The M2 is the spiritual successor to cars like the E39 (1998–2003) M5 and all the M3s that came before the current one. By now you've heard the old saw that the M4 (and M3) feels artificial, with fake engine noise and more customized settings than a Chipotle restaurant. So the M2 is not that.
It's also fast. In a slower, less capable car, the limit comes easily, and you gain speed by working on lines and technique to scrub less speed here and get on the throttle sooner there. The M2 provides the kind of performance that requires occasional track tourists like me to unlock the internal limits that creep into the brain after too many hours of mind-numbing work commutes. And then the world comes alive and time stretches out, every input to the car playing out in slow motion.
The sensation that comes from driving the M2 hard isn't derived from raw performance. Other cars are faster (must we mention the M4 again?), but don't feel as special. The M2 has the kind of chassis balance that lets you choose any combination of steering, gas, or brake to set your desired vector - the kind of custom settings we fully endorse. A 365-horsepower engine seems downright sensible these days, but it's also making a statement against the endless proliferation of horsepower. The M2 stops at "fast enough" and nails every other part of the driving experience.
Complaints? Sure. We forgot how thick that BMW M steering wheel is, and it borders on absurd. And the seat track skews outward, so that you don't sit parallel to the length of the car. The rest of the car is a modern exercise in gadget restraint. The only option group is the Executive Package, which adds frills like a heated steering wheel and automatic high beams. And with the exception of Apple CarPlay, the rest of the options are purely cosmetic. That is, if you skip the $2,900 dual-clutch transmission, which you should. That means that, unlike most sports cars on sale today, the base M2 (at $53,395) comes standard maximum performance. If that doesn't sum up the purity of the BMW M2, well, look anywhere else on the car because it's a masterclass in the perfect execution of the sports car.