Road Test Review: The 2023 BMW M2 Is All-New, But Has It Strayed Too Far From Its Roots?
When details about the BMW M2’s 2023 redesign first became available, longtime fans of the brand’s entry-level M model immediately expressed concern. The first murmurings grew around the new M2’s blocky styling, a look that flew in the face of the more flowing lines of its predecessor, but the rabble grew louder when it was revealed that not only would the pint-size M coupe grow in terms of length and width, it would also now tip the scales nearly as heavy as its larger M4 platform-mate.
While there’s not much to be done about the BMW M2’s chunky sheet metal, it turns out that its huskier turn has had far less of an impact on the car’s extroverted personality than one would expect. A stint behind the wheel reveals that “better, faster, stronger,” somehow also encompasses “bigger” as BMW’s best M-car remains at the top of the leader board despite taking up a little more space than anticipated.
Here’s the big number that got enthusiasts so riled up: 3,800 pounds. That’s the axis around which the new M2 rotates, depending on whether you spec it with its standard six-speed manual gearbox or opt for its available eight-speed automatic transmission.
Why is that number such a big deal? For starters, it’s between 200 and 300 pounds heavier than past versions of the car (when surveying base, CS, and Competition models). It’s also very nearly the same measure as the BMW M4 coupe, a car that has seen its ability to engage drivers in two-lane back road conversation diminish in recent years due to its own prodigious weight gain and assorted technological numbing agents (including the availability of all-wheel drive).
The BMW M4 has remained a viable luxury performer due in large part to its exceptional acceleration, made possible by a 3.0L turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine that is potent enough to challenge several of Detroit’s top muscle machines.
Given that this same engine is shared with the M2, there was reasonable debate that making the entry-level two-door not just heavier, but also taller, wider, and longer (especially in terms of wheelbase) would see it trade its trademark reflexes and lithe athleticism for the same brute force approach of BMW’s grand tourer.
Big Guns, Big Fun
Remarkably, this is not at all the case. While the 2023 BMW M2 packs overwhelming firepower under the hood—you’d be hard-pressed to call its 453 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque “detuned” as compared to the M4’s similar mill—that’s hardly the most astonishing aspect of its drive.
Take a moment to reflect on the fact that we live in a world where a 0-60 mph time around the four second mark is no longer an eye-popping number. That’s where the M2 sits when equipped with the 6MT and the even faster automatic model is quick enough in nearly every acceleration category to handily relegate its ancestors to also-ran status.
With that in mind, it’s the M2’s overall character that becomes far more impressive. In manual trim, this is a car that eggs on drivers every step of the way, compelling them to explore the upper reaches of the rev range on even the most mundane of daily errands. The reward is a stentorian exhaust note and eye-blink throttle response to go with the above-mentioned escape velocity vroom, but even more compelling its how well the BMW conceals its added pounds.
The weight melts away on corner turn-in, with the extra inches between the wheels and axles adding a welcome neutrality in the handling department. At the same time, the car is willing to change directions at a moment’s notice, all while communicating to the driver the sheer joy of being tasked with a stretch of road that conforms to twisty topography rather than a highway engineer’s T-square.
The Most Driver-Focused M Model
Has BMW lost sight of what made the M2 the most compelling member of the automaker’s motorsport line-up for fans of hammer-down fun? Absolutely not. This is a coupe that, despite its larger cabin and pushed-out footprint, manages to embody the same handling-first spirit that defined the model it replaces, all without tagging in the deadening effects of all-wheel drive or intense electronic overwatch from its various stability and traction control systems.
It’s encouraging to see BMW’s efforts to keep the M2 well apart from the M4 in terms of overall experience, despite the many commonalities of their shared platform and the general push to plus-size every vehicle that has taken hold of nearly the entire industry. Priced at $62,000, the new M2 manages to steal the spotlight away from sports cars costing tens of thousands more—including a few that are sitting beside it in the same showroom.
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