The new M2 draws heavily from the great M cars of the past, but with a generous helping of modern tech.
Jurassic Park... what an epic tale, what a series. For those living under a rock, the plot revolves around the ‘resurrection’ of monstrous dinosaurs from the Jurassic age; all done from individual strands of DNA. Brontosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor, et all, each neatly folded into the fabric of modern times.
Truth be told, BMW’s new M2 has something of a similar story. A car that seems to draw heavily from the strands of DNA left by the great M cars of the past, it is a car that attempts to get as close as possible to the analogue rear-wheel-drive M cars of yore, but with a generous helping of modern tech. And that, in this age of the electrified, homogenised and politically correct performance cars, is something to be celebrated.
Manual gearbox adds at least 50hp to driving experience.
The question is, how well does this ‘Best of’ or ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation really work? Does it have what it takes to further the cult of the M2? How useable is all that power in the rear-wheel-drive-only form in our conditions? And just how practical and useable is it as a daily driver? These and other fascinating impressions, coming up.
2023 BMW M2: first impression
Stepping into the car for the first time comes as something of a surprise. The driving position is low-slung and sporty, the pedals are offset to the right, and adjusting the seat with three pedals needs a bit of back and forth.
Sporty seats hold you well and are very comfortable too.
Start-up brings a familiar nasal blare from the large quad exhaust stubs, and as I flex my right foot, there’s a deep rumble with a few muted pops on overrun. Not the best exhaust note and clearly not as good as the one on AMGs, but it does amp up the experience all the same.
As I set out, I quickly realise just how on-point the sporty front seats are. They feel like one-piece units, deliver excellent lateral, shoulder and leg support, and the bolsters can be adjusted via electrically actuated air cushions. Also, have to say, the M colours or the splashes of red, blue and light blue look attractive on the seats and on the door pads, where they illuminate.
2023 BMW M2: ride and handling
It is agile, surefooted and has massive grip. But the biggest surprise is that it rides well.
The clutch isn’t exactly light. The more I drive in traffic, the more I realise that the long travel clutch is hard work. It’s also quite springy in the middle, and I have to be quite deliberate as I release it. The gearbox has a rubbery feel, so there’s little tactile pleasure to be had at slow speeds. The steering, however, is nice and light in Comfort and, surprise surprise, the M2 even rides well. A big departure from the lumpy and always busy ride of the earlier car, this one has a suspension that’s more absorbent even over medium and large size bumps. Yes, deeper potholes do reveal the stiffness in the springs, and in Sport, there’s more up-and-down movement, but for an M car to ride this well, wow! Even better, the new M2 clears most large speed breakers with ease, some even with four passengers in the cabin – take them at an angle and this car can go pretty much anywhere.
2023 BMW M2: engine and performance
Once on faster roads, the straight-six engine comes into its own. One of the pillars of M cars, this is the same twin-turbocharged S58 engine used on the M3 and M4. Detuned to 460hp, from around 500, peak torque is a strong 550Nm, but this is available only from a relatively high 2,650rpm.
The new M2 gets a 460hp straight six and loads of performance
Responses from low rpm are a bit relaxed and since this is a manual, you do feel the slack as the turbo spins up. Select Sport or the new ‘Track’ mode and the engine gets much more responsive, but this S58 only lunges towards its 7,200rpm redline after around 3,000rpm. From then on, however, it’s one long continuous hard push in the back, all the way to the redline. No, it doesn’t pull as freely towards the top as a naturally aspirated six-shooter, but there’s so much explosive energy and power concentrated in the last 2,000rpm here, you barely notice.
What makes the experience even more immersive is the manual gearbox. You need to work at getting your shifts right, but all the effort is well worth it. Do it right and the thrill is massive. Unleashing the 460hp with the manual just feels so special; an automatic is so detached in comparison. Get it right and 0-100kph will take just 4.3 seconds, 0-200kph coming up in just 14.3 seconds.
Manual box is light, adds a lot to the driving experience.
What also needs a bit of work and some commitment is getting on top of the chassis. It has a lot to do with what the new M2 is based on. The light and compact M1-based chassis on which the earlier playful M2 was based, is gone. In its place, the next best thing, or something even better, depending on your perspective. The new M2 is based on the new M3 and the M4; pluses, minuses, etc. The downside is that this car weighs 1.7 tonnes. This is due to factors like the larger footprint, increased focus on safety and a heavier and more complex powertrain. The new M2 has also been made considerably stiffer. There’s a nest of braces under the bonnet, there’s beefy bracing for the rear suspension towers and to lower the Centre of Gravity (CoG), there’s even a carbon-fibre roof. In addition, you also get an electronically controlled Active M limited-slip differential and staggered wheel sizes, with 19s up front and 20s at the rear; an old Porsche trick.
Out on some good driving roads, the new M2 immediately feels much more grown up. Considerably stiffer and more taut, it clearly communicates that it has plenty of grip in reserve. The steering needs a bit more real weight – even in Sport – but the turn-in is fantastic and the car feels superbly balanced in corners. BMW has added some agility by giving the M2 a shorter wheelbase than the M3 and the rear axle is slightly softer, so it does feel a bit more lively on the move when you go to Sport. The thing is, there’s just so much grip, you need to be really committed to powerslide the car. The playful exuberance of the earlier M2 is missing.
Setup menu is clear and easy to use, has unique features.
However, when it does let go at the rear, the ‘departure’ is progressive, it’s inviting and it’s even forgiving up to a point, which makes it loads of fun. It is hard work. The auto blip works well if you can’t quite get the hang of heel and toeing (the brake pedal lines up perfectly with the accelerator when you brake hard), you have to get your braking just right to transfer weight smoothly, (the stiffer pedal in the adjustable Sport brake setting helps), and then on a track, you can also play with the ten-stage traction control system. The new M2 even comes with an M-drift analyser – a piece of software that rates the length, duration and angle of your drift. Where’s a good circuit when you need one?
So while it isn’t quite the playful and edgy successor to the earlier M2, it’s still massive fun all the same and a car that certainly reminds you of the legendary M performance sedans of the past.
2023 BMW M2: interior and features
Build quality, materials and features on offer elevate the new M2’s experience.
While the earlier M2 had a cabin that would just about pass muster for quality and premium feel, this one is a thoroughly modern BMW. Up front, the cabin is clearly more grown up. It’s larger, more roomy, and both build quality and kit on offer are far superior. It’s also beautifully built and put together. The brushed aluminium highlights, leather and carbon-fibre panels work superbly together. What also gives the cabin an even more upmarket feel is the huge curved display.
While you need to access the climate control via the screen to adjust fan speed, the new iDrive layout and design with its large fonts and very legible text is super slick. Especially, like the clear and neat layout of the Setup menu where you can fine-tune how this car drives. What adds to practicality is that the rear seat is sufficiently roomy and useable even on longer drives. Access to the rear via the front doors is a squeeze and, unless you are tall, you will find plenty of space. The backrest is supportive and even the seat is reasonably comfortable.
Rear seats have decent space; are surprisingly useable.
What isn’t as nice is that the M2 has no spare wheel, only a puncture repair kit. But with different wheel sizes front and rear, it’s only to be expected. The boot, however, at 390 litres will carry a fair amount of your luggage, enough for the weekend or even longer.
2023 BMW M2: verdict and price
With its ‘wide body kit’, box fenders and new-look nose, the new M2 draws a lot of attention to itself. It also has the go to match the show. The explosive power of the twin-turbo straight six is top drawer, the chassis has great poise and huge amounts of grip, and switch off the electronic nannies and there’s also plenty of sideways, rear-wheel-drive action to be had if you are committed. What adds to the driving experience massively is that it can be bought with either a manual – the one we’ve tested here – or an auto.
The explosive performance and manual gearbox together deliver a thrilling experience.
It isn’t as playful as the older M2, which was smaller, lighter and edgier, but there’s also no denying that performance and ability have taken a massive leap forward. It even rides well, has useable back seats, a beautifully specified cabin and even a fair-sized boot. It is likely to be expensive, at an estimated price of Rs 1. 27 crore, and that’s a big jump over the earlier car. Still, think of this as a junior M3 rather than a new M2 and the price jump will make sense. Well, sort of. The entry ticket price to the M family just went up.
2023 BMW M2 video review