Stanced 450bhp BMW M2 CS F87
A few days spent behind the wheel of the limited-run M2 CS reveals why it’s more than just rare – it is borderline perfection.
Words DAVE HUMPHREYS
Photos JASON DODD
Faster, more focused and even more ferocious, the BMW M2 CS F87 is a real white-knuckle ride.
Some may cast a cynical eye at the price and instantly dismiss the near-£23,000 premium the M2 CS commands over the M2 Competition as little more than a Germanic shakedown. You could almost have a new 1 Series for the price difference. But to do so would be to deprive yourself of what could be one of the greatest driver’s cars that BMW has ever made. When the F87 M2 debuted back in 2015, it was quite a punchy number. The widened track, enlarged arches, quad tailpipes and other bodywork changes set it well above the M235i of the time. Shoehorning the M3’s rear axle into the car added to the almost hot-rod-like stance, which proportionally looked quite different to the almost elegant M4 of the day.
But that image suited the M2’s nature, while the 3.0-litre straight-six, available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed auto, covered all bases. That engine’s 370hp, itself a performance step-up from the 1M Coupé, gave the M2 a healthy dose of performance and ensured it very much met the criteria of a junior M car. Although there wasn’t all that much that was junior about it, other than size. The ‘always on’ performance, thanks to a nifty overboost function, gave the M2 a tremendous spread of power. The car’s balance and usable performance imbued more confidence in drivers, and turning off the DSC (in the dry, at least) wasn’t quite as potentially terrifying as in its elder M4 sibling. An ability to devour snaking routes added to the M2’s appeal and its compact dimensions made it better suited to UK roads.
“ALMOST EVERYTHING MADE BY BMW AFTER THIS CAR USES MORE MODERN CONTROLS. IT HERALDS THE END OF A PARTICULAR ERA…”
As good as that formula seemed to be, BMW turned up the wick in 2018 with the introduction of the M2 Competition. The uprated version replaced the M2 and did away with the Competition Pack option. The engine was swapped out for the twin-turbo S55 from the M3 and M4, increasing output to 410bhp and gaining a further 37lb ft over the 369lb ft that the M2 previously offered for short bursts. It may have only shaved a tenth of a second off the drag race to 62mph on paper, but it improved the car in other ways, particularly with regard to responsiveness and engine pick-up.
BMW’s chassis boffins added more ingredients to the spicier recipe, namely larger brakes, more direct steering and a carbon fibre strut brace across the engine bay. It was an improved car in every sense, adding yet greater urgency to its performance delivery and seeming to qualify for the all-the-car-you’d-ever- want category. Now the M2 Competition was starting to knock a little more loudly on the door of the M4. Some were undeterred by the power deficit, and in many ways, the M2 was the purer of the M cars, but it still lacked a little in everyday comfort.
Nonetheless, it was hard to see how BMW could top that package, yet for the F87’s swansong, it has. Actually, the term swan song and the elegance it might portray isn’t entirely fitting, as the limited-run M2 CS is more Spinal Tap and turned up to 11. The already menacing appearance of the M2 evolves into something more sinister, but the choice of exterior colour does play a role in just how much it will stand out. The changes are individually subtle but come together to make a car that you want to take a moment to soak in the details of. To some, it’ll just seem like another fast BMW, but those who know will know.
The bespoke carbon fibre bonnet is the most obvious visual difference, with its central air vent that helps the cooling of the engine but also improves downforce over the front axle. Thanks to the exotic construction material it weighs only half that of the conventional bonnet, and thankfully BMW leaves the underside unpainted to you can appreciate the carbon weave pattern and construction. Drawing from its experience with the M2 CS Racing in motorsport, the roof also receives the carbon fibre treatment.
The direct transplant of the M4 Competition-spec engine bumps output up to 450hp and 405lb ft, which in a car of these dimensions is enough to get you as giddy as a child on the last day of school before the summer holidays. Before you even turn a wheel, it’s worth taking a moment to take in the discreet changes to the interior, too. The shapely M Competition sports seats are clad in a blend of black leather and Alcantara, with contrast Fire Red stitching. The inset illuminated M2 badging isn’t going to be to everybody’s taste, but you only notice it when unlocking the car at night.
Built upon older architecture, the interior of the M2 CS doesn’t have quite the whizzbang flashiness of more recent BMW models. However, there’s a certain air of simplicity about it. Its slender console running between the front seats has a matching Alcantara top and glossy carbon fibre around the sides. There’s a physical handbrake – not something you’re likely to see on many more new BMWs. Even the buttons on the centre console have that look and feel that we’ve seen come through from E46s and the like. More function than form, yet the latter is unmistakably BMW. Almost everything made by BMW after this car uses more modern controls. One more small detail that heralds the end of a particular era.
All is forgiven when you run your hands around the thick-rimmed Alcantara-clad steering wheel, complete with debossed red twelve o’clock marker and matching CS logo on the dashboard fascia. Better still is being able to have three pedals at your feet and a short- throw manual six-speed gearbox. Now, you can have the CS with a seven-speed M double-clutch transmission as an option (and it’ll shave an additional two-tenths off the sprint to 62mph), but the experience the CS offers by swapping cogs yourself is worth more, in our opinion. Not that there’s anything wrong with the DCT, as it does bring greater convenience in living with the car on a daily basis, especially in traffic, as the clutch in the CS isn’t quite feather-light. Having previously driven the other M2 variants with the automatic transmission, we have no real issue with it. Yet, with the CS providing something of a distillation of performance, it seems more right to drive this car with a manual. The way the industry is heading, in particular concerning ever-tightening emissions regulations, we’ll soon potentially lose the option of a manual, so it’s best to make the most of it while we can.
And that’s what the CS encourages you to do from the moment you thumb the engine-start button. After the initial flurry of revs, the straight-six settles to a steady but fast idle. There’s a timbre to the exhaust that is unmistakably BMW, and on a cold start in the morning leaves you inclined to leave your window down a tad to savour it. The M2 CS is a car for driving enthusiasts, but it also feels as if it’s been crafted by like-minded enthusiasts. Those folks also included that one thing that was always conspicuous by its absence on the M2 – adaptive dampers. Ever since we first drove the M2 in 2016, it was the one thing that was obviously missing; no doubt a logical decision to keep some distance from the M4 at the time. With the ability to dial that suspension into a softer setting, the M2 CS can round off the harsher bumps that much better than the M2 or M2 Competition can. This adds more comfort on the one hand, but also creates a broader operating spectrum, so when you do get out onto a track day or even your favourite B-road, you can tweak the dynamics of the car at the touch of a button. Well, several buttons actually, as BMW provides different pre-sets for the engine, and the steering too.
It’s hard to convey just how absolutely right the M2 CS feels when you drive it. A key part of that sensation is the size of the car and the available power. By today’s sports car standards, 450hp might not seem all that crazy, but most drivers will be able to exploit that performance in this application. Not that you have to wring the engine’s neck to experience what it can offer, as the full 405lb ft of torque is available from 2350rpm, ensuring the brawny BMW will let you surf a wave of torque as you work up through the gears.
Each shift has a precise and quite mechanical feel to it. Second to third and on to fourth under harder acceleration is a particularly sweet experience and one that is made all the better by the presence of a clutch pedal. There’s a harder edge to the M2 CS, even coming from its direct predecessors. The engine operates with greater urgency, and it draws you into the car encouraging you to further explore its potential. Keeping it in the lower gears and using all of the available revs soon becomes an intoxicating experience, the straight-six barks and howls in a way that makes that original 370hp M2 seem innocent. Decibels inside the cabin increase, and the world outside begins to go by with a greater blur, yet the CS remains pin-sharp in its clarity of grip, poise and handling. Steering inputs move into high-definition, enhanced further by how the Alcantara steering wheel feels in your hands, and every degree of lock applied to the front axle registers in clear movement.
The M2 CS’s balance is sublime. As well as being easier to place on the road it moves through bends and rotates on apexes with clinical precision. More confident drivers on track will appreciate how progressive the rear end feels if you want to induce oversteer. This was a trait of the other versions too, but the added power in the CS makes it a little bit. To go all-in on the CS, having the optional carbon-ceramic brakes will be a box that some feel the need to tick. Far from being entirely necessary, they do add another layer of bling to the car and offer immense stopping power thanks to the six-piston calipers on the front and four-piston calipers on the rear. Even when you’re not trying to be the last of the late-brakers into turn one, the feel and modulation through the middle pedal are great.
What is so spectacularly good about the M2 CS is that it provides the driver with digital accuracy delivered at fibre optic speeds yet in so many ways still manages to feel entirely analogue. Like listening to a Beatles record on a Linn Klimax turntable, you’ll still hear the crackle, but with a clarity beyond what you’ve heard before. That’s what the BMW M2 CS is. By no means is it cheap, and this car does things that may go over the head of some drivers, but for the few that can tune themselves into it, it will give you an experience that will stay with you for a very long time. Maximum performance, a straight-six engine, a six-speed manual gearbox, RWD, laser precision handling and an intoxicating soundtrack. As we look ahead to where we’re going, it’s impossible not to look back at this car — just as you would look back at it in the parking space as you walk away — and consider it to be one of the genuinely great BMW M cars. And it’s worth every penny.
Optional carbon-ceramic brakes deliver massive stopping power Aggressive carbon boot spoiler. The Alcantara steering wheel has a thick rim and feels lovely to hold. With its Misano blue paintwork and gold wheels, the M2 CS looks awesome M Competition seats feature red stitching and M tricolour detailing M4 Competition engine means 450hp Carbon diffuser and quad exhausts.
- ENGINE Turbocharged inline six-cylinder petrol, longitudinally mounted
- CAPACITY 2979cc
- MAX POWER 450bhp @ 6250rpm
- MAX TORQUE 405lb ft @ 2350-5500rpm
- 0-62MPH 4.2 seconds
- TOP SPEED 174mph
- ECONOMY 27.1-27.7mpg
- EMISSIONS 233g/km
- WEIGHT (EU) 1625kg
- PRICE (OTR) £75,320