By Dan Neil 

I FLEW OFF for an assignment in Miami a couple weeks ago, leaving our test car, a 2020 BMW M2 CS, unrequited. One of only 2,200 made and several hundred allotted to the U.S. market, the M2 CS ($96,545, as tested) represents the rarest and rowdiest version of the company's bandy subcompact. Into this adorable little license-loser company engineers have managed to stuff the fabulous twin-scroll, twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline six (444 hp) from the larger, heavier M4 Competition. The collector catnip also includes a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, rear-drive only, with electro-magical torque-vectoring.

Indeed, the M2 CS has all the gear: the insanity-causing gold-tint alloy wheels (optional) slathered in Michelin Sport Pilot Cup 2 tires; and, peeking through, 15.7-inch carbon-ceramic front-brake discs, cross-drilled and ventilated, gripped with six-piston monobloc calipers. Introducing his serene highness, Kaiser Otto Von Stop-Zalot.

Given enough consequence-free asphalt, our little blue tester could bolt to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds; eat quarter-miles in 11-second bites; wheel through corners with 1 G of side-loading acceleration; and touch 174 mph. But the car is also low, maybe a bit hard to see, and has the unnerving ability to vanish and materialize in people's mirrors, like a Smurf dropping out of light speed. I was obliged to restrain my usual exuberance on public roads.

Given the production numbers and what is likely to be a high attrition rate on the street, I got on the plane thinking I would never get another crack at le petit monster. But when I got to Florida, one was waiting for me. On a racetrack.

That was lucky, he said, adjusting his horseshoe.

I had come to see the Concours Club, a new private racetrack sharing property with the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport. The organization is well-heeled in many conspicuous ways. Brazilian superstar Hélio Castroneves is the club pro, I guess, with four Indianapolis 500 wins. Ultra-high-worth types can keep their track toys on premises. The club keeps four M2 CS Racing cars -- slicks, roll-cages, bare metal interiors -- for practice and instruction. On the day I visited, the club also had an M2 CS available. Would I like a go? Yes, yes I would.

We kill to dissect. At that moment, I wasn't particularly curious about the accountancy of using a fully optioned $100,000 collectible for reconnoitre laps. The vast majority of the 2,200 cars made will lead lives of pampered seclusion, rarely driven, much less tracked. This one is the village bicycle.

Please join me in my helmet. The first thing you may notice is that the M2 CS is dressed for a night on the town, not a day at the track. The naughty opulence takes in the Alcantara-skinned ceiling, roof pillars, dash, contrast-stitched seat jackets and steering wheel. Please keep your greasy mitts off the carbon-fiber trim fascia on the console and doors, gleaming like Chinese lacquerware. Observe also the M-themed aluminum trim of the pedals and thresholds. Those make the car at least two seconds faster.

You may feel as if you are being swallowed by a leathery carnivorous plant. The deep-seated, thickly bolstered M Sport seats help hold occupants secure even in moments of jostling and sideloading. If you want a tighter squeeze, and you just might, the M2 CS retains the power-adjustable rib bolsters.

The lightweighting program included carbon-fiberizing the roof and outside mirror caps. The aero team added the carbon-fiber front splitter and rear diffuser. On the street such appliances are almost entirely cosmetic; you can't go fast enough to evoke meaningful effects. Actuarially speaking, the splitter is more likely to die on a parking lot stopper than a racetrack's gator strips.

However, at or around 100 mph, these systems come into their own. Each effect -- such as lowering the vehicle's center of gravity, or adding a little aero to the nose under braking -- is subtle but telling in the aggregate, manifesting themselves as the car's lightness to command, a certainty, a suppleness, an agency. This car is so right there. When I say any idiot can go fast in this car, I'm speaking from experience.

Another example: This is the first 2 Series fitted with electronically controlled adaptive dampers, providing three suspension/handling modes (Comfort, Sport and Sport+). I've driven lots of BMWs with multimodal suspensions over the years. If you are not vigorously working the suspension it's hard to discern what difference the various modes make.

It's only when the M2 CS is up on its toes -- sliding, slewing, skittering, scuffing, chirping across tarmac -- that the Sport+ map makes a difference. And then it really does.

The computer-assisted mega-brakes made me look stupid. I badly underestimated their stopping power at first, slowing to a crawl in a couple of corners before I got the measure of things. Here again, outside of a track environment, these top-spec carbon-ceramic units are wasted equipment. Their salient advantages -- reduced unsprung weight and resistance to overheating -- mean next to nothing on the street.

But when the Michelin wonder-tires come to temperature, and the brakes are being heat-cycled 20 times per lap, and you are braking ever later and harder at the big corners and still the binders bite savagely.... I get it.

The club's car is fitted with the paddle-shifted seven-speed dual-clutch transmission instead of the manual gearbox. It will keep you busy. The engine's peak torque (406 lb-ft) lives between 2,350 and 5,500 rpm, at which point the car is revving like a diamond-toothed chain saw. But there is so much torque and so many ratios, I'm still not sure of the fastest way 'round.

Maybe I'll get lucky again.

2020 BMW M2 CS

Base price: $83,600 (including $995 delivery fee)

Price, as tested: $96,545

Powertrain: Twin-scroll bi-turbo 3.0-liter inline six with variable valve timing, direct fuel injection; seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; electronically controlled torque-vectoring rear differential

Power/torque: 444 hp at 6,250 rpm/406 lb-ft at 2,350-5,500 rpm

Length/width/height/wheelbase: 175.6/73.7/55.7/106.0 inches

Curb weight: 3,600 pounds (with DCT)

0-60 mph: 3.8 seconds

EPA fuel economy: 16/23 mpg

Trunk capacity: 13.8 cubic feet

Write to Dan Neil at Dan.Neil@wsj.com

The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 12, 2021 00:14 ET (04:14 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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