2023 BMW M2: The Child Prodigy Returns

Published on April 2, 2023 in First Drives by Gabriel Gélinas

Now more than ever, the second-generation BMW M2 (G87) is getting close to matching the performance of the larger M3 and M4, yet it retains a uniquely playful character thanks to its RWD system and perfectly balanced straight-six engine.

For this model, BMW engineers used the first-generation M2 Competition (F87) as a benchmark for performance and handling. An M3-derived engine cranks output up to 453 horsepower, which is nearly 90 horsepower more than the previous M2.

The Zandvoort Blue tester that awaited us was equipped with the optional six-speed manual transmission (an eight-speed automatic is standard) and carbon bucket seats that are part of the M Carbon package ($13,000). What a fantastic car to push through the twisty mountain roads north of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Photo: Uwe Fischer

Almost as Heavy as the M4

The second-generation BMW M2 is based on the same CLAR platform as the M3 sedan and M4 coupe. It’s larger and heavier than its predecessor, almost matching the weight of the M4. On public roads, the extra kilos don’t affect handling as much as you’d think.

It’s too bad the company didn’t give us the opportunity to put the new M2 to the test on a race track like it did with the first-generation M2 CS at Laguna Seca and Mosport. We were unable to push the car to the limit on the road, for obvious safety reasons, but the many turns and elevation changes we encountered made the experience quite fun and rewarding nonetheless.

Photo: Uwe Fischer

Steering is exceptionally precise and direct, while the reinforced chassis is super-rigid. Weight distribution remains outstanding as engineers increased both the front and rear tracks. Meanwhile, the M2-specific sport suspension connects with 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels. These ingredients are the recipe for an exhilarating time behind the wheel despite the car being more ponderous than before.

Fabulous Engine

BMW is a master at designing, tweaking and setting up straight-six engines. The M2’s twin-turbo unit generates 453 horsepower—up from the 444 horsepower in the old M2 CS—and happily revs to 7,200 rpm. When paired with the manual transmission, it proves quite simply fabulous. We had a blast rowing the gears to extract as much performance from the engine as we could.

Photo: Uwe Fischer

Experienced drivers with a knack for heel-toe shifting will want to deactivate the rev-matching function using the touchscreen and spend more time playing with the pedals, which are beautifully positioned to execute this kind of manoeuvre. If you prefer the keep the system on, don’t worry, it does a great job of adjusting engine revs during downshifts so you can make the most of the transmission.

The M2 is equipped with an M Active Differential that performs torque vectoring, while stability control offers up to 10 levels of intervention—from rock-solid handling to pure drifting bliss. It would have been nice to try it out on a track, but as mentioned earlier BMW didn’t give us the opportunity so we couldn’t.

A quick word about styling. The wide fenders over the set of staggered tires definitely add muscle to the new M2, but the rest is fairly conservative right down to the subtle trunk-lid spoiler. There’s a unique front grille with horizontal slats and the requisite quad tailpipes, of course. Overall, the M2 manages to look sporty without going over the top.

Photo: Uwe Fischer

Next-Gen iDrive

The main highlight inside is the new BMW Curved Display powered by the eighth generation of iDrive infotainment. First seen in the all-electric i4 and iX, and now on every single new BMW product, the fully digital interface comes with M-specific graphics and menus in the case of the M2.

Initially, the car will be available in five body colours including Zandvoort Blue, Toronto Red, Brooklyn Grey, Alpine White and Sapphire Black. Other colours in a matte finish (from the Frozen series) will be added later, but sadly, choosing from the extensive BMW Individual palette won’t be possible. Why? Because the San Luis Potosi, Mexico plant that builds 2 Series models doesn’t have the tools to apply these paint colours.

Photo: Uwe Fischer

M2 Competition, M2 CS, xDrive?

Logic says the new 2023 BMW M2 will be followed by Competition and CS models. However, it appears that the automaker has no plans for either of those at the moment, so we might have to wait several years.  

As you know, the M3 and M4 are currently available with all-wheel drive, and since the M2 uses a variant of the same engine it would technically be possible to create an M2 xDrive. Will BMW want to mess with the small coupe’s wilder side, though? We’ll see.

Photo: Uwe Fischer

Another important thing you should know is that the best-selling BMW M model last year was the battery-powered i4 M50. Frank Van Meel, the division’s chief, took quite a few people by surprise when he said that electrified vehicles will outsell conventionally powered ones by 2027.

The all-new XM crossover comes standard with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. So will the next M5 sedan. That means the 2023 BMW M2 will be the last gas-only M without any form electrification such as a 48V battery. Enjoy it while you can.

LISTEN: Gabriel Gelinas drives the 2023 BMW M2

Test drive report
Test model 2023 BMW 2 Series Coupe
Trim level M2 (man)
Price range $76,500
Price as tested CA$94,350
Warranty (basic) 4 years/80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 4 years/80,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 14.3 / 10.0 / N/A L/100km
Options Premium Package ($3,100), M Carbon Package ($13,000), M seat belts ($400), black body accents ($100), M Compound brakes with red callipers ($750), Shadowline headlights ($500)
Competitive models 2023 Mercedes-Benz CLA AMG 45 4MATIC+, 2023 Audi A3 S3 Technik TFSI quattro, 2023 Cadillac CT4 V Blackwing
Strong points
  • Fabulous engine
  • Remarkable manual gearbox
  • Top-notch handling
Weak points
  • Increased weight
  • High base price
  • Expensive options and packages
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 3.0/5 Have fun on the track, pay at the pump.
Comfort 3.5/5 The ride is firm even in Comfort mode.
Performance 4.5/5 Performance is spectacular.
Infotainment 4.0/5 iDrive 8 is responsive and user-friendly. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is included.
Driving 4.5/5 So much fun.
Overall 4.5/5 A BMW for purists.
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