Electric and continuously variable transmissions are increasingly refined. So much so, dismissing the once-dominant manual transmission makes sense for new car buyers. Why bother with all that three-pedal fuss?
Still, while the industry is always in flux, one prominent publication recently reported 17 mainstream manufacturers offer 31 cars in 2023 models with manual transmissions.
BMW also still understands drivers with a preference for shifting. The stalwart German manufacturer is among a few carmakers with several lineup choices offering manual transmissions. BMW’s selections are all performance-focused, the M2, M3 and M4.
The newly redesigned 2023 BMW M2 is a high-performance version of the luxury automaker’s entry-level 2 Series coupe. The rear-wheel drive, two-door features a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine with 453 horsepower. It’s offered standard with a six-speed manual transmission. An eight-speed automatic transmission is available as a cost-free option.
Gas mileage in the reviewed M2 with a manual transmission is 16 miles per gallon in city driving, 24 mpg on the highway. With its 13.7-gallon fuel tank, the combined 19 mpg will transport the vehicle a less-than-ideal 260 miles.
The manufacturer claims the eight-speed automatic can complete the 0-to-60 miles per hour standard in 3.9 seconds; the six-speed manual is rated at 4.1 seconds. The top speed is 155 miles per hour or 177 mph the M2 is equipped with the M Driver’s Package.
A driving purist would likely select the six-speed manual. The M2 (M is for Motorsport) is available in one chock-full trim. But several option packages and stand-alone features are also available.
As a performance car, every M2 includes 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels, a performance rear differential, an adaptive suspension damper and a sport exhaust.
Standard also are a sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, auto-dimming mirrors, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable heated front sport seats, leather upholstery, wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto and a Harmon Kardon audio system.
Competition in the sports coupe segment is keen. Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and BMW give German automakers top billing. The M2 is BMW’s smallest car, but it’s far from small in matchups against rivals.
The M2’s interior has been substantially upgraded, notably by a dominating horizontally curved display. It includes a 12.3-inch cluster and a 14.9-inch touchscreen. Driving enthusiasts will appreciate the new seating layout, mostly the carbon overtly bolstered bucket seats. The interior aesthetics are further sporty with illuminating M logos on the headrests and try-color logos on the door panels.
Seats are covered in Vernasca leather upholstery instead of the previous SensaTec synthetic leather. The Black Vernasca leather is matched with either blue or M Color contrast stitching. A Cognac leather option with its own contrast stitching is optionally offered and is black Merino leather with M Color highlights.
Additional upscale options include a heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, and a personal eSIM with 5G connectivity.
Another counter to the M2’s “small” stature is a surprisingly large trunk, 13.8 cubic. It further expands, of course, with the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats down. There are also dual front cupholders, spacious door bins, a glovebox, a center console beneath the armrest and small storage between the rear outboard seating positions.
Safety features are expansive: eight airbags (including front side airbags and front knee airbags), M Traction Control system with 10 variants and the BMW signature Active Driving Assistant. It includes forward collision warning, speed limit information, active blind-spot detection, and lane departure warning.
A parking assistant, head-up display, automatic city collision mitigation and braking, rearview camera front/rear parking sensors and cruise control further added to the top-ling safety and convenience equipment.
Like its siblings, the M2 drives with the BMW swagger, a combination of road presence at highway speeds and confidence while negotiating whatever the driving situation presents.
Zandvoort Blue is one of five exterior paint colors offered. Named after the municipality and racetrack in The Netherlands, it’s Baby Blue with an edge. It’s only available on the M2. Select it and the upscale, $75,000 coupe gains an attention-grabbing coolness factor likely important to some BMW buyers.
Article Last Updated: October 9, 2023.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.