Home / Blog / Driving the BMW M2 Competition feels like a good gym workout

Driving the BMW M2 Competition feels like a good gym workout

Apr 27, 2023Apr 27, 2023

Let me start with a mea culpa over here. I’ve become old and lazy in my middle age and, honestly, far too used to automatic transmission. After all, who wants to constantly pump the clutch and pedal when stuck in miles-long traffic in Mumbai, Bengaluru or the National Capital Region? I understand the enthusiasm that some car buyers have for manual vehicles, though. After all, controlling when to shift gears lets you optimise your car's performance. But driving has become good fun with some latest dual-clutch transmission vehicles, such as the new Hyundai Verna, the Volkswagen Virtus and Skoda Slavia. You don't have to work your left arm and leg to drive them, and they are also more economical.

So recently, when a driver from BMW India came to my house to drop off the new M2 Competition, I went, "Damn, it is a manual." It was the first contemporary BMW stick-shift car I had driven in almost a decade, but it had an effect that few other vehicles from that category have had on me; it turned my frown upside down. Sure, I really had to work the clutch and the gear lever on this car; the latter akin to working a hard cookie batter. But just like batter gets better if you really put in the effort, the M2 Competition – with just above 400 horsepower and a rear-end that wiggles just when you want it to – reminded me of performance cars of yore.

There is a reason carmakers increasingly fit automatic transmissions on performance cars. While you can occasionally override the car's computer brains through manual mode, the computer is still the boss. If you try to go too far, it will snatch back control. On this car, as you rev the engine and see the dashboard lights turn orange and red as you hit the rev limiter, you know you have some work to do. But then, driving the BMW M2 Competition feels just like a good gym workout – tiring but satisfying.

Here is the thing. I will not say that cars from BMW's M-division, which is where they deploy their most talented engineers, have become extremely soft. Then again, modern cars are all a bit soft. It is remarkable that cars like the M5 competition have 625 horsepower, numbers that really make little or no sense, because they are almost off the charts. But when I drove the current M5 in Portugal a few years ago, I also drove some classic M5s from the 1980s and 1990s. Barrelling around a Portuguese hill road with the Atlantic Ocean just a few hundred feet below was nothing short of dangerous, but the E34 BMW M5, built between 1988 and 1995, made me feel more alive than scared. Weirdly enough, the new and technically smaller M2 Competition has almost a hundred horsepower more on the older M5. That is how crazy the engineers at BMW's M-division have become.

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You can go super fast with the M2, speed limits be damned, and it can also turn on a dime. You run out of superlatives to describe this sort of performance, although honestly, given its out-and-out potential, this is not a car that I’d waste driving fast on an Expressway. The M2 needs a good Himalayan road, such as the Uttarakhand stretch of NH34 toward Gangotri. A machine like this – which has been meticulously calibrated to deliver exceptional performance but relies on you to eke out every last drop of its potential – requires a road that can bring out its best. And while BMW took the car back after a day, I will request it again because I fully plan to drive it up to the mouth of the Ganga.

The M2 Competition is one of the craziest cars you can buy in India. But while the previous M2 Competition had an ex-showroom price of Rs 85 lakh, this one might be closer to a crore, thanks to the depreciating rupee and increasing input cost. That said, it was a fun ride, even if finding ‘reverse’ on the gearbox needed some effort and reminded me to return to the gym and work on my upper body. Also, the two-door coupe concept isn't all that practical, but this really isn't a ‘family car’ by any stretch of the imagination.

As good as the M2 is, it comes with a price tag that can scare you – and even someone like me – away from buying it. There are other manual options that enthusiasts can consider. The new Hyundai Verna turbo manual I drove for a month surprised me with its ability to put a smile on one's face, changing gears be damned. Volkswagen is also introducing manual versions of the Virtus GT sedan with all modern amenities.

Sure, for day-to-day commuting, I would never buy a manual anymore; it is just too tedious. But if you don't mind the labour and want to have a spot of fun every once in a while, the clutch pedal is still around – at least for now.

@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based in New Delhi. Views are personal.

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)

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BMW M2 Competition made me smile Also read: Crazy good performance – at a crazy price