Dynamic drive, active steering – who needs it?
There are just two buttons that alter the driving characteristics of the BMW 1-series M Coupe – one turns off the ESP and the other, mounted on the steering wheel, alters the throttle mapping of the 337bhp straight six, although the storm of torque stirred by its twin turbos is so swamping that you barely need it.
Otherwise, this is one of the most refreshingly straightforward of cars to drive. It’s a manual. It has manually adjusted seats, just the one setting for its dampers and a solitary map for its Servotronic steering. You just need to get in it, and drive.
And if you’d planned to be somewhere in an hour, there’s a good chance that traffic permitting, you’ll be arriving well before that, because this is a hugely fast car.
Whatever the gear, whatever the revs, arcing that floor-mounted accelerator through a chunk of its travel will squish this BMW’s full-fat rubber into the tarmac for a fulsome assault on the space-time continuum.
Dare to keep the throttle squashed, and the M gains momentum like avalanching snow. Deploying its power, then, is a simple thing too. Just as simple is the obediently assured way it deals with corners, and this despite the ever-growing temptation to deep-dip the accelerator, and a surprising bounciness through bump-crested bends.
Bounciness? Show it a small, jabbing walnut of a bump and the BMW squirms it away, just as it soaks up long, heaving crests and shallow valleys of tarmac. But launch it over anything in-between, and its suspension jolts and jerks in a way that has you wondering whether the road is going to fling that fat-back rubber into a high-speed slither.
But even with the ESP recklessly turned off, the tyres hang on no matter what the suspension fails to calmingly absorb. Fling it into a tight bend, though, and you’ll learn that the ESP, which intervenes with the subtlety of a seasoned diplomat, is a very necessary fitment.
All of which gives us a car that is not quite as simple and unsophisticated as it seems. The engine is a powerhouse paragon, its near diesel-like torque delivery perversely contriving to take a little of the pleasure away because you don’t have to work it, nor its super smooth six-speed transmission, to extract all the go that you need.
And though the chassis is troubled by the kind of bumps that are what most British B roads are about, its trick linkages and those super-sized tyres allow the M Coupe to maintain a surprising grip on things.
It fields a curious velvet crudity this suspension, proving quiet and mightily grippy, but short of the supple panache of a Cayman or an Evora.
So though electronically stripped for simplicity, this motorsport machine does not require the physical commitment and sharp-eyed concentration that the old E30 M3 demanded, this compact is not as raw