As I peddle the 2023 BMW M2 around the desert roads of Arizona, this car feels different. Not at all bad, just different. As someone deeply captivated by the original, I knew that I would have to temper my expectations before driving this new one, but I was still hoping that this version would at least capture a little bit of the same magic that made the first M2 so special.
In many ways, the 2023 M2 is special. It packs a powerful six-cylinder engine, BMW's best in-car tech, and some of the most advanced suspension bits from the M3 and the M4, which means this car will absolutely obliterate your local curvy road. But in a lot of other ways, the new M2 is just a smaller version of BMW's other most recent M products – for better or worse.
Verdict updated in July 2023 following a seven-day loan. A vehicle's ratings are relative only to its own segment and not the new-vehicle market as a whole. For more on how Motor1.com rates cars, click here.
|Quick Stats:||2023 BMW M2|
|Engine:||Twin-Turbo 3.0-Liter I6|
|Output:||453 Horsepower / 406 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH:||3.9 Seconds|
|Maximum Speed:||177 MPH|
|Base Price:||$62,200 + $995|
Gallery: 2023 BMW M2: First Drive Review
The M2’s new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six borrowed from its brother delivers a hearty 453 horsepower – 48 more than the previous M2 Competition and eight more than the most-powerful M2 CS – with 406 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can still get a six-speed manual on the M2, but my test car had the awesome eight-speed automatic instead.
The good news is that the M2 packs an absolute wallop. Even something as mundane as accelerating from a stoplight feels exciting in the M2. This car hauls ass on its way to 60 miles per hour, which happens in 3.9 seconds with the eight-speed or 4.1 seconds with the manual. And that estimate almost feels modest, maybe as not to offend the M4. The six-cylinder has a ferocious fire-up with just a tiny tinge of turbo lag up front, but tons of torque otherwise and gobs of power at the top end. The burbly exhaust note from the quad exhaust tips ain't half bad, either.
Dynamically, the M2's iconic pluckiness has been swapped for something more formal: the M4's modular CLAR architecture. The M2 has unique suspension tuning, though, such as the not-for-America M3 Touring's squishier springs in the rear, a tweaked traction control system, and an updated electronic limited-slip differential. All of that equipment makes this car feel more eager to rotate than its big sibling.
But with that, the classic BMW M car “crashiness” also carries over. That leads to a jolting ride and some excessive jerkiness in the steering when you're attempting to pedal it really hard through a turn. To be fair, Arizona isn't known for its buttery smooth pavement; this car probably feels more at home on a track.
One of the biggest changes is in the steering. The upgraded tiller gains some heft and a quicker ratio while maintaining the typical M-car scalpel-like quickness on turn-in. More good news is that the M2 is rear-wheel-drive only (for now) and the grip is excellent thanks to the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires (275/35/19 front and 285/30/20 rear). Even on the M4, that rubber is optional.
But this M2 is heavy. The manual model weighs 3,814 pounds, which is already 200 pounds more than the previous M2 Competition. The automatic adds another 53 pounds to that, bringing the total curb weight to 3,867 pounds – only a 112-pound difference between the M2 and the base M4. Like the lesser M240i, the M2 feels like it's tossing around a lot of heft for a car that has a pretty compact footprint.
The new brake-by-wire system helps brings the M2 down to speed more fluidly. Six-piston calipers with 15.0-inch rotors live at the front, while single-piston calipers and 14.6-inchers discs at the rear come standard. And depending on the drive mode, the braking pressure is adjustable in two ways; Sport mode makes them grabbier while Comfort mode keeps them softer.
I’m (Zandvoort) Blue
The M2 goes hard on the flared fenders, gaping front maw, and big wheels (19- and 20-inch staggered shoes). The new Zandvoort Blue paint job gets a silver medal to BMW's Thundernight Metallic purple (which is only available on the M2 through BMW Individual). At the same time, the smoked-out 3D taillights look epic between the subtle lip spoiler and quad exhaust tips.
In typical BMW fashion, much of the cabin is identical to what you'll find elsewhere in the M range, with a few special touches like LED lights in the door panels – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lots of leather, some carbon fiber trim thrown in for good measure, and your choice of two seats: angry carbon buckets with a built-in crotch bumper borrowed from the M4, or much softer but still sporty Vernasca leather thrones.
Go for the latter if you don’t plan on tracking your M2 every weekend. The aggressively bolstered, overly stiff carbon buckets look awesome, but hours in the passenger seat left me aching. I sat in the standard Vernasca leather seats for a moment and they were much comfier.
Arizona's cracked pavement doesn't allow me to report on how comfortable or uncomfortable the M2 might be as a daily driver; the roads highlight this car's stiffness more than anything. But a few minutes of smoother pavement as I head southwest toward Prescott suggests that the M2 can be decently compliant on better roads with the most comfortable drive mode setting ticked. Certainly better with the less aggressive seats.
The new iDrive 8 interface makes its way to the M2 for the first time complete with two massive screens. A 12.3-inch digital cluster sits just behind the steering wheel while a 14.9-inch touchscreen sits atop the dash. It's much of the same stuff we've come to love of iDrive 8, like a clean home screen and standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the M2 even borrows a few M-specific graphics from the iX M60.
Bottom line: If you like the M4, then you’ll love the new M2. It’s basically a smaller and more agile version of that vehicle with a lot of the same features. The M2’s six-cylinder engine is hella powerful and the fancy suspension tech means this coupe can carve up corners with the best of BMW M models.
At $63,195 to start with the destination fee included, the new M2 certainly isn’t affordable (but then again, not a lot of new sports cars are). And the version I tested here is just over $72,000 with premium paint and the full Carbon package. Ouch. But you get what you pay for, and the 2023 M2 delivers on its performance promise. Just be sure to leave your nostalgia at the door.
M2 Competitor Reviews:
2023 BMW M2