OVERSTEER ROAD TEST: BMW 1 Series M Coupe
Is the BMW 1 Series M Coupe just a 135i with the wick turned up? Not a chance… We take the feral 1M for a good thrash to find out just how much of a proper M car it is!
When BMW announced it was going to build an M version of the 1 Series, they instantly had a problem with the name.
Traditional M car naming convention would suggest that, like the M3, M5 and M6, the new car would be called the M1. Except, as far as BMW was concerned, it couldn’t, because they had already used that one before.
The very first M car was the M1 supercar that BMW used in numerous racing series and there was no way in hell it was going to use that particular legendary name on a hotted-up version of its smallest car…
Handily the cars they said they would never make – M versions of the two big SUVS in the line-up – came along and royally buggered up the M car naming tradition by being called the X5 M and the X6 M (because Mazda had already used MX5 and MX6). So the new car was to be known, in a particularly confusing and backwards way, as the 1 Series M Coupe.
You have to hand it to BMW; when they make a high-performance version of one of their cars, they don’t piss around – everything gets made angrier.
The 1M bristles with visual aggression; swoops, bulges and scoops are all over it, but in that wonderful German way that is somehow subtle and in your face all at the same time. You are in no doubt it is a 1 Series, but it just seems slightly mutated and very pissed off.
Admittedly, our test car had thoroughly ridiculous, but somehow still awesome stickers all over it, but on the whole, the 1M just looks angry. And awesome. The wildly flared wheel arches (to accommodate the widened track necessitated by the M3 running gear) and lowered ride height give it a squat, hunkered-down look that works incredibly well with the 1 Series coupe shape and adds to the subtle sense of mutated anger that permeates the 1M’s styling.
Inside the 1M doesn’t feel quite so special. Oh sure, it has the nice Alcantara trim on the doors and dash and LOTS of orange stitching, but it still looks and feels very much like a 1 series that someone has gone a bit mental in with a sewing machine and some orange cotton.
The chunky leather steering wheel and incredibly supportive and adjustable leather seats are amazing and the level of quality is fantastic, but it still somehow doesn’t feel quite special enough for a car that looks so mental on the outside and screams like ten thousand angry bastards when you wind it up.
That said, it is a typically-BMW hugely high quality place to be; the stereo is a damn fine piece of equipment, everything you touch reeks of quality and, as I may have mentioned earlier, the seats are utterly spectacular.
All the controls and instruments are ergonomically sensible and legible, while, as in other recent BMW’s, iDrive is finally making sense, largely thanks to the addition of buttons.
UNDER THE BONNET
Under the bulging nose of the 1M is BMW’s stunning N-54 3-litre twin turbo inline six-cylinder engine. With the wick wound up to an astounding 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque, it is a thing of remarkable power and flexibility.
A snarling, bellowing treat, the ballistic engine is hooked up to a wonderfully slick and smooth six-speed manual transmission that is an utter delight to use and the wonderfully mechanical feel of changing from one gear to the next is one of the world’s most truly satisfying experiences.
Fuel consumption? Who cares. But it is the same with all cars like this – it can be relatively economical if you want it to be, but climb up it and it will drink like the best of them. But again, who cares?
ON THE ROAD
Absolutely electrifying is probably the best way to sum up the performance of the 1M without using any rude words.
Any doubts about whether or not it is a “proper” M car are obliterated by the utterly sensational noise from the engine and exhaust when you nail the throttle. The savage thrust towards the horizon that accompanies it is equally convincing. Chuck it into a corner for the first time and you are in love…
The poise, balance and grip of the 1M is incredible. Every little adjustment on the steering wheel is translated into a slight movement on the road in a way that is truly visceral. You can feel the road surface through the seat and the savage howl of the engine that overlays it all completes the sensory experience that is driving the 1M hard.
The stability control keeps things well and truly reigned in, but push the stability control button once and you will engage MDM mode, which is wonderfully calibrated to give you a bit of room for irresponsible playtime before it steps it to calm you down. Hold the button down a few seconds longer and it will disengage the stability control altogether. But you better know what you are doing if you do this…
If the sharp steering isn’t enough fun for you, you can always use the throttle to steer the 1M from the back. The power from the engine, while savage, still comes on in an utterly predictable and progressive way that makes feeding the right amount of power in coming through a corner a true delight.
The savage, feral sound, brutal power and squirming rear end mean that the performance and handling of the 1M easily live up to the promise made by the angry looks and make the 1M a thrill to drive, even if you are just heading down to the corner dairy.
When you break the $100,000 mark when pricing your car, people rightfully tend to expect a lot for that money. And fortunately the 1M delivers.
From the inside it may not feel that special, but the rest of the package is just so damn spectacular that it simply doesn’t matter. The power and acceleration is addictive and the handling sublime. It looks fantastic, sounds sensational and is an absolute blast to drive.
In short, it is a true M car.
BMW 1 Series M Coupe specifications:
Body type: 2-door coupe
Drive: Rear-wheel drive
Engine Type: 6-cylinder
Engine Capacity: 2979cc
Max power: 250kW @ 5900rpm
Max torque: 450Nm @ 1500rpm
Fuel Consumption: 9.6L/100km
C02 emission: 224g/km
0 to 100kph: 4.9 seconds
Front suspension: MacPherson strut
Rear suspension: Multi-link
ABS Brakes: Yes
Air Bags: 6
Air Conditioning: Climate
Lap/diagonal belts: 5
Satellite Navigation: Yes
Electric seats: Yes
Burglar Alarm: Yes
Wheel type: 19-inch alloy