2023 BMW M2 First Drive Review

Who needs an M3?

By Lee Bailie Wheels.ca

Apr 5, 2023 6 min. read

Article was updated 2 months ago

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SCOTTSDALE, AZ. – If the new M2 coupe is indeed the last BMW M car to be powered solely by an internal combustion engine, then I’d say the era is being closed out with a car that truly captures the ethos of the high-performance brand. But I’ll get to that.

First, a primer. The 2023 BMW M2 is built on the same Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform that underpins the current 2 Series coupe, which was all-new in 2022. Like its predecessor, the new M2 is powered by a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine (453 hp / 406 lb-ft.) that’s paired with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels.

The straight-six engine is high-revving (7,200 rpm redline), with peak torque arriving between 2,650 and 5,870 rpm, and 453 horsepower at 6,250 rpm. Design highlights include a very rigid crankcase, forged crankshaft, and friction-optimized cylinder bores that are packaged in lightweight form.

2023 BMW M2

BMW also notes the core of the cylinder head is 3D printed, which reduces weight. The engine makes use of two mono-scroll turbochargers, along with an indirect intercooler and an electronically controlled wastegate.

On the chassis front, the 2023 BMW M2 comes standard with an Active M Differential located at the rear axle that can variably alter traction independently for the left and right rear wheels to improve grip.

The system ensures engine torque isn’t lost when one rear wheel spins and is also helpful for maintaining grip when launching on slippery surfaces. The system is networked to the DSC (dynamic stability control) and delivers power variably, via sensor array, depending on driving conditions.

Adaptive M suspension is also standard issue, and it includes electronically controlled dampers that adjust variably via sensors that monitor road conditions, body movement and steering inputs. Basic damper characteristics are organized into three settings that can be adjusted through the M Setup menu accessed via a console button.

2023 BMW M2

Dimensionally, the new M2 occupies a larger footprint than that of its predecessor. It’s longer (+119 mm) and wider (+16 mm) but has a lower roof height (-11 mm) than that of the outgoing model, with a wheelbase that is now 54 mm longer which provides more legroom for both front and rear occupants. The front and rear track of the car has also been widened by 38 mm at the front and four mm at the rear.

Lest anyone think the M2 is encroaching on the M4 Coupe, rest assured the former is still significantly larger, with an overall length that is 214 mm longer.

On the design front, the M2 remains short and stubby with a long hood-short deck aesthetic that has a blockier, more geometric treatment this time around. Most edges have been squared, with straight lines running up and down the M2’s surfaces for a contemporary look that still feels very M.

2023 BMW M2

As for the kidney grille, it’s smaller, squared-off, and in good proportion with the air intakes and LED lighting that surrounds it. Speaking of headlights, each unit has a circular element for both low and high beam that was inspired by the BMW 02 Series.

And because it’s an M car, the M2 has wheel arches that flare at both ends to not only swallow 19-inch (front) and 20-inch (rear) wheels comfortably but to also provide a muscular and planted stance. Other details, such as short front and rear overhangs, black rear diffuser, and quad-tip exhausts hint at the car’s performance bona fides. And for owners seeking even more pizzazz, a slew of options, such as a carbon fibre roof and 21-inch wheels, are available.

2023 BMW M2

2023 BMW M2

On the inside, the M2 is finished in a manner one would expect for a modern driver’s car: low-set sport seats that are near impossible to enter or exit gracefully, but fit like a glove once firmly in place, large HD screens for instruments (12.3-inch) and multimedia (14.9-inch), and console and dash switchgear that requires minimal fiddling. The plastics, leathers, and other touch points are handsomely designed and well-finished, and BMW has integrated some nice touches such as M colour accents in the door panels and M2 logos in the seatbacks.

Adjusting to a comfortable driving position is easy, and despite its low-slung gun-slit vibe, I find the M2 to be quite comfortable. Not roomy – the back seat is tiny and not a place I’d want to spend any amount of time in – but there’s plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room up front.

2023 BMW M2

I credit BMW for not overloading the driver with too much tech wizardry here. The M2 is a driver’s car, so we needn’t be reminded constantly of its abundant electronics. In that regard, it’s pleasing there isn’t too much to fiddle with. There’s an M Mode button to adjust the car’s chassis settings, the ubiquitous iDrive controller knob and the rest is where you expect to find it, either on the dashboard or via a steering wheel shortcut. Well done.

A note here before going any further. The media drive did not include closed course evaluations, so I can’t say how the M2 performs in that environment. I can confirm that it is quite a quick car, but my impressions are drawn from time spent on public roads only.

For the record, according to BMW, the M2 can sprint from 0-100 km/h in 4.3 seconds when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission. It’s two-tenths quicker with the eight-speed automatic, and its 0-200 km/h time is also noticeably faster with the autobox (13.5 seconds versus 14.3). An electronic governor caps the top speed at 250 km/h, but 285 km/h is obtainable with the optional M Driver’s Package.

As for the drive, the M2 makes for a fine driver’s car. I spent about two hours driving a Zandvoort Blue tester (shown) from Prescott to Scottsdale over roads that varied between table-top smooth and pockmarked moon crater, and the M2 felt firmly connected to the tarmac. It was a bit loud and bumpy at times, but always secure.

2023 BMW M2

The twin-turbo straight-six is a seat-pressing banshee of an engine when pressed hard, as my colleague and I discovered on twisty two-laners, interstates and all sorts of hilly, flat and dustbowl roads in between. It’s the type of engine that howls with delight when wound up near redline, as shift lights quickly illuminate, as if to say, “is that all you got?” Great fun.

As for handling, the M2’s 50:50 weight distribution, pinpoint steering, slick-shifting six-speed gearbox and RWD format produce the sort of corner-carving, understeer-free dynamic driving that M cars have been renowned for more than 50 years. If I wasn’t so nervous about the zealousness of Arizona law enforcement, I would have explored the M2’s handling limits further. As it was, I was left with the impression that this car captures the essence of M. Sure, this M2 is bigger and heavier than M3s of yore, but it’s also much more powerful.

And with a $76,500 starting price, one might reasonably think, “who needs an M3?”

The 2023 BMW M2 is on sale now.

2023 BMW M2

BODY STYLE: compact high-performance sports coupe
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, 6-speed manual / 8-speed automatic transmission
ENGINE: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder (460 hp / 550 lb-ft.)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium 91+) 14.3 / 10.0 / 12.4 L / 100 km (city / highway / combined, 6-spd.)
CARGO VOLUME: 390 litres (13.7 cu. ft.)
 $76,500, excl. freight, taxes and fees
WEBSITE: www.bmw.ca


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