BMW’s M division has started development of an M version of the 1-series coupé, set to be equipped with a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine producing 350bhp.
The new two-door, details of which were first uncovered by Autocar back in November, has now been added to BMW’s stable of future production models, with right-hand-drive UK sales set to begin in mid-2011.
The decision to put the car into production has been attributed to an “overwhelmingly positive reaction” to recent customer clinics, according to at least one high-ranking BMW official. Aimed at attracting younger customers to BMW’s performance cars, the new coupé is set to become the M division’s most affordable model.
It will slot into the range beneath the M3 coupé, and should cost around £38,000, £8000 more than the 135i Coupé M Sport. That means it will compete directly with Audi’s forthcoming RS3.
Revealing the plans for the new 1-series-based model, M division boss Kay Segler said, “I want to set a clear signal that our products are financially accessible.
“With the modular production processes in place at BMW, it is possible to create performance cars that customers can not only dream about owning but also realistically afford.”
BMW is still deciding whether or not to call the car M1, a name originally used on the firm’s legendary road racer supercar in 1978. Inspiration for the new car comes from BMW’s tii concept, a sporting version of the 1-series coupé that was revealed at the 2007 Tokyo motor show.
While the powerplant in that car was never revealed, the new M car will use a revised version of BMW’s latest turbocharged straight six. In standard guise the 3.0-litre unit, recently unveiled in the 535i GT, uses a twin-scroll turbo aimed at providing a more linear delivery of power and better fuel economy than the earlier twin-turbocharged unit used in the 135i.
For the new M car the engine will re-adopt a twin-turbocharged layout, although the new system is said to differ quite dramatically from that used on the older engine; it’s likely to get a new turbo and a more efficient intercooler arrangement.
The modifications are said to be on a similar level to those seen in the recently introduced X5 M and X6 M, whose 547bhp twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 has big changes compared with the standard V8 versions used in the X5 and X6.
The output of the new M six-pot is expected to climb to around 350bhp, some 48bhp more than the existing 135i M Sport but 70bhp less than the M3’s naturally aspirated 4.0-litre V8. More than outright power, though, it is torque that is likely to play a more significant role in defining the new car’s character.
No figures have been released, but with BMW’s standard turbocharged 3.0-litre six already producing an M3-equalling 295lb ft, the newly developed M version of this engine should be good for at least 310lb ft.
The basis for the new M-car is today’s 1-series coupé. Its driveline is likely to feature a standard six-speed dual-clutch gearbox and an electronically controlled M differential.
With a kerb weight of not much more than 1500kg, its straight-line performance should be close to that of the 1580kg M3. A relatively short 3.15:1 final drive promises a 0-60mph time of around 5.5sec.
Fuel-saving measures such as brake energy regeneration and possibly a stop-start system should also ensure the new M1 is no thirstier than the 135i, which is rated at 30.7mpg in six-speed manual guise.
Underneath, the layout of the 1-series coupé’s MacPherson strut (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension will remain the same. However, BMW’s M division engineers have set about altering the suspension properties, with firmer spring and dampers and a new set of bushes, along with lightweight 18-inch alloy wheels. “We’re aiming to make it a lot more dynamic than the standard 135i,” said Segler.
Setting the M1 apart from the standard 1-series coupé will be a typically subtle M division body kit, including a deeper front spoiler, flared front wheel arches, chunkier sills, a rear deck spoiler and a deeper rear valance with four chromed exhaust pipes.
Assembly of the newest M-car is likely to take place at BMW’s Leipzig factory in Germany. alongside standard versions of the 1-series coupé.
But with 18 months to go until it goes on sale in the UK, Segler is remaining coy about projected volumes. “We’re confident it will draw new customers to the M line-up, but in these difficult economic times it’s impossible to say how it will fare,” he said. “It does, however, reveal where the brand is heading.”