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Why is the BMW M2 one of the hottest cars coming out in 2023?

Another new BMW M car, another new car with loads of lively discussions and debates on its looks. May it be the baby blue launch color or the boxy shapes all around the bodywork, the new 2023 BMW M2, on the opposite, impressed me in its aesthetics. And many other aspects I try to properly explain in this review.

What’s it all about

First, I wanted to mention that BMW (if you believe it or not) is one of only a very few remaining car manufacturers that is keen to build true enthusiast’s cars and bring our dreams into reality.

The BMW M2 is the smallest, least expensive, true new M car money can buy. But this new one is also the sequel to the best-selling M car ever. More than 60’000 M2s were sold in its original, drastically improved Competition and limited-run CS forms.

This time, there are no versions (yet). There’s just the M2. And it’s a refreshingly simple spec in this world of hybrid drives and niche-busting weird body styles. There is only the classic coupe; no cabrio, no four-door. And you can’t have four-wheel drive either: the 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six’s power only goes to the back wheels. It is as simple as that. At least you get a huge amount of optional BMW performance parts to modify your own M2.

There’s an inherent rightness about a BMW coupe in a relatively compact size with a straight six engine in the front, a gear lever in the middle and all the power spooling up the back wheels. The M2’s matured into a rounded, grown-up complete sports coupe, but it seems like some of the first car’s impish charm has been slightly lost. And now it might be in its final chapter. All figureheads we love about BMW are about to disappear very soon. Cars are becoming drivable computers.

First impressions

The new BMW M2 has a strikingly aggressive, angular design. A body form that follows the functions and abilities it needs to deliver. Every grille and body opening has its own purpose. BMW has taken the M240i, undergone a huge conversion by throwing the M3/M4-front axle in it for better driving dynamics. Not only parts from its bigger brother has been mounted, but the new M2 has grown 20 Centimeters compared to its predecessor and has a length of 4.58 meters in total!

Overall, this is an improved vehicle. Quieter, roomier, more generously equipped and less wearying as a GT than the old M2. That’s a crowd-pleasing move from BMW, but the die-hards in the circle don’t want an M4-lite-version. They want an M2. Now it’s bigger and more grown up just about everywhere, what the M2 lacks is a personality all its own, which the uncomplicated, uncompromising old M2 had in spadefuls.

If I was a current M2 owner, I'd be feeling pretty smug that my car sounds fruiter, and goes with more poise, more purpose, more sense of being a barely contained ball of fury straining to escape from a working-class hero chassis. Perhaps that was where the era ended after all. BUT, time moved on and we need to compare new cars with another. And in this case, the 2023 BMW M2 still is that special choice no other car manufacturer isn’t even capable to deliver. And that's exactly the point.

The boxy fender flares feel like an amalgamation of flares from the E30 M3 and a 1 Series M, pumping the M2 full of strength and presence. The wide haunches look purposeful and do a lot to help the car stand out in a crowd, especially when paired to the standard quad exhaust tips out back. The flares also make it incredibly easy to spot a 2023 M2 from miles away. Is it as handsome as the last M2? Yes. At least for myself even though the original M2 might just be the best-looking M car coming out during the last decade.

Let’s have a seat

Inside, the M2 features the same layout as the regular 2-series coupe. Passenger space is plentiful for front-seat riders but those relegated to the rear may be wishing you had sprung for a 3-series sedan. Though, the M2’s rear seats aren’t a complete win; the access is narrow and at least tall adults will only tolerate being half-way snugged-in in the back for short trips.

The design is racy, and the front seats feature dramatic M-colored bolstering and light-up M logos. Optional for the Carbon Fiber package and a layer of the stuff is draped on multiple surfaces of the M2's cabin, and those sport seats get swapped out for even more aggressive body-hugging buckets that are said to save around 12 kilograms of weight.

A digital monolith of a screen informs the driver of every bit of data they could possibly need. A 12.3-inch screen behind the steering wheel serves as a reconfigurable gauge display and seamlessly transitions to a larger 14.9-inch touchscreen that provides access to the M2's iDrive 8 infotainment system. Navigation is standard, on the other hand, both, a head-up display and 5G connectivity are optional.

Overall, the interior feels like an expensive place to sit, stuffed with equipment. More spacious than the old M2 as well, as you’d hope from the wheelbase swelling. BMW kinda has a point that the M2 hasn’t got any direct rivals. Whether they are very powerful hot-hatches or sport coupes, which actually are two-seaters. And therefore, a bit less practical. The M2 is practical as a tourer though, with 390 liters of boot space, plenty of oddment storage in the cabin, and a, *DRUM ROLL*, 40:20:40 split folding rear seat row!

Driving impressions

The culprit for the M2’s growth spurt is the 1 Series. Because the 1 Series is now based on front-wheel drive that also shares Mini bits, the 2 Series coupe became a refugee. BMW’s ingenious solution was to base the new one on the slightly chopped underpinnings of a 4 Series. Great! Space for badass engines, adaptive suspension (which you never got on the stiff old M2) and a posher interior, straight off the peg. Ready to deliver. No doubt an M-car must be a driver’s car. And in today’ standards, the new M2 definitely belongs to that shrinking niche of cars. Power wise, the M2 doesn’t need to hide itself with its 460hp and 550Nm of torque that throws the M-Steptronic automatic version within 4.1 seconds up to 100kph. It runs, it literally runs. The new M2 is too fast in my honest opinion. At least with the automatic gearbox. But I’m in believe that the car might be more desirable with the manual gearlever and three pedals located in the driver’s legroom. The BMW S58 engine is a true masterpiece with loads of character and potential as we see with the newly launched BMW M3 CS. Although the S58 has two turbochargers, it is a bit laggy in low revs, but let the Turbo spooling up and kick so quick that it almost makes you sick. It is a true pocket rocket that doesn’t let you feel the overall 1’750kg of weight at all!

Let’s leave the power output aside. It isn’t the only mentionable aspect to point out a proper BMW M-car. The car has an utterly better torque. So, it is still some sort of a death-trap like its predecessor? Somehow, yes. At least is has some proper rubber underneath. On the other hand, you gain speed way quicker. The car became more of a self-controllable rollercoaster that follows your physically possible intentions like its rolling on train tracks. The M2 is more agile and playful compared to its bigger brothers thanks to a shorter wheelbase. But still, extremely precise in its handling and makes want to repeatedly drive up the mountain pass. This car is quite addictive!

As usual for a modern M car, you can avoid delving into the complex sub-menu too often by taking the time to set up your favorite M1 and M2 modes while the car is stationary. These are then saved and accessible via the little red levers on the steering wheel. Cool feature that makes driving in various environments more joyful for sure.

What should I buy?

Based on my test drive, it’s a very desirable car. The asking price of over CHF 90’000 is high compared to other sporty compact cars like the Audi RS3 and Mercedes A45 S AMG. But the M2’s better dynamic abilities, looks and feeling of quality puts the price into perspective on first impression. Compared with the CHF 110’000.- plus M3 and M4, their short-wheelbase sibling feels like the one to have, for value and for entertainment. Especially when it is equipped with the enthusiast’s choice – the manual gearbox, even though they charge a few hundred additional bucks on top for it! The reason: BMW says it was a “real fight” to get the manual signed off, as it makes the M2 slower, less economical and more CO2-emitting than the flappy paddle version, but the need to please the enthusiasts won out. Even though BMW expects that only one tenth of all M2s will be sold with the, let’s call it “enthusiast’s option”. A bit paradox, but financially manageable.

To end this review, I wanted to thank the BMW Group Brand Experience Center for lending me their new BMW M2 for an extended weekend. It has been huge fun. And honestly, the new M2 gained a soft spot in my heart. I truly loved every minute driving it.

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