In the full scheme of popularized performance vehicles, the BMW M2 hasn’t necessarily been on the list for automotive enthusiasts as their top-tier choice. However, enthusiasts in the know of what the BMW M2 has inspired in a compact-sized pocket-rocket package in recent years, the newly redesigned BMW M2 for 2023 has been a highly anticipated vehicle, and we had the chance to experience such this past week.
The new 2023 BMW M2 brings something that many BMW purists miss in a smaller performance coupe, something the original E30 M3 and even the E46 M3 brought us, but that “feeling” somewhat escaped us as the M3, and later M4, grew bigger and heavier. While the latest BMW M3 and M4 have more power than ever for the coveted BMW segment, they have a little of the original BMW Motorsport-inspired feeling that you can only get if you make things smaller.
The design approach of the new M2 takes what we already loved in the 2-series (230i and M240i) coupe and literally beefed it up with a more muscular visual approach. At first glance, from the initial photos of the M2, I did give it a hard time for not being favorable to my tastes, but after seeing it in person and spending some quality time in my Zandvoort Blue test vehicle, I like what I see. There was some time that was required for me to grow into liking what I see in the new M2 as it is an “interesting” departure from what I saw in my 2022 BMW 230i that I had last year. I get what BMW has done here, and funny enough, I would not mind owning a new BMW M2 – it’s just that good!
In the approach of making things smaller, which is what the M2 G87 is about, BMW seemed to not take away what really matters by using the same S58 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6-cylinder engine. However, the S58 in the new M2 is supposedly a detuned version, but from my butt dyno it sure feels like LOT more than the claimed 453 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque.
From what I’ve experienced in the S58 found in the new M4 is that it’s a monster of a turbocharged inline-6-cylinder engine. In the M2, the power is still fierce, and I have a chuckle every time I give the M2 the beans as the rear 285/30R20 (20-inch) Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires fight for traction through third gear on my 8-speed automatic-equipped M2 test vehicle on somewhat dirty road. The rear end even tends to dance around, and even more in the MDM traction control mode or with it off. The rear electronically controlled limited-slip differential does a good job of harmonizing power for both rear wheels as the ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic fires off snappy shifts – nearly with the urgency of a Porsche PDK.
The major difference that I feel in the BMW M2’s power output versus the new M3/M4 is there seems to be a bit more turbo lag down low but such can be mitigated with launch control or opting for the manual 6-speed transmission allowing you to perform unadulterated footwork. Reaching the 7,200 rpm redline comes quick through the lower gears, and firing off manual shifts with the automatic via large carbon fiber steering wheel-mounted paddles is fun and rewarding. While the automatic isn’t as rewarding as rowing your own gears with a manual transmission M2, I am confident to say that the ZF 8-speed automatic is among the best in the business for an auto box. Best of all, the automatic transmission only adds about 50 pounds (curb weight – 3,814 lbs. manual trans / 3,867 lbs. automatic trans)
Zero to 60 mph ticks off quickly, besting BMW’s estimate of 3.9 seconds through a few tests using some rudimentary testing methods. The top speed of 155 mph, or 177 mph with the optional M Driver’s Pack, was not tested as I wanted to keep my license and the head-turning M2 in my possession. Bringing things to a stop is an assured experience thanks to the same M3 6-piston calipers up front using the adaptive brake-by-wire system.
The new BMW M2 naturally feels planted, and there’s an instantly light feeling that you get the moment you take off in the M2 versus jumping into the new M3 or M4. The ride quality is good for the shortened wheelbase, where BMW seems to have tuned the adaptive dampers to compensate for the extra-rigid structure of the M2, which sports extra reinforcements under the hood from what you find in the new 230i and M240i. Use of the programable M1 and M2 steering wheel buttons comes in handy, but BMW’s latest configuration of the drive modes and drive display settings are often confusing for most. The settings, which are nearly endless, could use some more simplicity that doesn’t require so many steps to find your optimal drive setting and display settings for the digital gauge cluster and large color head-up display.
In the new M2, the steering feel is respectable but more on the numb side, and the electric steering rack appears to be a bit slower than what is found in the M3/M4 siblings. However, there’s a welcomed feeling of precision placement of the M2 – where you point it is where it goes, provided that you’re not performing giggle-inducing oversteer adventures, which I happily did apart from testing out the progressive traction control setting and drift analyzer. Don’t worry, I didn’t score very well on the drift analyzer out of respect for the new Michelin rubber out back. Up front, the smaller 19-inch tires were spared as well as the M2 doesn’t exhibit much understeer taking hard turns, even with the smaller 275-patched tires. And that’s not a typo, the new M2 has staggered wheels/tires not only in tire patch size but diameter having 19-inchers up front and 20-inch out back.
For such a small vehicle, the BMW M2 doesn’t necessarily get good fuel milage, at the EPA estimates of 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined. Yet, you’ll be happy to know that in the real world, on the highway, I saw as much as 25 mpg steadily driving at 70 mph. I don’t know how the M2 managed such, but there’s some magic happening under that aluminum hood in more ways than one.
The new BMW M2 takes most of what I’ve found in the 230i and M240i and dresses it up a bit with unique seats that are exceptionally comfortable with the option of getting M Carbon buckets. My test vehicle’s seats are probably the ones to get for those who will use the M2 for daily commutes, while the optional buckets will be more of an acquired taste for the right-sized individuals.
The dashboard focusing on the latest large, curved display housing the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster in front of the driver and a larger 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen virtually puts you into the age of new technology. This technology, the latest iDrive 8 system, is rather deep, with several hidden features and menu sets that force you to “learn” the system over the course of ownership. I’ll assure you that every owner will discover new features and options deep in the iDrive 8 system over the course of several months. That’s not to say the system is complex, it just has a lot to offer, which I find to be welcoming with its redundancy of controls using the physical iDrive controller and buttons and the touchscreen. The system is snappy after its initial load time taking just a few seconds after vehicle startup. The customization of the system helps out to make accessing some commonly used functions easier and faster.
The seating position seems to be better than the outgoing M2, or other 2-Series vehicles. There’s a surprising amount of space up front with an ample amount of adjustability. There are plenty of unique details that set the M2 apart, such as the accented stitching colors, optional carbon fiber trim, and BMW Motorsport-colored LED elements in the door trim. The rear seating is tight, but you can actually get two (not-so-large) friends stuffed in the back in a pinch.
The BMW M2 bundles up all the expected active safety features (forward collision warning/emergency braking, lane keep warning/assist, blind spot monitors, etc.) while active cruise control remains an option. I would have liked to see a 360-degree camera system, but with the M2’s size there’s not much need for such as the wide-angle rear camera angle does just fine. The default safety functions were a little annoying as the vehicle will want to enable the lane departure warning, but you can easily mitigate such by entering the Sport ‘M Mode’ setting, which is just one additional step to finding your desired drive mode requiring another step of using the M1, M2, or separated drive function control using the “setup” button.
I think where the BMW M2 has gained newfound recognition outside of the BMW fanbase is when you look at its pricing, which starts at just $62,200. Moreover, the transmission choices don’t cost you any extra, and there are only a few major options being the highly recommended carbon fiber roof, along with the options of a lighting package, shadowline package, interior carbon fiber trim, active cruise control, remote engine start, and the live cockpit pro w/head-up display all found on my loaded-up test vehicle. With all those options, you’ll expect to pay $69,695, which includes a destination charge of $995.
In driving so many vehicles, it’s not that often that I find one that I’d happily add to my garage (if I could find one), and the new 2023 BMW M2 is one of a handful that I can say that about – out of all the vehicles I’ve driven in the past couple of years. What a lovely vehicle the M2 is!
Be sure to check back for a full video review of the new 2023 BMW M2!