Home / Reviews / BMW M2 2023 Tested Review – Manual M Missile

 

Compact dimensions, twin-turbo straight-six, manual transmission, and rear-wheel-drive. This is not a wish list; this is what the second-generation BMW M2 comes equipped with.

Story: Joshua Varghese
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

There is a certain purity to going fast and the formula for such a car has been around for ages. BMW’s M division is among the best at distilling it into usable sports cars and, with the latest M2, they have tried to offer a balance between the things that make our hearts flutter while driving and the features that we cannot do without while driving a car every day. We made our acquaintance with this quaint little sports car on a curvy road on a beautiful sunny day to bring you the following review.

The first of the holy sports car formulas is evident with the new M2’s racy Toronto Red colour and dimensions. It is 4,580 millimetres long, 1,887 mm wide, and 1,403 mm tall—just enough car. The bonnet appears to be the longest element in this two-door shape and the roof-line drops away smoothly into a tight, yet well-defined rear. The M2 gets a frame-less kidney grille, aero-optimized bumper, and new headlights which may grow on you eventually. The rear, on the other hand, has been reworked more tastefully with a compact diffuser and a quartet of exhaust pipes. While appreciating all this, it is easy to overlook the 19-inch wheels at the front and 20-inch ones at the rear. The M2 we drove was equipped with the optional carbon-fibre roof which shaves off six kilograms and further lowers the centre of gravity.

Two doors are all you get to access the M2’s cabin and they are frame-less, which adds to the premium sports car experience. One does not simply sink into the latest M seats; one fits into them like a Lego piece. They are among the best in business because, going by my own experience, their contours and bolsters locked me firmly, holding me in place while the car went round corners with brutal intent. Yet, they were equally comfortable while cruising along in Comfort mode.

The next part of the experience begins at the cockpit. A reasonable term to use here because the 14.9-inch curved touchscreen display is angled towards the driver while a stunning steering wheel, complete with the “M1” and “M2” quick-toggle missile-launcher-like switches, awaits further orders. There is also a head-up display for Sport and Track modes. Not that anyone cares, but I must quickly comment on the usability of the second row. Flick a switch on the front seats and they will move forward automatically, offering enough room to squeeze into the rear seats. They are comfortable but room is limited, especially with tall people occupying the front seats.

A 3.0-litre, in-line, six-cylinder engine fed by two turbo-chargers lives under the bonnet. It does duty in the M4 as well, but, in the M2, it develops a potent yet usable 460 hp at 6,250 revolutions per minute (rpm) and a peak torque of 550 Nm between 2,650 and 5,870 rpm. The car is offered with an eight-speed automatic which sends it rocketing from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.1 seconds but, praise be to the heavens, the car I drove came equipped with the lovely six-speed manual transmission. Its 0-100 km/h time is 4.3 seconds. Slightly slower, yes, but infinitely more rewarding. The throttle response is sharp and it is easy to extract power smoothly without upsetting the balance of the car. In Comfort mode, it is most docile while the other modes tap the M2’s true potential.

As mentioned earlier, the engine sings through a quad-tip exhaust and it sounds best in the Sport and Track modes. The race to the red-line is conveyed acoustically by an addictive exhaust note, complete with pops and crackles. The clutch is rather close to the dead pedal, which needs getting used to, but it is extremely intuitive to use. Short throws and tactile feedback made me look forward to changing gears, a luxury that is not available in many modern sports cars and certainly one of the things that made my time behind the wheel of this car memorable. Suffice it to say that it is my current benchmark so far as manual transmissions are concerned.

With the right footwork for rev-matching, this is an engine that will be an equal partner in crime if you decide to make quick work of a zigzag road. However, if fancy footwork is not among the skills in your résumé, fret not, for BMW have solved that for you with the “Gear Shift Assistant”. When switched on, it becomes your best friend because it senses downshifts and blips the throttle for you with perfect timing. A defining highlight of the M2 experience.

The Pirelli P Zeroes at the front are not only narrower than the ones at the rear but they are also wrapped around 19-inch wheels while the rear gets wider tyres and 20-inch rims. Their exact level of contribution to the M2’s agility is difficult to gauge because the car is also ably supported by the M adaptive suspension. In Sport and Sport Plus modes, this combination enables the car to hold the road and generate maximum grip while keeping it as flat as possible through a curve.

The steering is among the most precise I have ever experienced and it is easy to tell exactly what the front wheels are doing when turning into a corner at speed. The faster one drives, the easier it is to appreciate just how superbly the power sent to the rear wheels is managed by the electronics and the differential. In Track mode, a skilled driver could easily put the Drift Analyser feature in the M2 to good use because it feels fully capable of taking the line between traction and speed and playing jump rope with it. It is sprung on the stiff side in these modes but the ride quality is not uncomfortable. One can feel the road but I would not say the ride is bone-jarring.

My personal admiration for this car’s electronics peaked when I switched it into Comfort mode: the car that was for all intents a proper hooligan seconds ago transformed into a well-mannered gentleman.

Steering feel, damping, and exhaust note settle into a significantly calmer state. Then the M2 feels like any other car and its compact dimensions are an added advantage in our traffic. The flexibility of the engine has to be appreciated because amazing as it is to race through each gear, it was equally endearing to be able to cruise around town in the higher gears. Similarly, the ride quality in Comfort mode was also fairly impressive. Ground clearance was not a concern because the car never once scraped anywhere. With the exhaust note significantly subdued, there is no reason to keep the windows down and with a Harman/Kardon sound system, one does not have to. With automatic climate control, good music, decent ride quality, and the latest in smartphone connectivity, the M2 is just like any other car and makes a serious case for itself as a daily driver; provided the roads are decent, of course. The tyres are still rather low-profile, you see.

A fast car needs big brakes and the M2 comes equipped with large discs bitten on by equally massive six-piston calipers at the front. They offer enough feedback to shed speed finely while entering a corner and that makes driving fast safe and enjoyable. With ample support from the Pirellis and electronics, the rate at which they get rid of momentum and bring the car to a standstill beggars belief.

On paper, the difference in power between the M2 and the M4 is only 50 hp, but the M2 is almost as heavy as its larger sibling. I am not saying the M2’s weight was evident anywhere. Would be difficult to make such a statement without driving them one after another. The M2 allows an enthusiast to enjoy the drive and is ready to help the driver sharpen his skills without threatening to slide off the road at the first mistake. The price has not been revealed yet, so there is not much to discuss on that front. It will be somewhere between the 2 Series and the M4, that much is obvious.

I would put my money down for this car because it is not often that one gets to enjoy the sensation of working through a manual gearbox that is mated to a fiery engine in a car with such clinical driving dynamics. The fact that it is usable only adds to its desirability. The M2 will continue to be the first step into the hallowed M family and it may also be the last step in the pure ICE M line-up.

Watch the video review here:

Also Read: Maruti Suzuki Jimny First Drive Review

 

About the author: Joshua Varghese

 

Would gape at fast cars. Still does but now has a chance to drive some of them. Hates driving in traffic but makes up for with a spot of off-roading or the occasional track outing. Insta: @motoknight

 

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