Up Close With The 2023 BMW M2: A Mix Of Good, Bad, And Supersized

Opinion / Comments

We've been up close and personal with the all-new G87 BMW M2 Coupe.

Three days ago, BMW revealed the second-generation M2 Coupe. Yesterday, two days later, the car made its public debut at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in South Africa as part of the world's largest BMW M Festival; what better way to celebrate 50 years of M than with a massive party? As part of the media contingency, CarBuzz was able to get up close and personal with the newcomer in all ways except driving it - that'll happen later. We came away with mixed emotions about the new M2, both from a design and engineering perspective. So, in the fairness of giving the newcomer a shot, this is the good, the bad, and the ugly of the all-new M2.

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Design: Too Much Happening

Initial photo leaks did little to allay fears that the BMW M2 wasn't going to be a looker. "The new M2 better be fast because it ain't pretty," is what we said about it when the front end recently leaked. The official reveal photos were better, mainly due to the new red hue and a proper photographer's lens rather than a shoddy wide-angle phone camera, but having seen the new car in person, I'm not so sure its design will go down in history as a BMW great.

We'll start at the front, since that's the area that's garnered the most attention of late. I suppose we should be thankful the M2 doesn't have the gaping buckteeth of the M3 and M4, but it's not a pretty design, especially compared to the outgoing M2. It's not actually the square inlets low and wide on the new bumper design that interfere with it, but rather the grilles that look unfinished. It looks like somebody forgot to install the trim around the grille inserts before it left the factory, leading to something incomplete.

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Then there's the fact that the nose itself is quite rounded, but the square elements made it look like it started out smooth and shapely before someone took over the design using nothing but Lego blocks.

The rear is by far the worst view, however. The new bumper is bulbous and completely out of place. Viewed from the side, it sticks out by an absolute mile. On its own, this could've been integrated into the design, but the deep recesses to accommodate the rear foglights and reflectors add excess sculptural elements that serve no purpose other than to highlight how chunky the bumper is for no reason at all. Then there are the taillights, which are rounded and organically shaped when everything else seems geometric. They look like they were taken from a South Korean econobox during the last decade and dropped onto a BMW body.

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The M2's best angle is the side profile, and for one reason, or, well, four: the blistered wheel arches. Fender flares are one thing, but the M2 makes full use of old-school box fenders. It needs them, too, because the track widths have increased by 1.5 inches up front and 0.16 of an inch at the rear. The body itself is 1.3 inches wider than the old M2. These boxed fenders give the M2 an aggressive stance, evoking the 1M Coupe's haunches perfectly. It's just a pity the rest of the design is so unresolved; it looks like BMW had three teams working on the M2, one on the front, one on the rear, and one on the side, and not once did they ever talk to each other.

The launch color - Zandvoort Blue - was also the wrong choice as it highlights the iffy design choices. The red seen in press shots is better, but the darker the paint, the more acceptable the M2 will look. I don't think that points to a good design, and the M Performance parts make it look even worse.

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Performance: The New M2’s A Fatty

At 3,814 lbs in manual guise and 3,867 lbs with the eight-speed automatic, the new M2 is a fatty. Yes, it's bigger than the old one and the standard 2 Series by a fairly substantial margin: 3,800-plus lbs is a lot of weight for a compact luxury sports coupe. To put this into perspective, the current BMW M3 and M4 weigh 3,840 lbs and 3,830 lbs, respectively, with the standard eight-speed automatic transmission, meaning the smaller M2 is heavier when equipped with the same.

There are a few reasons for the weight gain, chief among those being the fact that the M2 uses the CLAR platform of its big brothers. The modular platform is wonderfully adaptable, but it's big, and it needs to be strong enough for an M5 to be built on it. The M2 also uses the same engine as the M3/4, albeit detuned to 453 horsepower and 406 lb-ft compared to a base M4's 473 ponies. Other factors to consider are that the M3 and M4 come with a carbon fiber roof as standard, and while the same has been publicized as a first on the new M2, that's an optional feature.

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My fear is that the new M2 is just a short-wheelbase M4 without its own personality. Sure, it'll hit 60 mph in 3.9 seconds with the auto 'box and 4.1 with the manual, but those figures aren't improvements on the old M2 Competition. BMW bosses sounded like stuck records telling us how the new M2 has 88 hp more than the first iteration of the last M2, but that only weighed 3,450 lbs in manual guise. The new M2 only has more power to compensate for more weight.

In a press conference after the reveal, BMW M boss Frank van Meel told us that in addition to larger body dimensions, the new M2 also has more features. He highlighted the staggered 19/20-inch wheels housing larger 15-inch brake discs (14.6 inches at the rear) and that technology from the M3 and M4 was included - among which is much of the suspension.

There's also more safety tech, and more computing power, all of which adds weight and complexity. Sure, you can spec the carbon roof and carbon bucket seats in place of the standard heated items, which save 24 lbs, but the fact remains that the new M2 is chunky.

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Interior: More Digital Than Ever

Design trends swing from fad to fad, so I'm not going to wax lyrical about my disdain for cockpits becoming too digital. I will say, however, that the BMW Curved Display with iDrive 8 dominates the interior. From the driver's seat, you have to look over everything to see what's ahead, rather than the cockpit flowing around you and being secondary to your view of the road, or track, ahead. Does it detract from the driving experience? For a keen driver, I think it might. Is this the industry norm now? Most definitely, so complaining about it from my moral high horse likely won't change anything.

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The rest of the interior is lovely. High-quality materials feel more luxurious than counterparts from Mercedes-AMG and Audi, and the steering wheel, replete with red M1 and M2 buttons for your custom drive modes is lifted right from the bigger M cars. The manual shifter falls to hand well, and the front bucket seats - specced as the lightweight carbon items on this show car - look and feel great for someone six-foot-one tall and 180 lbs as I am. The rear seats are more cramped than they should be given the CLAR underpinnings and enlarged dimensions, but this is a coupe so back seats are a luxury in any case. The trunk is large and easily accessible, making the M2 highly practical for a two-door car.

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Verdict: Savor The Old M2

I came away from my time poring over the M2 conflicted. On the one hand, a rear-wheel-drive sports coupe with a six-speed manual gearbox and a turbocharged inline-six engine should be praised for its very existence. The fact that M won't downgrade to a four-cylinder hybrid should be praised too. On that combination of attributes alone, it'll be the driver's car of choice in this segment, where the AMG CLA 45 and Audi RS3 make you feel like a superhero without relying on your ability.

The M2 will be enjoyed best from the inside, once you adapt to having more screen than windscreen in your default line of sight. I suppose that's just as well, though, since the outside of the car does it no favors.

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My only unanswered question is whether or not the new BMW M2 will have a soul of its own. I fear it will feel too much like an M4, which itself is too grown up and mature to be enjoyed as a sports coupe. Parts sharing is one thing, but this feels more like a re-bodied M4 on paper than it does a car with its own identity. It has power, but that just offsets the weight, and its complex suspension is straight from the big boys in the BMW stable.

I'll reserve my final judgment for when I spend time behind the wheel, but for now, I feel while it will be highly capable and the last of its kind, the previous-gen M2 will be the last compact coupe from BMW I truly consider a spiritual successor to the E36 and E46 M3s and the 1M Coupe.

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