HOW GOOD IS A BMW M2 Competition? Don’t worry, ScoMo hasn’t been offered a road-testing job here at Wheels, we’re just curious to see how Garching’s little monster fits into the hierarchy of all-time great M cars. That list would have to include the likes of the E39 M5, the seminal E30 M3 and the exotic mid-engined M1. In there with a podium shot would also be the fantastic E46 M3 CSL and, given that these change hands from around $110,000, it looks a direct rival for the M2 Competition if that’s your budget and you want a charismatic and rewarding rear-drive coupe.
BMW E46 M3 CSL
Just listen to the thing! The E46 M3 CSL delivers one of the greatest straight-six soundtracks at any price, helped by a carbonfibre airbox for a truly distinctive sound. Its remit was clear: lap the Nurburgring in under eight minutes. To achieve this, head of body Hans-Bruno Starke and chassis development engineer Peter Schmidt had four key areas to work on: weight, aerodynamics, suspension and tyres. Power was a secondary concern, although changes to the engine management, cams, headers, intakes, valves and exhaust handily lifted peak power from the regulation M3’s 252 to a healthy 265kW.
This was the first M car to pioneer the carbonfibre roof, saving 7kg and lowering the centre gravity. Around 50kg came out of the interior, with lightweight seats, centre console, glass and door panels. A couple of kilos came off each wheel, with aluminium lower control arms further reducing unsprung weight. The carbonfibre front bumper shell is a pure racing part, helping to subtly shift weight distribution rearwards. Final distribution was 51:49 front to rear, still not quite Munich’s much-vaunted 50:50.
Based on a hoary old Clarksonism, many believe that the boot floor of the CSL is made of cardboard and can’t hold any weight. Not so. The underside of the boot is metal, the same as any M3 but it does have a lightweight cardboard boot liner. It’s a CSL-specific BMW part numbered 51477895990; removable honeycomb-paper composite panel.
A plastic composite bootlid with built-in spoiler was developed as much for aerodynamic benefit as weight saving, but a huge gain came from the gumball semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres. Later Cup+ tyres offered a little more wet weather versatility. The CSL rides 10mm lower than a stock E46 M3 and the suspension has been seriously gym-toned. Springs, dampers, anti-roll bars, bump stops, king pins; all were upspecced. A quicker steering rack and bigger front brake discs were also fitted. Somewhat controversially for the time, the CSL foresaw a trend: no clutch pedal for the flagship sports model. It took Porsche more than a decade to catch on to that particular trick. The SMG II ’box (in effect a robotised manual) seems a little quaint now, but it’s still a riot to crack up through the ratios.
As a used purchase, an M3 CSL makes a lot of sense. Prices are highly variable. We’ve seen cars start at $110k, stepping up to $150k for the very best examples, but all are collectable and, even in this current wavering classics market, have scope for serious value gains.
BMW M2 COMPETITION
While the E46 M3 CSL might sound fantastic and offer a bulletproof financial proposition, it also faces an inconvenient truth. The old stager packs 265kW and gets to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds. Buy new and you get 302kW and 100km/h coming and going in 4.2 seconds. Or, if you prefer, 12.5 percent quicker. It also features launch control, a far superior transmission, niceties like sat-nav, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the not inconsiderable bonus of having a steering wheel that’s not ingrained with a decade and change of some other person’s DNA.
We’ve put the M2 Competition up against the best of its new rivals and it’s come out on top each and every time. We thought the brilliant Alpine A110 would finally have the M2’s measure, but as beguiled as we were by the French lightweight, when it came to the question of handing over the cash, every last one of us said we’d be heading to a BMW dealer.
To contextualise the M2 Competition, consider this. The brand-new Porsche 992 Carrera is more than double the price, delivers less power, less torque, less space and isn’t any quicker. You want a 300kW+ Mercedes-AMG coupe? You’ll have to wait until next year for the new CLA 45 and you’ll only get four cylinders for your money. While all-wheel drive will ensure the AMG gets the drop off the line, we’d be extremely surprised if this layout results in a chassis as rewarding as that of the M2 Competition.
Drive an M2 Competition against rivals and you appreciate the expertise that has gone into this vehicle. We love the way that BMW has had the cojones to pick a spring and damper setting and then just stick to it rather than offering multitudes of modes. BMW backed itself with this car and it’s very, very good.
|BMW E46 M3 CSL||BMW M2 COMPETITION|
|Price now||From $110,000||$104,900|
|Engine||3246cc 6cyl, dohc, 24v||2979 6cyl, dohc, 24v, twin-turbo|
|Transmission||6-speed automatic||7-speed dual-clutch|
|Country of origin||Germany||Germany|