It's become fashionable to the point of cliche' to whine that BMW doesn't know how to build really great drivers' cars anymore.
Drive this, then try to keep a straight face making that argument.
This is the new, second-generation BMW M2---rear wheel drive, available with a six-speed manual (which ours had) and...
...a twin-turbo inline six making 453 horsepower. Torque? 406 lb-ft. Zero to 60 with the standard manual transmission in 3.9, and though purists of a certain age will howl, the available eight-speed automatic is quicker, at 3.5 seconds. Both transmissions get an EPA fuel economy estimate of 19 miles per gallon combined city/highway.
It being first a BMW and second an M, it doesn't stop with the engine. Along for the ride and big parts of performance and control are M Compound four-wheel ventilated anti-lock disc brakes with dynamic brake control, dynamic stability control with M Dynamic Mode, an M Sport differential, adaptive M suspension.
It's breathtakingly fast, delightfully nimble, and will have you seeking out every winding backroad within 500 miles of wherever you live.
All that potential for fun requires a seat to hold you firmly in place, and the M2 comes equipped with sport seats that do just that. Our tester had the optional Carbon Package, which upgrades them further. There's one problem, it's a me problem and not a BMW problem.
Getting into and out of the M2 requires clearing that bolster/grabhandle on the side of the front seat cushion. It's a good four inches, top to bottom. If I was 35 years younger and 35 pounds lighter, I probably wouldn't have given it a second thought. Misjudge where it is and how tall it is and you'll know it.
The base price of the 2023 BMW M2 Coupe is $63,195 including destination and it comes with a lot of content at that price. Apart from the mechanical and performance bits we've already discussed, there's an M rear spoiler, Shadowline exterior trim, a Harman Kardon surround sound audio system with a one-year subscription to SiriusXM Satellite radio, a three-spoke, leather-wrapped M sport steering wheel, Live Cockpit Plus including navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compaibility, Connected Package Pro (real-time traffic, on-street parking info for select cities, and BMW remote services) keyless entry, heated power front seats, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, a Merino leather interior, dual-zone automatic climate control, park distance control, and a comprehensive suite of active safety features.
The beauty of the M cars is that there's so much content, it reduces the number of available extra-cost options, avoiding abject sticker shock when you reach the bottom line on the sticker. Our tester had the Shadowline Package (M Shadowline lights, black exhaust tips) for $300, the Carbon Package (19 and 20 inch M light alloy bicolor wheels, an M carbon roof, M carbon bucket seats, carbon fiber trim and the M Driver's Package) for $9,900, the Lighting Package (adaptive full LED lights) for $650, special BMW M 50th anniversary emblems for $200 and an upgraded Live Cockpit Pro with head-up display for $1,100.
As-tested price: $75,345.
Once upon a time, that would have been an eye-watering price for the smallest BMW, even an M version---but it's actually a very nearly even match with what Ford is asking for the 2024 Mustang Dark Horse comparably equipped. And for those of us who like our performance in tidy dimensions, the M2 is ten inches shorter and an inch narrower than the big bad Mustang (the M4 is closer to the Dark Horse in size, but there goes the price match).
I haven't driven the Dark Horse yet, but the M2 sets a decidely high bar for what until now would have been a most unlikely matchup.