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

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.

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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

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matsoc 25 May 2011

Re: BMW 1-series M Coupe

I will attend a track day event in Monza on June 26th, organized by BMW M division and Guidarepilotare. I'll drive the M1...maybe my skepticism will go away!

julianlee 24 May 2011

Re: BMW 1-series M Coupe

finally....after a long time...a bmw that is seriously proper

Peter Cavellini 23 May 2011

Re: BMW 1-series M Coupe

Just watched the press release vid on autoblog (AOL),was deeply impressed, great noise, power slides were balletic (no, i've not had a drink!),and i think it's better looking than the RS3!.