First drive: BMW 1-Series M Coupe
Dismiss the 1-Series M Coupe as a limited-build range topper and you'd be wrong, as it is both a brand builder and the first car to show a new direction for BMW's motorsport-derived division.
In fact, it's almost as though BMW is going into auto-reverse, as the 1-Series M Coupe is closest in size and concept to the iconic 235bhp 80s E30 M3.
From the outside, the answer has got to be yes. The 1-Series Coupe is a quirky car to begin with, but the M makeover has given this car just the right amount of aggression.
The bulging wheel arches, chunky front and rear air dams and the 19-inch CSL-style alloy wheels are far from subtle, but I think it looks every bit the junior M3. Especially when finished in the special tangerine colour.
Don't like the tangerine? No problem, as it's available in any colour you like, as long as it's black or white.
Inside, it's more similar to a standard 1-Series coupe, with just the right amount of unique features to make it feel special. Highlights include the comfortable and supportive sports seats; chunky leather-trimmed steering wheel, the 180mph speedo, the dark headlining and plenty of Alcantara all livened up with orange stitching.
Sadly it's not all good news inside. Space in the back is compromised and although I like the dashboard design, the way the screen for the optional £2,000 professional sat-nav system is integrated is ugly.
So is the 1-Series M Coupe all show and no go? With a shortened M3 chassis and suspension also derived from this car, the answer is a definite no.
Powered by a tweaked, 335bhp version of the 135i's 3.0-litre six-cylinder, twin-turbo engine. The highlight is the seemingly endless stream of torque, whatever the gear. The dash to 62mph is covered in just 4.9 seconds and can go on to a highly illegal, limited 155mph top speed.
The sweetest spot has to be the real kick between 2,000 and 4,000rpm and it will happily rev right through to 7,000rpm. It sounds great too, with the classic six-cylinder soundtrack accompanied by a small amount of turbo hiss.
Press the M button on the steering wheel and the 1-Series M Coupe's character becomes much harder, as the acceleration is even sharper.
I'm also a big fan of the fact that BMW motorsport seems to be bucking the current trend of fitting sequential manual transmissions, as just a slick six-speed manual gearbox is available. Even if the clutch is on the weighty side.
What about the ride and handling? Well, the ride on the 19-inch alloys is firm and on some of the Scottish roads it did feel a bit jittery but it's never uncomfortable. In corners it's always obvious that all that big power is going through the rear wheels, but it is roll free and never feels scary. In fact, provoke it, by example putting the power down too early, then the traction control light will blink.
Finally, the steering is well weighted and has plenty of feel, but I wonder whether the leather-trimmed steering wheel rim is too thick?
So would I buy one? Yes, as whilst it might not be cheap, it feels special and has a wonderfully simple, old-school feel that harks back to great hot M cars of the past. BMW, want to swap an immaculate MINI Cooper S GP?
Check out the video below of the BMW 1-Series M Coupe in action.