excessive farts and burbles on overrun like the 440i with M Performance Exhaust, but the CS remains as sonically pleasing as all other rhapsodic BMW straight-sixes before it, just more grown-up and mature.
The interior lags behind a generation, using last year’s gear and infotainment, which I actually prefer. It’s cleaner, simpler, and maybe I am just more accustomed to its layout after years of familiarity. The rotary dial still remains the gold standard, and while the girthy M Sport steering wheel takes some getting used to and can be a struggle for those with smaller hands, it’s one of our favourites. The substantial leather wrap gives it a premium feel and ripping it around corners feels like you’re wrestling an anaconda.
With a spacious interior, a solid amount of headroom, and the ability to fit actual people in the rear seats, not just dwarves, the M2 CS also wins on the daily usability category over a Cayman or an F-Type. It’s not too shabby on gas either if you’re gentle - we averaged 12.9 L/100km over both city and highway. However, it’s odd that BMW decided to skip on keyless entry for lightweighting purposes, but decided to keep heated and electrically operated seats. For such a serious, singular-minded vehicle, I would have hoped to see lighter, manually adjustable, carbon fibre bucket seats and pull straps instead of door handles. Perhaps even a rear seat delete and a cross bar for rigidity instead like in the MINI JCW GP.
The M2 CS is a steely-eyed, quicker version of a car that we already thought was damn near perfect. It’s alert, playful, and above all, entertaining. Think of it as a remastered M2 Competition rather than a full-blown upgrade. Get the CS for its beautiful paint, adaptive suspension, carbon fibre additions, and its ability to live in rarified air. It should hold its value better than the Competition too. But those looking for value and don’t find themselves in a position to appreciate the CS upgrades will be just as happy with the Competition. The extra $25,000 you pocket will buy you plenty of track time and rubber to melt. The magnitude of small but meaningful tweaks in the CS takes a certain kind of enthusiast and driver to unlock, but I love the challenge of unearthing that remaining talent. It’s not for everyone and it’s not meant to be. That’s what makes the CS special.
Model: 2020 BMW M2 CS
Paint Type: Misano Blue
Base Price: $97,750
Price as Tested: $98,645
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,461 / 1,871 / 1,414
Curb weight (kg): 1,570
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline-six
Horsepower: 444 hp @ 6,250 rpm
Torque: 406 lb-ft @ 2,350 - 5,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.9
Tires: 245/35R19 front; 265/35R19 rear