BMW M2 prototype review: the entry-level M car is back! Reviews 2023 | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
The Latest US News & Reviews
USA News
Monday 11th December
First Drive

BMW M2 prototype review: the entry-level M car is back!

Published: 14 Jun 2022

The new BMW M2 still isn’t finished? What’s taking so long? 

Probably crisis meetings deep in the Munich headquarters wondering what they’re going to do about the grilles.

Even through the disguised wrap, we can see the new M2 appears to have relatively normal, respectable, ungroteqsue nostrils in the middle of its face. Is this allowed for a new BMW? Will they graft on an i7 face transplant at the last minute? Time will tell.

Advertisement - Page continues below

The new 2 Series is a pretty lumpy-looking thing, with a huge power bulge in the bonnet of even the basic 220i, coarse flanks and angular detailing. It seems the M2 will double down on that, though the arches are pumped out and the tracks look wider than the M240i, which is a good sign.

And underneath, is it a heated-up M240i or watered down M4?

The latter, but it’s not been diluted much.

If you know your BMWs, you’ll be aware the current 2 Series Coupe is now a chopped-down 4 Series, instead of a stretched and lowered 1 Series, because the 1 Series is now a dull front-wheel drive VW Golf rival and BMW wanted its little two-door to retain rear-drive and a straight-six engine.

So by chopping a 3/4 Series down to 2 Series size, the recipe for the M2 becomes a bit predictable. We’ve got the same 3.0-litre bi-turbo six-cylinder engine as the M4 (good for about 450 horsepower), rear wheel drive (no xDrive 4x4 is even optional), steel brakes only (to keep the price sensible) and a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes.

Advertisement - Page continues below

What has changed then?

BMW admits the new M2 is heavier than the old M2 and M2 Competition were, because it’s a bigger car physically, it’s got adaptive suspension for the first time and there’s a huge amount of new body stiffening beams and struts under the surface to allow said suspension to better do its work while the chassis doesn’t twist itself inside out.

Yes, it’s disappointing that BMW’s gone from fastidiously chasing weight out of M cars to just using power and tech to get around the issue. But the M2 doesn’t feel too flabby on first impression. And who’d bet against a lighter M2 CS or even a CSL in a few years?

If saving weight is a bugbear of yours, then take heart from the optional carbon fibre roof, the optional carbon racing seats complete with irritating gutter bulge between your legs, and the knowledge the lightest M2 has three pedals and a stick between the seats…

Enough spec. Does it feel like a proper little sports car?

The main thing you learn from eight laps of the Salzburgring is ‘this is pretty but I wouldn’t like to fall off here’. Luckily, the M2 is a friendly place to learn a circuit you’ve never driven before, even one that’s so coated in pollen the clouds of wake look like the smoke from an aerobatics display team. Erk.

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

Let’s rattle through what we can say for sure about the new M2. As you’d expect the M3-ish engine has uncannily savage throttle response and deep reserves of torque. The car feels quick, but not as eye-wateringly rapid as an M4, which is obviously entirely deliberate, to avoid upsetting buyers of the big boy.

What’s crucial is avoiding that sense of the engine being artificially restrained – of feeling the ECU say ‘that’s enough, pipe down until you’ve saved up for the next model’. On first impression, BMW’s done alright there. The noise is authentic as you could hope for a straight-six singing through the speakers. Maybe a tad less flatulent than the current M3 and M4, but there’s still final tuning to follow.

The turn-in and front end is sensational. It’s just nailed to the track and is as alien to the concept of understeer as ‘good taste’ is to an X7 buyer. Now, some will find this worrying – for example, Top Gear’s guardian of brain cells Paul Horrell prefers cars which understeer a little early so you’ve got a hope of sensing when the front axle’s about to run out of grip. If you’re the same, you might not get along with the M2, which changes direction like a racing drone and sticks so hard through the quick stuff you can feel your neck clenching to keep your body united with your head.

Send the M2 through the chicane and it’s pert, agile and brilliantly chuckable. You get a big dollop of oversteer in the M Dynamic Mode, but it won’t let you spin. Apparently. There’s enough room for misbehaviour, and brilliantly judged. The baby M car encourages you to have a laugh. And the steel brakes don’t boil themselves after half a lap – a far cry from rubbish M car brakes of yore.

And the gearbox? Well the eight-speed is professional and courteous but the kickdowns are a touch lazy and it lacks the old DCT’s sense of motorsport-esque focus. The manual is by no means as mechanically slick as a Cayman, Emira or even a Civic Type R, but the semi-lightweight shift just suits the M2’s pugnacious, up and at you character. And as the last M car likely to get a stick-shift option, we’d go with it just for the end-of-an-era vibes.

What did you not like about the new M2? Let’s nitpick.

Okay: the digital displays look like someone left a shelf of Kindles resting on the windscreen and most of the graphics are unintelligible. Fine, do the silly gimmicks, but at least offer an option of rendering some classic M car dials – like Audi, Mercedes, Porsche and so on. BMW’s really kicked itself in the nuts with the cheap-looking graphics.

The weight is a pity, and the overall size bloat too: what we loved about the last M2 was how it felt like – and was – a tiny car with a huge tower of power stuffed under the bonnet. And if we had to put money on it, we’d have a tenner on this generation of M2 not being as pretty as the last one.

But this – like the Toyota GR86, the new manual Supra, the Lotus Emira and the Alpine A110 – is one of those cars likely to be filed in the ‘we’re just glad it exists’ at all folder, because it simply won’t for much longer. These are heady days for sports cars. We’re looking forward to driving the finished product as soon as possible.

compare car finance
Powered byZuto Logo
more on this car
Take one for a spin or order a brochure
Powered byRegit Logo

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5