The 2023 M2 is BMW’s best new car. It’s quick, balanced, communicative and a great everyday driver – everything you’d expect from a small car with the M badge.
But there’s another big expectation for a badged car: it has to keep its car on track. Closed circuits are where M was born – M stands for motorsport, after all, so what good is an M car if it can’t handle serious track time?
We found out if the M2 could handle track time at Florida’s Homestead-Miami Speedway. The overhanging oval is known for NASCAR events, but there is another 2.21-mile track layout that uses the oval’s space and cut. With 13 mixed high- and low-speed courses and four back-to-back tracks, it’s the perfect place to race whether the M2 is a track-day champion or a loser with an iconic badge.
Even before leaving the pits, the M2 2023 scores points. Our tester was optioned with the $9900 steeplechase carbon package, which meant it was equipped with a set of high-end carbon bucket seats that would make any track rat on the E36 swoon. The height and the shovel can be adjusted, as well as the movable supports. It is heated. Best of all, they drop you low enough, so you feel like you’re sitting inside the cockpit rather than on top of the car. The transmission, the steering wheel and the position of the pedals are in place. Visibility is also very good.
What is not good is the balance. Instead of the impressive analog group on the another m2 It’s a giant curved display made up of two screens: one for the gauge cluster area and the other for the infotainment system. The 12.3-inch screen in front of the steering wheel gives an excellent readout of speed and rpm, but they’re inconvenient and unnecessarily difficult to read. Put the car in Sport mode and you’ll get a slightly more visible setup consisting of a single red rev bar and a large central gear display. There are also shift lights that flash yellow and then red when it’s time to change to the next gear. Sleek, but no better than a bunch of old hands and dials.
The S58’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter is at its worst-performing tune here in the M2. While the factory rating of 453 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque seems like a lot, Elsewhere in the BMW rangeThis engine can produce nearly 100 more horsepower with nothing more than an extra boost. But the numbers on the spec sheet can be misleading.
This is the most premium version of the S58. It offers much less grunt than the VIT M3 and M4And while BMW claims peak torque comes in at 2,650 rpm, there’s a real pickup gap up to 4,000 rpm. What might look like a knock against the M2 is actually a positive; The engine’s lack of low-end torque meant it was stuck in third place, and letting a torque plateau take you to the track was no longer an option. This motor asks you to work for power, forcing you to grab second gear in places like Turn 3 or the hairpin at Turn 8 to maintain the boost.
The lack of instant on-demand torque means the M2 may be slower than its bigger siblings, but it’s certainly more fun. This is partly thanks to the engine. The six-speed gearing is identical to the box found in the M3 and M4, and while the ratios seem a bit too short in the bigger cars, they match up well here thanks to the lower pitch.
Not just the powertrain, but it’s a well on the way improvement over the M3/M4. With M2-specific reinforcements in the C-pillar and stem areas, the chassis feels stiffer than the previous M2. A wider 63.2-inch rear track width that matches the M4 means the rear wheels finally have the rubber to handle the power. This car is easy to drive at high speeds, so beginners and veterans alike will find it fun to get close to the limit on the track. There’s plenty of adjustability on corner entry and a lot more grip than you’d expect coming out of a corner. Much of this comes down to the standard active differential, which takes into account things like engine torque, wheel speed, vehicle speed, lateral acceleration, steering angle and yaw rate to providing the perfect amount of lockout at all times. And he does it gently.
There’s a nice balance through the high-speed stuff, too. Like the drivetrain, most of the suspension geometry comes directly from the M4. But the springs have been made stiffer in the front and softer in the rear to improve cornering and keep the setting neutral. Road-focused Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires and a slower steering rack mean cornering and overall grip are never as crisp as in something like M4 CSL. But the steering precision, combined with the confident rear end, results in instant confidence and comfort as you push hard.
The brakes are even more impressive. BMW doesn’t offer a set of carbon-ceramic brakes for the M2 as they do with larger M cars, and after three days of continuous break-in over a hot Miami weekend, the reason is clear. : the standard brakes are very good. Even after multiple sessions, fade and pedal travel was minimal, with no loss of initial bite or power-down. Pretty good considering the M2’s 3,814-pound curb weight.
Drivers who know their stuff will appreciate BMW’s race-inspired traction control. Disable DSC and the infotainment system offers you a menu to choose from 10 different levels of traction control intervention, with 10 being the most aggressive and 0 disabling traction control entirely. With the system displayed, just press the rotary dial to adjust the traction level, no need to press another button to confirm. This makes it easy to request an up or down pull intervention when moving between heads. At the end of each session, you’ll find yourself dialing in different levels of traction for each turn and experimenting with how much grip you can squeeze out of each ride.
There are also modes for things like steering and braking, although you’re less likely to tinker with them on the track. It’s best to ride in comfort, as there’s no added feel or change in performance when switching to the heavier Sport mode. Braking is unchanged whether set to Comfort or Sport, so it’s the dealer’s choice. The standard adaptive suspension allows for a bit of adjustability, although a softer setting is better for most scenarios, especially if you’re the type to use a lot of braking.
With a starting price of $63,195 including destination, the 2023 BMW M2 is not only the most capable M car, but also the least expensive. As a track-ready tram, its main competitor is the Porsche 718 Cayman, which starts at around $70,000. The mid-engined coupe has better handling characteristics, but the 2.0-liter turbo-four with 300 horsepower is lethargic by comparison. Go for the $9,900 M2 carbon package, and things get even more interesting, since you’re under $10,000 from a Cayman S. Although this car has the potential to be faster and more fun on the circuit, it cannot compete with the cabin space of the M2. You can fit four adults in the Series 2, which is a huge selling point if this is your only vehicle.
More than usability, the choice between the M2 or the Cayman will come down to personal preference, with the cars offering very different experiences. BMW has a beautiful, flexible body that forces you to lean on it. The drive lacks that sharpness you find in more expensive M models, replaced by a creamy edge that’s easy to dive in and out of without feeling like you’re losing control. At the same time, the M2’s unique tuning removes some of the low-end torque, so you have to work for your speed rather than just giving it to yourself. The M2 is too heavy to be a perfect trail machine, but its combination of everyday practicality and great setup means it can deliver more smiles than its siblings. Exactly what we expect from the smaller M car.