Quicker than an M3 in most real world conditions and more rewarding when you want it to be

Our Verdict

BMW 1 Series M Coupé
Smallest M-car promises a return to old-school thrills

Can the BMW 1 Series M Coupé, with its antiquated origins, deliver?

  • First Drive

    BMW 1 Series M Coupé

    Quicker than an M3 in most real world conditions and more rewarding when you want it to be
  • First Drive

    BMW 1 Series M Coupé

    With a turbocharged engine and a £40k price, the 1-series M Coupé is unlike anything else from BMW’s M division.

What is it?

The 1M coupe is the driver’s car that BMW’s M-Division has been threatening (but too often of late failing) to produce. And it’s now on sale in the UK for £40,020, complete with a 337bhp twin-turbo engine and enough real world performance to put even the more expensive V8 M3 in its place.

What’s it like?

Blinding. Although BMW’s claim that the 1M is the spiritual successor to the original E30 M3 must be taken with a small pinch of salt, this is still one heck of a good car to drive. And on the road, in the raw, it looks miles better than it does it pictures, those huge wheelarches appearing to be stretched over the new wider tracks front and rear and the new 19in wheels, to create a definite hot rod character to its appearance.

But it’s from behind the 1M’s chunky new leather wheel that the greatest satisfaction is delivered. This isn’t just a searingly fast car, one with vast amounts of torque that give a genuine sense of amazement to the mid-range; it’s also a proper rear-drive lunatic of a machine in terms of its handling – and that’s what separates it most obviously from one or two other recent machines to wear the M-badge.

Keep its various stability, traction and sport buttons switched on and the 1M feels a bit like the terrible Tasmanian Devil, straining at its leash, yellow lights on the dash flashing pretty much the moment you open the throttle in any of the four gears in the soaking wet rain that we drove it on in the Scottish Highlands. And yet in the dry it feels entirely civilized, most of the time, with a firm but compliant ride and very good control of its body, even over the most challenging of roads.

The only element that’s not quite there, not for personally, is the steering. It’s accurate, precise, and is nicely weighted at all speeds. But like the V8 M3 before it, there’s just a little something missing in the ultimate feedback from the helm at high speed, under bigger cornering loads. And this is magnified most obviously when you turn in to a high speed corner that’s wet.

To begin with, just for quarter of a second, you don’t know for sure if those big front tyres have bitten and the car is going to turn in as desired, or whether they haven’t and you’re about to run wide instead. Once loaded in a corner the feel and sense of grip from the front end is much better; as is the feeling of balance the car displays at the rear once you’ve reached the middle of a corner. And from there to the exit it gets better still.

Which is when you can begin to think about pressing the M-button on the steering wheel, which increases the throttle response, and maybe even engaging the M-diff and, ultimately, turning the TC off as well. What you’ll discover if you do is a car with perhaps a tad more power than grip (especially in the wet) but one that’s actually a lot better balanced than you thought when all the electronic devices were doing their thing.

Be in no doubt, you’re very much on your own on a wet road in a low gear. But in the dry the way the chassis unlocks itself with the driver aids off is a delightful thing to experience – so long as you’re sensible and skillful enough with your throttle inputs, and know what to do if (not when) the tail starts to move around.

And that, ultimately, is what defines the 1M as the old fashioned driver’s delight that it is. BMW has engineered this car to be driven – and enjoyed – by people who at least think they know what they’re doing. It saves it best work, in other words, for those moments that exist quite close to the edge. And for the rest of the time – with the driver aids switched on – it’s just a very decent, surprisingly roomy, surprisingly comfortable fast coupe.

Should I buy one?

At £40,020 the 1M does seem like an awful lot of car for the money. Effectively what we’re talking about is a machine that’s quicker than an M3 in most real world conditions, more rewarding when you want it to be, and not a whole lot less roomy into the bargain. The basic specification is also more than good enough, the interior a tad plain in feel perhaps, but then that’s partly what this car is all about.

If you liked the M3s from yesteryear, you’ll love the new 1M. But get your order in fast; they’re only going to make 450 in right hand drive, and two third of those have already gone.

BMW 1 Series M Coupe

Price: £40,020; 0-60mph: 4.9sec; Top speed: 155mph (limited); Economy: 29.4mpg (combined); CO2: 224g/km; Kerbweight: 1570kg; Engine, cc: 6 cyls in line, 2979cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power: 337bhp; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
36

18 May 2011

I have been a tad critical of M division recently for producing some so so products but this really does seem to be a more of an old school product for them, if not quite E30 levels of involvement.

I like the fact in non TC mode this car has a proper chassis which can be used and is a little spartan on the interior. I also like the fact this has a production run of 450 units (a little more exclusive than the M3) and a price of only £40k.

I could seriously see myself in one of these. Never thought I'd say that when I saw the initial spec on this car.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

18 May 2011

Oh Happy Day. I want one of these..... I would call it Scrappy doo.

18 May 2011

Surely they are making a profit at this price, so why limit the numbers? I'm not ready to change cars at the moment and suspect they will be sold out when I am.

PaulJ

18 May 2011

What I'd have hoped to glean from the review is does the turbo engine remove any of the joy from the drive, and is it as clean revving as a n/a car?

18 May 2011

[quote TegTypeR]and a price of only £40k.[/quote]

More money than sense obviously, there is no such thing as "only £40k to most people" especially not for an ugly 2 door saloon with a cheap and tacky interior, no matter how good the engine a chassis are. I also still think its far too heavy for its size.

18 May 2011

[quote Paul J]

Surely they are making a profit at this price, so why limit the numbers? I'm not ready to change cars at the moment and suspect they will be sold out when I am.[/quote]

Because the whole 1-series line is on a short fuse now, and will be replaced by the F20 series later this year.

Steve S: I bet that initial will-in-won't-it feeling on turn-in can be banished by putting the car on different tyres (preferably not runflats).

18 May 2011

I saw this test being done on Monday and Tuesday. The car was one of 9 I saw on the A832 north of Aultbea. Certainly the car has a great road presence and soundtrack.

But take it from me, as a local, it wouldn't live with a Subaru STi or an Evo up here on these roads. It'd be as quick in a straight line, but around the bends, especially in the wet, the scooby / evo would leave it for dead. And they have rear doors.

19 May 2011

[quote 73henny]And they have rear doors[/quote] Yes, in fact my favourite M car right now is the M3 4doors. Best 2 doors sports car for 40k? Used 997 for me. It's for sure a car cool to drive and the engine is really good having experienced it in the Z4is but...it's ugly, heavy and based on 9 years old economic body. And it's not the more pratical car: 2 doors, small rear seats...

19 May 2011

[quote Citytiger][quote TegTypeR]and a price of only £40k.[/quote]

More money than sense obviously, there is no such thing as "only £40k to most people" [/quote]

In relative terms.......

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

19 May 2011

[quote TegTypeR]In relative terms.......[/quote]

Yes in relative terms the car is well priced. A 135 is already over 30k, the M version has a lot more to offer, the price was predictable.

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