2023 BMW 2-Series Review

2023 BMW 2-Series - Nobody puts this baby BMW in a corner.


In terms of overall BMW history, the M2 is a newer model having first debuted in 2015. It's marketed as the most basic M car in the range. For 2023, it enters its second generation with an all-new look, more performance and new technology. The M2 is a subcompact rear-wheel drive four-passenger two-door coupe. It comes standard with a 3.0L TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder that generates 453 horsepower. Prices start at $63,200 and can climb into the upper $76k range when adding in options, in particular the carbon package that runs $9,900. Competition includes vehicles such as the Acura Integra Type S, Audi S3, Genesis G70, Mercedes-AMG CLA Class, and Lexus IS 500. I spent a week in a Zandvoort Blue M2 Coupe that checked in at $66,245 and here's what stood out...

Exterior Style (+)
There's a lot of chatter about the M2's styling changes and while it's a personal opinion, I'm a fan. My test model came in Zandvoort Blue, a light shade of blue with an eggshell-like finish. It paired with bi-color 19"/20" wheels, M shadowline lights, and black exhaust tips to give the M2 Coupe a look that begged to be noticed. It's a captivating look that had teen boys stopping on their bikes to take pictures of it while it was parked in front of my house. The athletic proportions combine with clean surfaces and sculpted forms that accentuate its wide stance. It is most differentiated from the BMW 2 Series Coupe by the M-specific design features necessary for cool air intake and routing and aerodynamic balance.

The front is dominated by a wide, frameless twin kidney grille with prominent horizontal elements (the opposite of the large vertical stylings in the M4). The contoured headlights are positioned to the outer edges of the front fascia with a single circular headlight using full-LED technology for both low beam and high beam. The daytime driving lights take the form of U-shaped light arrangements at the lower edge of the headlights, which also function as the turn signals. Flared side skirts flow into broad, muscular wheel arches to create a performance-oriented appearance.  

The silhouette is defined by its long hood, short overhangs, and a passenger compartment set far back. The roofline sloping down from the B-pillar and the short deck lid with a pronounced lip spoiler complete the look of a compact BMW coupe with clear high-performance abilities. The most striking element of the rear end is the pronounced diffuser insert. This air-directing element adopts a minimalist, racing look and incorporates signature M quad tailpipes. The tailpipes are mounted significantly inward from the edges of the rear bumper and enhance a powerfully compact rear view. The overall look may not be for everyone, but it sure does turn heads.

Color Palette (+)
As described above, the M2 Coupe wears a sporty, aggressive exterior design. It pairs with a rather muted color palette that includes colors like the non-metallic Alpine White or Zandvoort Blue.  Also available are metallic paint options at a $650 premium that include Black Sapphire, Toronto Red, or Brooklyn Grey. Despite its minimal options, the M2 stands out in just about every one available.

Power (+)

With 453 hp at 6,250 rpm, the S58 engine in the new M2 outguns the unit in its predecessor by 48 hp. The TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine comes exclusively with rear-wheel drive and a standard 6-speed manual gearbox. Peak torque of 406 lb.-ft. Is produced between 2,650 - 8,870 RPMs. Choosing the manual or automatic gearbox will have only a minor effect on performance. The new M2 fitted with the 6-speed manual can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds, while the eight-speed M Steptronic transmission trims that time to 3.9 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, or 177 mph if the optional M Driver's Package is specified. The M2 has the same inline-6 found in the more expensive M3 and is only 20 less horsepower. As an M car, it gets a specially tuned suspension and other chassis enhancements to maximize its speed and performance. The manual shifts like a performance car with harder shifts as you lock in and out of the gears. It's a different feel from the Nissan Z I drove the week before which had smoother overall shifts. It feels more like you're driving a race car than a weekend cruiser. This car boasts a lot of power in a small package.

Performance / Handling (+)

This car is meant to be driven. The adaptive suspension is firm, but comfortable for both everyday types of driving and the more spirited drive. You'll feel the roadways in the best way possible without feeling out of control. The new adaptive multi-mode dampers work extremely well in all road conditions. It is firmly planted to the pavement around every turn with little body roll and a good road grip.

The M Servotronic steering facilitates accurate turn-in when powering through bends on the one hand and effortless parking and maneuvering on the other. It combines the benefits of speed-sensitive power assistance and a variable steering ratio. There is a choice of two settings for steering response in the M Setup menu. Comfort mode combines a light steering feel with precise feedback. And in the Sport setting the steering becomes much more communicative while also increasing steering effort - for maximum precision when exploring the outer reaches of the car's dynamic abilities. Bottom line, this car is built for fun and handles with gusto.

M Mode (+)
For ultimate performance, the M2 has a few different driving modes that affect the overall dynamics and sound. The M Mode button opens the door to a performance experience perfectly tailored to each driver's preferences. SPORT mode scales back the range of driver assistance system functions to a minimum and allows for a more engaging drive without added electronics.  Drivers are also able to select TRACK mode designed purely for driving on race circuits, TRACK mode fully deactivates the assistance systems and is not recommended for driving around town.  SPORT and TRACK modes both reduce the content shown in the information display and Head-Up Display to the information relevant to sporty driving. Various readouts can be called up on the left of the information display, including boost pressure and coolant temperature, tire pressure and tire temperature, or longitudinal and lateral acceleration.

Fuel Economy (+/-)
When it arrived with a full 13.7-gallon tank it offered a driving range of around 280 miles. EPA estimates are 16/24/19 MPG city/highway/combined.  It runs on premium fuel. It's not the most fuel-efficient small car, but it is fun to drive.

Interior Vibe (+)
The interior layout of the M2 is the same as the regular 2-Series coupe, but with some M flare. It's available with either black or Cognac leather which pairs with details such as the red/blue stitching on the seat belts, illuminated M badging in the headrest, available carbon fiber accents, and illuminated red/blue accents in the door panels. It's sporty feeling with high quality materials and a (generally) functional layout for the driver. One issue is the placement of the cup holders behind the manual gear selector. Even with a standard Yeti or coffee cup in them, it tended to get in the way of shifting with a good grip. As an alternative, there are extra spots for cups in the doors. There are also two roof variants available including a power moonroof that is 20% larger than the outgoing model (standard) and a weight-reducing M Carbon roof panel is optional.

Seating (+)
Along with the new model come newly designed seats that have more pronounced side bolsters. Vernasca leather with perforated surfaces are standard and available are track-ready M carbon bucket seats. The standard seats are comfortable, easy to adjust, and supportive. Visibility and seating position are good and there is plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room up front. The rear seats accommodate two passengers... whom should be small. Even though the rear seats are tight, I was grateful to have them for my two younger kids to enjoy the ride. The back seats even have latches if you need to install a car seat.

Technology (+)
Hopping inside, drivers will face one large curved display that houses as 12.3" digital cluster and a 14.9" infotainment control hub. The entire screen angles slightly toward the driver and includes new graphics with customizable displays and ambient lighting. BMW's new interface functions well and is more intuitive than past generations. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available and work well. Navigation is standard and a head-up display is optional as part of the $1,100 Live Cockpit Pro package.

The operation system also includes the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. The new system unlocks additional skills in which naturally spoken instructions can now be used to adjust the air conditioning, for instance, or open and close the windows. Driver assistance system functions can also be controlled via voice command.

And for those looking to get the most out of this performance car, M Drive Professional also includes M Lap timer and M Drift Analyzer functions. The M Lap timer records both the current lap time and the time difference compared with the fastest lap around the circuit during the current session.

Safety / Driver Assistance (+/-)
The new BMW M2 doesn't come with as many driver assist or safety features as other more mainstream cars since its focus is more on performance. It does come with the basics that include:

* Park Distance Control with sensors at the front and rear
* Dynamic Cruise Control
* Front Collision Warning with brake intervention
* Lane Departure Warning.
The optional Active Cruise Control system with Stop & Go function (optional on vehicles equipment with the M Steptronic transmission only) maintains the chosen cruising speed while also automatically keeping a safe distance from vehicles traveling ahead, with a choice of four proximity settings.

Final Statement:
The M2 is a true enthusiast type of car. From its looks to its standard rear wheel drive, manual transmission configuration, this is a car that begs to be driven. Cars like this are getting rarer every year so if you're in the market for a fun-to-drive, luxury coupe, the M2 is one of your best bets for around $65k.

First Impression Summary:
Test Vehicle:
2023 BMW M2 Coupe
Exterior Color: Zandvoort Blue
Interior Color: Cognac
Powertrain: 6-speed Manual
Options: Shadowline Package ($300), Lighting Package ($650), BMW M 50 Years Emblems ($200), Carbon Fiber Trim ($800), Live Cockpit Pro ($1,100)
MSRP as tested: $66,245 (With Delivery/Destination)

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.