~ A DriveWays Review ~
by Frank A. Aukofer

Anyone who knows anything about the art of automobile design understands that it involves tradeoffs. A prime current example is the redesigned 2023 BMW M2 Coupe, a blistering performance machine that has one prominent drawback.

This is an exciting, tightly wound, rear-drive, four-passenger two-door with front seats that would do justice to any race car. They are lightweight, cosseting and completely supportive for spirited driving under any conditions. But they also are booby trapped. 

There are large bolsters on the front seat bottoms and backs, supplemented by separate thigh grooves in the seating area, presumably to keep the legs apart so the feet are positioned to align with the brake and clutch pedals, as well as the accelerator pedal.

There’s the rub. The sleek M2 has a low roofline, so the driver must twist and duck to get inside. The sharply angled left bolster, like the others, sticks up more than five inches from the seat bottom so the driver, while ducking and trying to avoid whacking the steering wheel, must maneuver his posterior over the bolster, perhaps inviting castration or at least some discomfort.

The standard transmission is a six-speed manual that invites the time-honored technique of so-called heel-and-toe shifting, wherein the driver blips the gas while also braking, both with the right foot, to match the engine revolutions when using the left foot on the clutch to downshift for more power. However, the M2 also offers automatic rev matching so newcomers don’t have to learn the technique. There’s also an optional eight-speed automatic transmission.

The chief enabler of the M2’s slick heel-and-toe capability is clutch action that absorbs miscues by the driver. If a klutz pops the clutch on most stick shift cars, the quick grab usually noisily kills the engine, whereas on the M2 there’s a buffer built in to ease the transition.

Once inside and settled, the driver gets treated to what BMW owners have experienced ever since the two-door 1600 made its debut in the United States as a 1967 model. It was all about performance and handling, and a suspension system that easily absorbed a romp over railroad tracks at 100 miles an hour—as this reviewer and former owner can testify.

The 1600, also dubbed the 1602, didn’t last because the U.S. government mandated pollution controls in 1968, so the Bavarian Motor Works substituted a two-liter four-banger for the 1.6-liter and dubbed it the BMW 2002, which became famous. But all it really did was keep up with the un-strangled 1600.

Of course after 56 years, the subject here, the M2, is way more sophisticated and desirable for enthusiasts, and it also is more expensive. The reviewer’s 1967 1600 cost $2,850, a decent sum in those days. In 2023, the equivalent in purchasing power, thanks to inflation, comes to $25,710.

So the tested M2, with its base price of $63,995, including the destination charge, and its tested price with options of $75,995, looks as if it comes from the lap of luxury, way over the current average price of an automobile in the U.S. of about $48,000.

A 453-horsepower, 3.0-liter, turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine that delivers 406 pound-feet of torque powers the M2. It is 15 feet long with 85 cubic feet of space for the driver and passengers, and a well-finished trunk of slightly more than 14 cubic feet. Its total interior volume of 99 cubic feet puts it at the top of the EPA’s subcompact class, defined as 85 to 99 cubic feet.

It has the usual downside of any coupe, though BMW took steps to minimize it. The front passenger seat motors forward at the pull of a strap to allow access to the back seat. But there are no overhead grab handles to help out, so it should be reserved for teens or athletic adults. Once in back, there’s enough head and knee room for average sized adults as long as the driver and front passenger don’t run their seats back too far.

There’s large center touch screen nearly at eye level to augment the comprehensive instruments, which include digital readouts of information like speed and engine rpms.

All M2s come with fundamental driver-assistance features, including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist.

The M2 features five separate drive modes. Three that can be accessed with a button on the console activate Road, Sport and Track settings, and two red buttons on the steering wheel, labeled M1 and M2, can be configured to suit the owner’s preferences.

Specifications

  • Model: 2023 BMW M2 Coupe two-door.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter in-line six cylinder, turbocharged: 453 hp, 406 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual with rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 85/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,800 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/24/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $63,995.
  • Price as tested: $75,995.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review. Photos ©BMW

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