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.