Meet the car that M division said it would never build: the 1-series M Coupé.
Set to join BMW’s line-up early next year, following a world premiere at the Detroit motor show next January, the hard-hitting two-door has been conceived as a spiritual successor to the much-loved E30 M3.
BMW gave us a chance to sample the 1-series M Coupé last week at Ascari — albeit from the passenger seat.
First impressions? It’s too quiet. Running a lightly modified version of the twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six from the Z4 sDrive35iS, it needs some detailed inlet and exhaust tuning before it can be considered fit for the showroom.
There’s a slight, distant burble of exhaust at idle, but under load the engine lacks the typical BMW M sound that buyers will be seeking.
That aside, this is a truly exciting car — one, I’m willing to bet, that will prove to be M division’s best-selling model within the next couple of years.
Albert Biermann, the man behind its development and my chauffeur, isn’t giving too much away. About all he’s prepared to say right now is that the M Coupé will boast somewhere in the region of 350bhp in production guise — around 50bhp more than the 135i upon which it is based. The prototype we rode in had a standard six-speed manual gearbox, although a seven-speed dual-clutch ’box will also be offered. Transferring drive to the road is a lightly tweaked version of the M3’s M differential.
With a kerb weight that, Biermann says, undercuts the 135i’s 1455kg and closely stacked ratios, acceleration is not too far from the supercar league. Through the gears, and especially in the mid-range, it feels particularly strong. A torque figure beyond the existing M3’s helps it to romp out of corners with great enthusiasm. From what I could ascertain, the target 0-62mph time of 5.0sec is well within reach, placing it 0.3sec inside that quoted for the 135i.
M division has focused much of its attention on the chassis, as evidenced by its wider tracks and lower ride height. Around Ascari, the 1-series M Coupé feels every bit as agile as the standard M3.
In fact, its compactness and lower weight even give it the edge in certain sections of the 3.4-mile circuit. Its comparative lack of weight means roll angles are kept to a minimum, although the damping on the prototype was clearly quite stiff.
So the wait for the 1-series M Coupé has started. Let’s just hope Biermann can give it a traditional M sound.