BMW 1M Coupé: Road test
Are you a BMW M Car fan? If so, you'll have had a very satisfying 2011, with a duo of new models launched.
Don't get me wrong the latest M5 is awesome, however, it was the £40,020 1M Coupé that turned my head this year.
Even with the whole UK allocation of 250 cars already sold, I jumped at the chance of spending a week with this M car, just to see what it's like living with the baby M3.
So, why did I get so excited by the 1M? Well, I just love the simplicity of the whole concept. With every manufacturer going large, it's almost as though BMW is going into auto-reverse, as the 1M is closest in size and concept to the iconic 235bhp '80s E30 M3.
I also like the fact, that in a world where a manual box fitted to a performance car is becoming a rare sight, BMW has bucked that trend, as there's just a six-speed manual gearbox available.
You won't miss the 1M from the outside as it's no beauty. Especially with the Valencia metallic orange paint of the test car. Still, the unique body styling includes bulging wheel arches and chunky front and rear air dams, but I like its ugliness.
To finish off the look, there's a sports exhaust with quad tail pipes and a gorgeous set of 19-inch CSL-style alloy wheels.
The 1M is powered by a 335bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder, twin-turbo engine, which is basically a tweaked version of the same one fitted in the 135i.
This BMW is a special car to drive too, but why is the steering wheel rim so thick? Thankfully, it doesn't spoil the steering which is well weighted and has plenty of feel.
The ride might be a bit jittery on some surfaces, but it's always comfortable. Grip is impressive, the turn in sharp; it is roll free and never feels scary to drive. In fact, the only way to provoke the 1M is by putting the power down too early and then the traction control light will blink.
Inside, the 1M is more similar to a standard 1-Series Coupé, with just the right amount of Alcantara and orange stitching to make it feel special. Highlights include the comfortable and supportive sports seats, the 180mph speedo and the dark headlining. I'm not a fan of the way the screen for the optional £2,000 professional sat-nav system is integrated into the dash however.
The best part of the 1M's 3.0-litre twin-turbo engines is the seemingly endless stream of torque, whatever the gear. The quad sports exhaust also gives this engine a charismatic wail that's quite addictive.
Press the M button on the steering wheel and the 1M's character becomes much harder, as the acceleration is even sharper.
If you use the 1M's power, you'll have to stir the precise six-speed manual transmission, that proves to be a good combination with the turbocharged engine. The 1M has levels of performance to almost shame its bigger brothers; 62mph comes up in an impressive 4.9 seconds and the top speed is a licence-losing 155mph.
The doors open wide, but the rear seats are really only suitable for adults on short trips or children. Still, the boot at 370 litres is spacious and will be big enough for the weekly shop or weekends away.
This BMW has a long standard equipment list that includes central locking and power wing mirrors, air-conditioning and electric front windows.
The test car was fitted with £765 of optional harmon/kardon sound system that was clear and bassy enough to entertain when the engine and performance weren't. The BMW Professional Navigation System also fitted was expensive (£2,010), but it works well and features high quality maps.
To sum up, whilst the 1M might not have been cheap, I think it justified its price with the simple, old-school driving experience that harks back to great hot M cars of the past. I'm really envious of the 250 buyers who agreed, as all the UK cars are now sadly sold. I had hoped that a week with the 1M would get it out of my system, but now I want one even more.