All car nuts know that BMW basically invented the concept of the sports coupe — performance-oriented two-door cars that are nearly as much fun to drive as sports cars, but which are more practical because they have more interior room, back seats and larger trunks.
The icon 2002 made the German manufacturer's name in America when it was released in 1966. Although early versions did not look particularly special, the combination of a healthy 2-liter engine, manual transmission, front bucket seats and a sports suspension impressed enthusiasts. Later versions featured aggressive air dams, special wheels and performance upgrades, enhancing their reputations.
Fast forward to 2019 and the world has changed. Now affordable car companies like Kia offer inexpensive small coupes that outperform the early 2002s, at least on paper if not feel. Every high-end manufacturer has been offering sport coupes (and sedans) for years. To continue leading the market, BMW now offers sport versions of practically every coupe in its lineup.
But the current successor to the 2002 is the 2019 M2 Competition Coupe, which is only available as no-compromise sport coupe that is a lot closer to a genuine sports car than every before. It is part of the 2 series that debuted in 2014. A compact two-door, it is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive car powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter engine that pumps out 405 horsepower and 406 foot pounds of torque. Although the it can be ordered with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, it only comes with one suspension — extra firm.
Unlike the original 2002, the 2019 M2 Competition Coupe is not a sleeper. It looks aggressive, with a huge air dam, swelling fenders, wide wheels, massive brakes, and dual exhausts. It is also very low, requiring slight gymnastics to slip under the steering wheel and into the deeply contoured driver's seat. It feels very tight up front and even more confined in the rear seats, which are best left for children.
On the road, the M2 Competition Coupe is fast, with Car and Driver clocking its zero-to-60 time at around four seconds. But it doesn't feel that fast because the big inline six delivers its power so smoothly. That contrasts to the suspension, which is so stiff that driving over bad pavement is a chore. It works great on the freeway, but is challenging around town. The big brakes are a revelation, however, preventing things from getting out of hand at high speeds.
Our test model was equipped with the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmision, which was operated through a toggle switch on the console. Although purists will want the six-speed manual, the automatic shifts faster than is humanly possible.
Like all BMWs, the interior materials are first class and installed with the highest care, creating a true luxury compact. The large console-mounted buttons and knobs dial that control the infotainment system is easy to understand and use, allowing drivers to move quickly between screens without taking their eyes off the road for very long.
For true enthusiasts, the 2019 M2 Competition Coupe is also available with a $2,500 M Driver's Package that increases the maximum speed from 155 to 168 miles per hour and includes a 1-day performance driving course. A 2-day upgrade is available.
The 2019 M2 Competition Coupe is a very different kind of sport coupe than those BMW first introduced to America, but reflects the changes in the automotive industry that have created so many hotly contested market niches. It is not for everyone, but enthusiasts will want to place it at the top of their shopping list. Fans spotted it everywhere we went, wanting to see it up close (which we obliged) and reminding us how much BMW changed the world with the early 2002.
2019 M2 Competition Coupe
Base price: $58,900
Price as tested: $67,045
Type: Compact coupe
Engine: Twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6 (405 hp, 406 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode
Overall length: 175.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,628 pounds
Final assembly: Leipzig, Germany
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