2023 BMW M2 Review: Baby M Grows Up

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick

Love It

Leave It

Silly quick for an "entry" model

Silly heavy

Inline-six soundtrack

Surprisingly thirsty

Keeps the manual, rear-drive only

Numb steering

This is the end of an era.

The 2023 BMW M2 is the last M car that will come with a manual transmission. BMW hasn’t confirmed it yet, but this could be the last to launch without all-wheel drive, too. Thus, this should be the truest enthusiast model in the lineup, a back-to-basics coupe dropping a muscular powertrain in a tidy package with the driver central to the experience.

The result is something a little softer. The increased commonality between 2 and 3 Series results in the M2 being a nine-tenths scale M4. Depending on your view, that's either a step forward or back.

What’s new?

This G42-generation 2 Series debuted two years ago. It grew a few inches in most directions, resulting in a cabin that’s fractionally more accommodating for four adults. The M2—with the G87 chassis code, because nothing makes sense anymore—uses the same basic shell this time, not a unique, swollen-wheelarches design. BMW hangs some very boxy bumpers off both ends here, with the M hallmark quartet of tailpipes out back to boot. The M2 also gets its own set of headlights, squarer peepers framing borderless kidneys. It’s not a design home run to these eyes, but I prefer the M2’s squat stance and square haunches to the M4’s toothy grin. Rolling stock consists of 19-inch wheels up front and 20s out back.

Under the hood lies BMW’s always excellent inline-six. Breathing with the help of two turbos, it spits out 453 horsepower and 406 pound-feet; nine more ponies and the same twist as the sizzling outgoing M2 CS. Buyers have the choice of a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic at no extra cost. The adaptive M suspension from the M3 and M4 is also here, though with unique spring rates.

Quick, accomplished—but muted

Given so much family DNA, it should come as no surprise that the M2 drives quite a lot like an M4. There’s a confident, four-square feel to the car’s natural stance, and while the suspension is firm, it’s by no means annoyingly so for something of this performance caliber. I do find a lot of noise from the rear suspension over expansion joints and other bumps, but beyond that, the M2 is totally livable.

The star of the show is the engine. Responsive and happy to sing, the 3.0-liter puts in its best work past 2,500 rpm, right as the torque peaks and hurls the M2 forward. It’ll do 62 mph (100 km/h) in a hair under 4 seconds with the auto; this manual-equipped model is a few ticks shy. But driver enjoyment, am I right?

Eh, sort of. Rowing through the gears is more interactive than the admittedly-excellent ZF auto experience, but this isn’t a manual for the history books. The clutch has a good weight and throws are reasonably tight, but the package lacks the harmonious feel of something in say, the GR Supra. Which is a little funny, considering. Auto rev-matching is present and defeatable should you want to practice your heel-toe abilities.

Threading the M2 through my usual test route, the baby Bimmer is quick as hell and stays flat through even the quickest sweepers. The steering lets it down: while it’s quick and accurate, there’s either too little weighting or a bunch of artificial levels of it in sportier drive modes. The chunky curb weight—over 3,800 pounds (1,724 kilograms, somehow more than the M4—doesn’t help either, slowing responses after initial turn-in. These settings require a two-way dialog between driver and car, and it’s here the bombastic-looking M2 clams up. Maybe the M2 needs a track to truly come alive. That’s definitely where features like the (useful) 10-step traction control could shine, as well as the M Drift Analyzer.

Functional cabin

The shrunken-sibling story continues in the cabin as this is, largely, an M4 interior. I’m good with that: BMW nails the essentials here, with a natural driving position and good sightlines. The leather seats are supportive, and I dig the M tri-color blocking along the shoulders and headrests. It’s a welcome burst of color in an otherwise monochrome cabin, mirroring the door panels. And I’d rather skip the awkward thigh-spreader carbon-backed thrones, thanks. The leather steering wheel looks and feels great, though like so many modern BMWs, it has a comically thick cross-section.

A year after launch, the 2 Series adopted BMW’s current curved display, pairing a digital instrument cluster with a central touchscreen running iDrive 8.0. The instrument cluster is great, especially paired with the optional head-up display (HUD) to provide all the necessary info a driver could need, front and center. After recently experiencing the smart usability upgrades of iDrive 8.5 on the 2024 i5, the shine of 8.0 has (understandably) dulled. The main drawbacks are small icons and too much reliance on sub-menus; two aspects the upgrade fixes. Intermittent Apple CarPlay interruptions were frustrating, and something I couldn’t fix.

Getting into the back seat is tougher than in the M2’s four-door competitors. Naturally. But once you’re back there, and you slide under the six-foot mark, it’s fine.

Dollars and sense

Getting into an M2 requires at least $64,195 ($78,980 CAD), including destination. This model is pleasantly light on further options, and the cool Zandvoort Blue is one of just two no-cost exterior paint options. The bottom line for this Canadian-spec tester is roughly $66,645, or $82,080 CAD as-equipped.

That gives 2 comfortable distance from 4. There’s a lot of talent around this price range, however, including options as disparate as the Audi RS3 and Ford Mustang Dark Horse. The latest Nissan Z Nismo sounds like a sharpened coupe too, though its cabin is no match for that of the Bimmer.

For me, there are two stand-out competitors: the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing and the Toyota GR Supra. The Caddy follows the BMW recipe more closely, with a better balance and more livable second row, but sacrifices the coupe shape, the inline-six sound, and the badge kudos. Meanwhile the Supra ditches a rear row altogether, for one of the most engaging, biddable chassis this side of 100 grand, a better version of this same shifter, and money in the bank.

Verdict: 2023 BMW M2 Review

During our week together, I never entirely gelled with the 2023 BMW M2. It’s undoubtedly quick and accomplished, a better car to live with everyday. The trade-off is a car that struggles to feel raw and fun, even when ostensibly set up for just that reason. A shrunken-down M4 has its own sort of appeal; the old M2 CS just had me hoping for something more unique. The good news is that, if BMW is going to release more versions of this M2 just as it did with the last, then this is just the beginning of the end, not the finale itself.

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Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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