One of BMW’s greatest M cars gets even better.
The 2023 M2 is arguably BMW’s best new car on the market today. It’s quick, balanced, communicative, and still a thoughtful daily driver. All of the sugar, spice, and everything nice things you’d expect from a small car wearing the M badge.
But here's the million-dollar question - can it conquer the track? You see, these M cars were born for the track, it’s in their blood (M standing for Motorsport, after all). Does this M2 live up to its ancestry, or is it just another posh toy with a “fancy” badge?
Well, to find out I recently stepped onto the hallowed grounds of the Chang International Circuit in Buriram for BMW’s Driving Challenge 2023. Helmets donned, heartbeats racing, I and most other individuals alike were here for one main reason - to wring the new BMW M2 on the unrestricted tarmac.
With 13 cunningly crafted corners and four long stretches, it's the perfect battleground to decide if this M2 is a track sensation or just another Sunday driver.
Before unleashing this beast, the 2023 M2 already scores some points. Even though the demo cars came equipped with the standard seats (carbon bucket seats are an option), these seats are nicely bolstered and plonk you nice and low, cocooning you inside like you're in the cockpit of a fighter jet. The shifter, the steering wheel, and those pedals - they're all at that Goldilocks spot. Visibility? Not bad at all.
But let's talk about something that's not a home run - the gauges. Instead of the charming analogue set that graced the previous M2, there’s a colossal curved display with two screens. One’s for the gauges, the other's for all things infotainment.
Now, while the 12.3-inch instrument cluster serves up big numbers for speed and revs, they’re a bit...erm...awkward to read. Toggle into sport mode, and things get a tad more readable - a single red bar for rpm and a big fat speed readout. There are these snazzy shift lights too, shifting colours from yellow to red, urging you for that gear change. Neat, but somehow I miss the old-school needles and dials.
No matter though, as you also get a heads-up display; handy if all you want to do is focus on what’s ahead of you on track.
On to the star of the show. The BMW M2 packs a twin-turbo 3.0-litre S58 straight-6 engine. Now, don’t be misled by the factory figures - 453hp and 550Nm of torque. On paper, it might look potent, but in reality, it’s a different story.
This version of the S58 has a different character. Sure, it’s not as potent as its siblings in the M3 and M4, but to make it clear, that's not a complaint.
It's got less low-end grunt, which might sound like a drawback, but it's actually a plus. This engine doesn’t serve power on a silver platter. It nudges you to work for it, coaxing you to drop to second gear in places like the hairpin in turn 3, just to keep that boost kicking.
And the magic is not just in the engine. The BMW M2’s chassis is another star. Those M2-specific reinforcements add a certain stiffness that the previous M2 lacked.
A wider rear track width, matching the M4, finally grants the rear wheels the grip they've always craved. Entry into corners is seamless, and grip on exits is surprising. And that’s thanks to the clever active differential, which juggles all sorts of data to give you the perfect amount of lock exactly when you need it.
For the high-speed stretches, the suspension geometry largely mirrors that of the M4 (which our instructors drove), but the M2 plays its own tune. Stiffer springs upfront and softer ones at the back give it an edge in turns.
Steering is spot-on, and the rear end sticks like glue - it's a symphony of control and confidence. Unlike its bigger M siblings, this M2 doesn't offer carbon-ceramic brakes. Why? Because these regular ones are spectacular.
After a pounding day stint in the scorching Thailand heat, they didn't flinch. No fading, no pedal travel, just stopping power. And all this, despite the M2's substantial curb weight.
Don’t think I’ve forgotten about the traction control. It’s like BMW's gift to track enthusiasts. Turn off the DSC, and voila, you get a menu with ten levels of traction control intervention. It’s like a video game, dialling up or down your grip on the go. And just when you think it's done, there’s more twiddling with modes for steering and braking.
The 2023 BMW M2 also has something going for it - it’s currently the most affordable M car in showrooms today. All the fun you can have, without parting ways with “too much” cash. This 2023 BMW M2 isn’t just a show-off; it's a driver's delight. It doesn’t have the rawness of its pricier M siblings; it's more like a creamy indulgence, begging you to push the envelope.
If you’re looking to chase lap times, this might not be the ultimate track machine. But, crucially it’s got that perfect combo of fun and precision. Exactly what the M2 badge promises.
Photo Credits: Sean Loo (@auto.driven) & BMW Asia