Early signs look good for the hot new 1 Series M Coupe

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.
6 October 2010

What is it?

Well, it looks the business. When you see the BMW 1 Series M Coupé in the metal, it’s hard not to be impressed. Even with the taped disguise of this pre-production prototype, it is clear that this is more than just a warmed-over version of BMW’s price-leading two-door.

It’s not beautiful. But the added visual muscle and ground-hugging stance of the new entry-level M-car raises expectations of the performance lurking within. It’s a shot of attitude before you’ve even climbed into the contoured driver’s seat and hit the starter button.

The 1 Series M Coupé’s new aluminium wings have been widened by 80mm over the steel panels of its standard sibling to accommodate a longer front track and trick new rear axle. Combine this with a 10mm lowering in ride height and you’ve got the basis for a purposeful-looking car whose appearance is enhanced ever further by a deep front bumper that houses cooling ducts for its twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six engine.

What's it like?

One thing’s for sure: the new M-car doesn’t lack shove. Its engine is a development of the updated unit used in the Z4 sDrive35iS. As with so much of this car’s mechanical package, BMW is not divulging much about it at all. But with a host of typical performance-enhancing changes – including larger turbochargers, additional boost pressure and unique mapping – power and torque are said to be somewhere north of the Z4’s 335bhp and 332lb ft of torque.

The thing that grabs your attention as you pull away is its flexibility. It will accept sixth gear at 1000rpm without any unruly shunt and continue to pull hard towards the business end of the range without any dip in demeanour.

It’s under load in low gears, though, where it does its best work. Planting your foot in second induces the sort of rolling acceleration to match the 414bhp V8 M3 and it feels terrifically urgent right up to its 7000rpm limit.

Apportioning drive is a six-speed manual gearbox, the only choice for buyers. However, the car does get the same rear axle as the M3, complete with its electronically controlled M differential for more engaging driver appeal and big levels of traction. Nothing’s official, but expect a 0-62mph time of around 5.0sec and a top speed limited to 155mph.

Our prototype had clearly led a hard life and was not fully representative of the final production version of the new M-car, which makes its debut at the Detroit motor show in January before going on sale in the UK in May.

Still, there was sufficient evidence to suggest it will be stiff competition for the current crop of performance coupés. Changes to the suspension provide a noticeably more fluid feel than the standard 1-Series, with more enthusiastic turn-in and added levels of grip. The electro-mechanical steering, for all its accuracy, delivers little feedback on centre but it is quite direct, at 2.4 turns lock to lock.

There’s a little initial roll, but the lightened body settles quickly to provide a flat cornering stance. And with that trick differential juggling drive between the rear wheels, you can lean on it at the exit without any premature breakaway or activation of the stability control system. The new BMW also rides acceptably, even on the 35-profile rubber fitted to our prototype. It’s firm, but not overly so.

Should I buy one?

So, for out-an-out performance and pure driving dynamics, the 1 Series M Coupé is quite an improvement on the already talented 135i coupé upon which it is heavily based. The question is: will potential buyers be prepared to stump up the extra £10,000 to gain membership to the M division club? On looks alone, it will be worth it.

BMW 1 Series M Coupé

Price: £40,000 (est); Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 4.9sec (est); Economy: 31.0mpg (est); CO2: tbc; Kerb weight: 1500kg (est); Engine: 6 cyls in line, 2979cc, twin turbos, petrol; Power: 350bhp at 5900rpm (est); Torque: 345lb ft at 1400rpm (est); Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
19

9 October 2010

So, comparing it with old M3s, as BMW seem to want people to do, what are we talking about? Which one does it resemble most?

 

Please insert paragraps where needed.

9 October 2010

Would anyone really pay £40,000 for such a plain looking car when you could have a Boxter S or a Z4 for the same money?

9 October 2010

For £10k extra that a 135i, i'd expect this car to be more bespoke and just not merely be a hotter version of the car it appears to be based on and whose engine it shares with a non-M Z4.

Also, with power in excess of the Z4's 335bhp, in a car that's lighter than a 3-Series, the performance gap between the M3 and 1-Series M is barely going to be big enough to justify the M3's £50k plus price tag.

9 October 2010

I like it a lot, and that doesn't seem like a lot to pay in comparison with a 135 if it *is* that much better.

9 October 2010

the 1 series hardly looks like a coupe in the first place...more a ugly 2 door with a weird rump....

9 October 2010

This is probably the only BMW I like. I'd even possibly buy one secondhand in a few years, and then Q it.

Even so, it's too heavy.

9 October 2010

What Mr. Kable and the rest of the Autocar staff should be saying is what 'car and driver' in the Us just did...

"Unfortunately, the 528i also shares with the rest of the 5-series its new electric power steering. While weighty, the setup feels artificial and provides zero feedback. Its imperturbable tracking and smooth feel will likely endear it to more laid-back buyers, but we consider this a frightening departure from what made BMW great."

But still there is no call to stop bmw's from becoming soulless. J

9 October 2010

Supercar performance, every day usability and over 30 to the gallon, it's in a league of it's own! Well done BMW, I want one, big time!

9 October 2010

[quote jl4069]

What Mr. Kable and the rest of the Autocar staff should be saying is what 'car and driver' in the Us just did...

"Unfortunately, the 528i also shares with the rest of the 5-series its new electric power steering. While weighty, the setup feels artificial and provides zero feedback. Its imperturbable tracking and smooth feel will likely endear it to more laid-back buyers, but we consider this a frightening departure from what made BMW great."

But still there is no call to stop bmw's from becoming soulless. J

[/quote] Maybe. Maybe not. This is thread is about the 1 Series though. The clue is in the number '1'...

10 October 2010

I increasingly like this car.

It would look superb in that still cultish iron oxide finish,
complete with minor dents and and unwashed winter filth. I rarely wish for time to fly, but in 5 years time when prices have dropped...

Probably not what BMW originally intended, but there you go. One rarely gets what one wants.

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