2023 BMW M2 vs 1992 BMW 325i - The Last Old School M-Car

An M-car with (stupendous power and) a manual gearbox – old-school enough for you? Find out the answer, with our Editor-in-Chief Dhruv Behl, as he also brings a special car to accompany the new BMW M2.

By Dhruv Behl | on June 1, 2023 Follow us on Autox Google News

The revs build to a crescendo. The exhaust note makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. As you heel-and-toe, while braking for a roundabout, you’re fully immersed in the act of driving. The whole car feels alive – it’s buzzing – and you’re an integral part of the experience.

No, I’m not talking about the brand-new M2, but a BMW from three decades ago. A standard four-door 325i. Six cylinders, manual gearbox – everything you need, and nothing you don’t. 

The fact that the car in question has my name on it betrays the fact that I’m an out-and-out BMW fanboy. Add to that the fact that the previous generation M2 is one of the most engaging machines I’ve ever driven, and you get the sense that this is likely to be quite an entertaining comparison.   

But let’s start with some issues. You see, before the previous generation M2 was launched in India towards the end of 2018, I drove a 6-speed manual version of the car in Spain – and absolutely loved it! But when BMW brought the car to India, it was only offered with a 7-speed DCT. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that gearbox. In fact, for all practical purposes, it’s superior in every way. But here was a BMW built for the sole purpose of being as entertaining as possible, and, in my book, that equates to making the driver use all his or her limbs and faculties to row the gears and, at the same time, play footsie with a trio of pedals.

BMW M2 Review: Last of the Line 

Now I’m not sure if BMW heard me whine, but here it is – the 2023 BMW M2 with a 6-speed manual! And, what’s more, this is likely to be the last M-car without electrification of some kind, and, therefore, also the last M-division machine with a manual gearbox. So, your last chance to own a piece of history. No pressure… 

The M2 immediately tries to obliterate its aging sibling, with a 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six that produces 453 horsepower and 550Nm of torque. Compare that with a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated straight-six that produced 189 horsepower when new, and you can clearly see the difference that three decades make. But it’s not all about numbers, it’s about how these machines make you feel. It’s about whether a last-of-the-line M-car is worthy of your fantasies and – if you’re amongst the fortunate few who can afford one – a sizable chunk of your wallet.

2023 BMW M2 Review Driving

Let’s start with how it looks. Suffice to say, it does look much better in person than in pictures or videos (speaking of which, check out our YouTube channel to see both these incredible machines in action). The power bulge on the bonnet makes its presence felt immediately. And every time you look at the frameless kidney grilles, you thank the Lord that the designer who came up with the MASSIVE nostrils of the M3 & M4 was kept what appears to be at least an arm’s length away from this machine. The flared wheel arches are imposing, and the rear haunches are quite curvaceous and sexy. The squared-off air dams don’t look too bad in person either and overall, the new M2 has a squat stance that looks suitably aggressive. Of course, it doesn’t have the clean lines of its sibling, long removed, which you see here, but then that comes from an era when BMWs designs were timeless. 

On the inside, the new car takes a big step up from the previous generation M2. The huge curved display, with iDrive 8, is as cutting-edge as it gets. In fact, the entire cabin screams refinement and luxury, while also feeling sporty thanks to the M-colours appearing just about everywhere. 

2023 BMW M2 Review Interior

BMW M2 Review: M for ‘Muscle’ 

But let’s get down to brass tax – how does it drive? Well, in a word, it’s (very, very) FAST! 100km/h comes up in a scant 4.3 seconds (4.1 for the ZF 8-speed automatic). In fact, even the manual version comes with launch control, which is a hoot to try out on an open road. You simply pin the throttle, dump the clutch, and then hold on for dear life. As you get pinned to your seatback, just remember to shift from first to second.

Once you get going, the blur in your side windows appears to morph from scenery flashing by at an increasing rate of speed to what you would expect when approaching the event horizon of a black hole. You’re instantly doing speeds that feel like they could be intergalactic, and certainly illegal anywhere but the Autobahn (or perhaps the BIC). There’s really no other way to describe this car other than stupendously fast. Well, there is one other way, and that’s to say it’s also quite refined. 

2023 BMW M2 Review Handling

I expected it to crash through anything that even resembled a road imperfection, but – to my surprise – the electronically adjustable suspension offers pretty good damping, even on the moonscape masquerading as roads in most parts of our country. Speaking of electronics, the M2 even offers 10 stages of traction control, so you can allow the car to reign you in as much as you’re comfortable with. So, there is speed – as you would expect – but, as they say, power is nothing without control. And the new M2 can actually exhibit a fair bit of maturity if you let it. 

BMW M2 Review: M for ‘More Grown Up’ 

Does it feel as delicate and lithe as the previous gen? No, but the trade-off is more speed, more grip, and more liveability. Does it feel related to the E36 325i that you see here? Well, yes, in the sense that it shares that inherent BMW chassis balance. But, frankly, in terms of sheer performance, it blows the older car into the weeds. The steering is sharper, the chassis is more responsive, and the brakes are on another level altogether, but that inherent sense of being balanced, responsive, and playful is retained. It’s just that the fun is had at much higher speeds.

2023 BMW M2 Review Vs 1992 BMW 325i Comparison Side By Side

Oh, and the manual gearbox does feel amazing! But what about the drawbacks? Well, the most obvious one is that you really do need a closed road or racetrack to explore the performance potential of this car. Whereas the older one will scream to the redline just about anywhere, the new M2 will surge forward with such ferocity that you’ll find yourself at the next braking point (or obstacle) before you’ve really had the chance to wring its neck. That’s not to say it’s not engaging, select M-Dynamic Mode (MDM) on the traction control and the rear will break loose just enough to put a smile on your face at every prod of the throttle. That being said, its limits are almost too high for the road. 

Also Read: New-age vs Old School: BMW iX & E36 3 Series

Another issue I had was that the A-pillar was so wide that I lost a biker in my peripheral vision on more than one occasion. Now, I wouldn’t like to test rollover protection between the M2 and the 1992 3 Series, but I will say that it’s a relief getting into the older machine and actually being able to see around you. 

1992 BMW 325i E36 India

Finally, while the M2 has back seats, they’re clearly not suitable for full-size adults. So, whereas it is quite practical, your friends in the back will suffer not only from the g-forces that the M2 pulls but also the fact that the sloping roofline won’t allow them to hold their heads up anyway.  

Also Read: 2023 BMW M340i xDrive Review: The Best Performance Sedan to Buy in India?

2023 BMW M2 vs 1992 BMW 325i: Past & Present in Perfect Unison?

So, what’s the verdict then? Despite the manual gearbox, do I wish the M2 were more analogue still? Yes, I do. I certainly wish that I didn’t have to access the touchscreen to adjust the AC temperature. But, honestly, all of this fades into insignificance when you’re attempting to put 453 horses down to the road while rowing your own gears. 

2023 BMW M2 Review Vs 1992 BMW 325i Comparison

The purpose of this car is to offer a glimpse into the past, while hurtling towards the future. Sure, the ZF 8-speed will be faster still, and more convenient, but the 6-speed manual will remind you of why you fell in love with the act of driving in the first place. It’s engaging, it can be challenging even, and it’s the last chance you’ll have to experience that new car smell with the combination of three pedals and absurd power. It is the most finely honed version of the sports sedan from yore. That being the case, count me in. Now, loan me a crore – won’t you?

  • 2023 BMW M2

Engine: 2,993cc / In-Line 6-Cylinders / Twin Turbos

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 6-Speed Manual or 8-Speed Automatic / Rear-Wheel Drive

Power: 453bhp @ 6,250rpm

Torque: 550Nm @ 2,650-5,870rpm

Acceleration: 0-100Km/h – 4.1 s (Auto) / 4.3 s (Manual) 

X-Factor: Your last chance to experience an M car with stupendous power and a manual gearbox.

•  Power

•  Refinement

• Not as playful as the previous gen M2

Tags: BMW BMW M2 M2 M2 Review BMW M2 Review 2023 BMW M2 2023 M2 2023 BMW M2 Review 2023 M2 Review BMW M BMW M2 India Review M2 India Review 2023 BMW M2 India Review 2023 M2 India Review BMW 325i 1992 BMW 325i BMW E36

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