Think of this as a classically trained luxury pocket rocket celebrating a second-generation debut in 2023.
Welcome to the BMW M2, the smallest performance coupe from the aspirational, German automotive brand. It’s a throwback to connected driving fun with performance-inspired rear-wheel drive, a standard six-speed manual transmission and potent 453-horsepower, inline twin-turbo six-cylinder engine. Thumbnail sketch; it’s a tiny car with a honking big engine.
Taking a quick side glance, one could mistake the diminutive M2 for a conventional, BMW 2-Series coupe; but a closer look reveals an obvious truth. The M prefix in M2 denotes “Motorsports,” in effect a track-ready 2-Series and a product born of the company’s highly-tuned Motorsports subdivision. Several BMW ‘Series,’ coupes, sedans or crossovers (woops, BMW markets five-door body styles as Sport Activity Vehicles, or SAVs) include an up-performance M twin for those wishing to take the next power step forward. BMW’s Motorsports subdivision began at the track in 1972 providing more than a half century of furious fun.
Just for clarification’s sake, the BMW 2-Series includes a six-cylinder, all-wheel drive configuration marketed as the M240i xDrive coupe. While the name structure includes a beginning letter M followed closely by the number 2, it’s completely separate from the wide-bodied M performance team although a fine (lower cost) vehicle in its own right.
The 2023 M2’s wheelbase (distance between front and rear axle) grows by 2.1 inches from Gen One dimensions benefiting both front and rear legroom. It’s 4.1 inches longer, 1.3 inches wider and 0.3 inches lower.
A key upfront feature separates M2 from the 2 Series; an M-specific tri-section lower air intake with apertures optimizing cooling of powertrain components and brakes. The air dam serves as a base with BMW’s well-recognized twin port kidney grille above. This comparatively diminutive twin port chooses a frameless design with black horizontal (rather than more traditional vertical) inserts.
Add to this a long hood, a roof sloping from the B-pillar leading to a stout body-colored deck lid spoiler with tail-up lip and muscular, delicately flared wheel arches. The functional rear spoiler generates additional downforce to the rear axle. Flush-mounted door openers lift up from a cupped bottom and illuminate at night.
Other specific visuals include ‘M double spoke’ alloy wheels with a jet-black finish measuring 19 inches in front and 20 inches out back. This Gen Two effort borrows visually from its larger M4 sibling, more so than the first-generation go-around from the 2017 to 2021 model years (with BMW skipping the 2022 season).
An optional carbon fiber hard top roof not only looks sharp, but its
lightweight materials reduces vehicle weight and lowers the center of
gravity to increase agility.
The premium coupe’s inline six S58 engine delivers a thunderous 453 horses and teams with a hands-on six-speed manual transmission delivering zero to 60 in a brief 4.1 seconds. For those unschooled or too youthful to recollect the thrills of this joyous man-meets-machine interplay, an optional (at no extra cost) eight-speed automatic is available, shaving .02 seconds off the zero to 60 pace.
Twin turbo engineering helps tame turbo lag, a time-delayed hesitation often experienced with a single turbo (recirculated exhaust) design.
Gen Two’s engine adds 48 more horses than Gen One’s last effort but also throws in more weight. Expect superb, precise steering feel and feedback as a gentle finger turn sends M2 into the desired direction. The near-perfect 50/50 front-to-back weight distribution enhances handling. The clutch provides ample foot throw without grabby sensations. Comments from the primary shot gun rider required historical perspective and explanation as M2’s lower-to-the-ground seating dynamics welcome feedback from road imperfections. It’s not a cushy, floaty ride by any stretch of the imagination. Expect audible tire noise at higher speeds.
The fuel tank holds 13.7 gallons of recommended premium fuel with the six-speed manual delivering ho hum fuel economy of 16 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway. The trade off? A sports car experience that’s also track ready.
No all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric sibling of the 2-Series exists (yet), but in the past two years, BMW begun adding EV selections at a quick pace including an EV version of its flagship, full-size 7-Series sedan sharing similar dimensions and body build of the aspirational internal combustion gas version.
Our cool light blue tester (Zandvoort Blue in BMW speak) started at a relatively low $62,200 (a $3,000 or so increase from 2021). An abundance of stand-alone and packaged options add quickly to the bottom line. Included in our cool blue M2: ultra-modern heads-up windshield display ($1,100), carbon fiber interior trim ($800), M 50-year emblem ($200), adaptive LED lighting ($650) and black-tipped quad exhaust tips for a $66,254 bottom line with a comparatively low $995 destination fee thrown in play.
The heads-up display BMW upgrades from the frustrating first-generating projector framing and ghostly green design with crisper graphics.
One anecdotal observation; the Zandvoort robin’s egg exterior blue is all-new for 2023, a M2 exclusive and a conversation starter. During a two-state Labor Day Weekend jaunt, more thumbs up exchanges and friendly face-to-face chats took place than at any other time this year with the eye-friendly hue specifically cited. Feedback originated from three-year-olds on up from varied backgrounds. What looked to be a sizeable, multigenerational Mennonite-faithed brood oohed and aahed at the stunning M2 providing excited finger pointing and rubber-necked glances; a possible submarket for M2 although terribly impractical for large families.
The slanted M tribar, tricolor (red, blue, violet) flag intersperses outside and inside the vehicle, a staple since M motorsports formation in the early 1970s; the largest version in the form of an artsy pixelated door insert. The circular blue and white BMW logo/medallion also adds M spirit with a swath of spot red forming a smiley face shape while a curved violet tinge curves on the right.
Inside, power-operated front buckets ensconced with Vernasco perforated leather include larger side bolsters with head restraints featuring an illuminated M logo. Interior color inserts include black or our testers Cognac brown.
A huge, curved multi-plex glass campus combines together a left end digital instrument panel (12.3 inches) and centered touch sensitive infotainment region (14.9 inches). It’s an integral focal point of BMW’s iDrive8 multimedia format also working in sync with a prominent tactile twist/push down dial between front buckets. The dial’s surrounded by well-marked push buttons for quick trips to the navigation, media and map commands. Suspension and engine modifications tweak through on screen menus as well as other common settings.
BMW promotes similar-sized theatre screens in many transports but within the M2’s cozy confines, dominates the front dash. Returning Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard allowing seamless operation of downloaded phone apps teaming up with the inhouse sound system. Glad BMW included a tactile on/off/volume dial below the screen and narrow air vents one can monitor without taking eyes off the road.
With the exception of front/rear defroster buttons under screen, most climate functions operate through the screen, although dual front temperatures display at all times no matter the selected screen. Always visible in the lower center, the words ‘Climate Menu,’ calling up a fan speed/direction panel once touched by finger or clicked upon with the circular dial.
A visually prominent, bright red circular electronic start/stop button conveniently locates between the supportive front buckets left of the transmission handle rather than the lower dash, where the steering column could interfere. Push buttons above and below include a handy drive mode button for selecting between Road, Track and Sport (rather than scrolling through the screen tutorial). Dual side-by-side cup holders ahead of the shifter reside too close to the dash resulting in minor fumbling’s.
Unlike some lower and even higher-priced four-seat coupes, M2’s second row provides a workable, albeit tight environment if called upon in a pinch. In fact, a rather spry septuagenarian maneuvered his way back once the power-motivated front bucket slowly crawled forward while his younger sister (also of septuagenarian vintage) rode shotgun up front. Wide coupe-style doors don’t carry an absurd amount of extra poundage and close respectively from a seated position.
The M2 also qualify for BMW’s extensive Ultimate Care maintenance program covering all dealer-performed scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. Four years of roadside assistance gets thrown in too.
A reminder note posted on the inside trunk lid provides a useful referral phone number to the maintenance program, a great low-tech reminder. The deep, usably designed 13.8-cubic foot trunk below swallows more than a weekend’s worth of luggage and includes user-friendly shock-absorber type hinges outside the cargo region, eliminating the crunch factor of interior, goose-neck style supports. Rear seatbacks also fold forward welcoming extra carting options. 2023 BMW M2 Coupe
Price as tested: $66,245
Engine: Inline twin-turbo six cylinder
Overall length: 179.9 inches
Overall width: 74.3inches
Overall height: 55.2 inches
Wheelbase: 108.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,814 pounds
Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city/ 24mpg highway