I Was Wrong About the BMW M2

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick

M’s smallest deserves a track to truly shine.

One of the best things in this job—or in life, really—is to be wrong. A mistake is a learning opportunity.

I didn’t love the 2023 BMW M2 when I drove it this past summer. Sure it was quick, but it was never as involving or as communicative as I’d hoped. Fast forward a few months and I’m once again behind that thick leather steering wheel. Only this time there’s no third pedal tucked under it, and the regular seats have made way for those ridiculous thigh-spreader dealies.

Another difference: I’m grinning. Allowed to cut loose on the technical test track at BMW’s Spartanburg mega-complex, I discovered a whole other side of the M2.

Trackable right out the box

This M2 still has a curb weight on the wrong side of 3,800 pounds (1,724 kilograms). In fact, speccing the automatic adds a further 53 lb (24 kg), though I’d wager at least some of that is negated by the upgraded seats. Pairing the aggressive thrones with my personal driving position makes for considerably worse ingress and egress, but boy oh boy do these bolstered buckets hold me in place.

That’s important, because the M2 is capable of serious lateral g’s out on the track. Pitch the Bimmer into the first high-speed right and the outside front digs in and never lets go. The initial responses belie that porky curb weight; the M2 feels at least 400 lb lighter when hustling. A steering wheel that feels inert around town picks up more resistance on track, enough for the driver to lean on and trust. The brakes are strong and show no signs of fading, even as each lap picks up more pace.

About mid-way through the lap comes South Carolina’s corkscrew. It’s not the three-story drop you’ll find out in Monterey, but in layout terms it’s basically a Wario-like mirror: a left-right-left-right wriggle with a blind exit. Let’s call it Waguna Seca. The M2 shows only a bit of lean as it dekes either way, enough to telegraph to the driver what’s going on up front. Trust the front-end grip as the nose gets light over that apex/peak, straighten out the wheel, and let the inline-six sing. The automatic is the right choice here: it knows when to hold and when to downshift, but there’s always the paddles if you want a bit more interaction.

Slowing down for the low-speed stuff, the M2 is keen to remind its driver that unlike its big brothers, it still stays purely rear-driven. We’re still driving with some electronic assistance in play, but the digital nannies allow a few degrees of over-rotation before reining things in. It’s enough to adjust the M2’s mid-corner attitude with just the throttle, a delicious balance between progress and play. For more of the latter, it’s time for the skidpad.

Joining the rat race

The hired hot shoes minding the skidpad introduce me to what they call “the Rat Race.” Two identical M2s start on opposing ends. When the drivers get the radio go ahead, it’s a four-lap race to see who can reel in the other. The track is drenched so there’s a fine balance to be walk.

It’s only once I start do I realize the other challenge: the sprinklers aren’t going to turn off. Every couple car lengths, a deluge of water coats the windshield and driver-side window. It’s a great way to stop me from fixating on my competition catching up, I guess. The M2 holds on about as well as you’d expect from a quartet of wide, low-profile contact patches in flood conditions. The wheel is a near-constant stream of varying weights and feel. I spin twice—and lose.

After the race, there’s the option to test out the M Drift Analyzer (solo on the skidpad, of course). With only surface water to contend with, the M2’s helm is much more consistent in its messaging. It’s still a challenge to hold a slide: the steering is quick, the 3.0-liter is potent, and the whole package is contained within a shorter wheelbase. Slow down your responses and focus on precision, and the M2 adopts a comfortable tail-out stance. I don’t get close to the day’s record—seriously, over a quarter mile?!—but the car is telling me where I went wrong, a conversation I never had during summer’s road drive.

Let your M run free

So I was wrong: the current M2 can be fun and communicative. It just needs a track to safely do so, repeatedly. If you’re a current or prospective owner, do yourself—and your car—a favor and hit up the local track. And don’t forget to be wrong every once in a while.

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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