2023 BMW M2 Prototype Drive Review: Honing BMW’s Sharpest Knife
Here at MotorTrend, we’ve frequently waxed lyrical about the F87 BMW M2 that arrived in 2016, dusting off superlatives to sing its many praises. Now the 2023 BMW M2 adopts the company’s CLAR architecture and shares a heckuva lot with the M3 and the M4. We were recently invited to the Salzburgring in the Austrian Alps to briefly sample heavily camouflaged examples of the new M2 and learn a little bit more.
BMW says the 2023 M2’s wheelbase is 4.3 inches shorter than the M4 coupe’s, and the engine is essentially the same one used in the base M3/M4. Output ratings have yet to be finalized, but expect it to be detuned slightly for corporate hierarchical reasons (there’s nothing physically restricting the intake or exhaust tracts). It will most certainly weigh less, and there’s no corporate edict demanding its weight-to-power ratio rank below its siblings, and we’re told to expect this M2 to come closer to achieving peak M3 performance than any previous M2 variant.
The new 2023 BMW M2 uses many M3/M4 chassis components, including their electric power-steering systems, but with tuning to make the M2 more agile and nimble than its siblings. As an example: The front springs are stiffened slightly while the rears are softened; to compensate for this, the M2 borrows its rear dampers from the heaviest 3 Series Touring (global wagon) model to ensure the rear tires remain pressed to the pavement. Speaking of tires, the M2’s standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires will be the same ones you pay $1,300 extra for on the M3 and M4: 275/35R19 front and 285/30R20 rear on 9.5 x 19 and 10.5 x 20-inch wheels.
More good news: BMW will offer six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmissions, with most of the former coming to our market. (Another market might end up receiving a small allotment of manual cars.) We were offered hot laps in both and eagerly started off in the three-pedal version fitted with the standard sport seats.
The 2023 BMW M2 remains one of those cars that conforms to you, becoming an extension of your central nervous system. The driving position is near perfect, with everything feeling natural. Everything is programmable in seemingly endless ways, but two combinations of settings tuned for differing roads or moods can be programmed quickly to the “M1” and “M2” steering-wheel buttons. We recommend setting them precisely as they were in our test-drive cars—M1 with all functions set to Sport except for comfort brakes and shocks (perfect for slightly bumpier roads and circuits) and M2 set to max attack while retaining a stability-control safety net.
Our session started out dry, but rain began falling just as we began picking up the pace. This steering setup seemed to telegraph the tires’ lateral grip better than most, while the chassis itself communicated intimate detail as to the tires’ limits of longitudinal grip. This is a brake-by-wire pedal that physically isolates your foot from the ABS pump, and yet as the track grew wetter, we felt evidence of the slightest ABS braking or traction-control intervention through the seat, wheel, and pedals. This rich information stream helped build confidence in such adverse conditions.
By the time we strapped into the M2 automatic with the lightweight carbon competition bucket seats, the rain was coming down in buckets, creating mini rivers across the track. The event was red-flagged before we could draw conclusions about shift logic, the responsiveness of the carbon-fiber shift paddles—or basically anything other than the delightful intimacy of the cockpit, the seats (which look exceptionally cool and are comfier than expected), and how we missed the manual’s optional head-up display.
It also helps a ton that this car remains a paragon of weight-proportional-to-size and-power virtue. The engine isn’t insanely overmatched to the chassis and—here’s the treat that’s getting rarer and rarer as the global automotive fleet bloats and electrifies—the mass isn’t so great that it requires herculean active anti-roll bars and miracles of tire science to corner swiftly.
BMW engineers freely admit they could turn the power and torque levels up from where they are, but here’s an unusual instance where corporate marketing restraints are to be praised, not lamented. Heaven knows the aftermarket will offer no end of options to boost output, and buyers are free to tamper with perfection, but right out of the box this M2 is an immensely entertaining and accessible track-day dance partner—and everyone reading this would be well advised to leave well enough alone. Seek out club competitions that group entrants with respect to their weight and power ratings and enjoy this car’s spectacular balance and confident handling.
Floating Screen and iDrive 8
The 2023 BMW M2 gets a curved rectangular floating screen like the one in the new iX. It may not be for everyone, but it looks high-tech, and the new M-graphics package largely shared with the iX M60 looks cool and offers Road, Sport, and Track modes. Road mode gives you a central cluster with a blue speedometer on the left and a red tachometer on the right—each an angled ribbon graphic, not a typical gauge. Your choice of ancillary information gets displayed in the center. Sport tightens up the graphics, leaving a blue speedometer on the left and a more obvious brighter red linear trace for the tachometer on the right. There is less information on the screen. Track replaces the graphic speedometer with a digital readout and displays other vital info on the left (tire pressures, important temperatures, or M settings) with a digital speedometer in the middle, displayed in a smaller font than the gear indicator. This mode also turns off the infotainment half of the screen to eliminate distraction. The avant-garde iD8 graphics risk looking dated in a few years, but if they do and there is a market, BMW can always offer an over-the-air update to re-contemporize it.
Price and On-Sale Date
Production of the 2023 BMW M2 is scheduled to begin at the end of 2022, with deliveries commencing in March 2023. An official press launch is slated for this summer; official specs and pricing won’t be available until then. But the 2020 BMW M2 Competition was priced about $10,000 less than the entry M4 coupe, so if you’re saving up for a 2023 M2, fill that piggy bank with around $65,000. And expect to feel like you got your pennies’ worth and then some.
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