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How much? £39,990
Engine: 2979cc twin-turbo straight-six, 335bhp @ 5900rpm, 332 lb ft @ 1500-4500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear wheel drive
Performance: 4.9 sec 0-62, 155mph, 29.4mpg, 224g/km CO2
How heavy / made of? 1495kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4380/1803/1420
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Rated 4 out of 54

Handling

Rated 5 out of 55

Performance

Rated 5 out of 55

Usability

Rated 3 out of 53

Feelgood factor

Rated 4 out of 54

Readers' rating

Rated 3.5 out of 53.5

BMW 1-series M Coupe (2011) CAR review

By Georg Kacher

First Drives

28 April 2011 10:00

This is the new BMW 1-series M Coupe, and it signals a significant departure for BMW’s famed M Division. After generations of high-revving, naturally aspirated engines, BMW M is being forced down the forced induction route in a bid to produce more fuel efficient cars. The forthcoming M5 has a twin-turbo V8, the next-gen M3 will feature a blown six-cylinder engine, and sitting before us on an empty stretch of best German back road is a turbocharged hotrod offering that us enthusiasts could consider as a real M car – the 1-series M Coupe.

We tested the X5 M and X6 M SUVs and came away unimpressed at their new mix of tallboy bodies, automatic gearboxes, four-wheel drive and turbocharged engines but the 1-series M is a blob of orange potential. It’s the smallest M Division product since the Z4M departed this world – and potentially the first true successor to the original E30 M – and beneath the cartoonish bloated skin sits a torquey straight six, plus the suspension, brakes and rear differential from the current M3. If ever a turbocharged M car had a chance to impress, this is it.

The new BMW 1-series M Coupe is the cover star of the new May 2011 issue of CAR, but is it a proper M producti, or just a tweaked 135i Coupe? Read on for the first drive review of the BMW 1-series M Coupe to find out…

So this BMW 1-series M Coupe is actually a 135i underneath?

Only vaguely. To create the 1M, M Division has stripped out all the standard chassis componentry and replaced it wholesale with the suspension, brakes, 19in Competition Pack wheels and clever M Differential from the existing M3.

The bodywork has ballooned front and rear to cope with big brother’s wider tracks, a huge triple-ducted air dam feeds the engine, the rear bumper’s vertical slashes mirror what’s up front, and four signature shotgun exhausts poke out from below the black diffuser to ensure you don’t mistake this 1M for a 135i. From some angles it looks so right, from others completely wrong, but it’s definitely got presence. Especially in Valencia Orange – the only other exterior paint options are black and white.

Has the 1M got the same engine as the 135i?

Nope, the engine’s different too – but not unique to M. Outgoes the newer, single blower 3.0-litre straight six, and in its place is the older, twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six from the Z4 sDrive 35iS. And it means the 1-series M Coupe is a different sort of M car, one that has low-down, almost-any-gear/any-rev gruns, and one that doesn’t need to be extended to an 8000rpm-plus redline to get the very best from it.

The new forced induction philosophy means it’s much more urgent than an M3 in the bottom half of the rev range. And it sounds good too: way more convincing than a 135i, deep chested and damn mean.

And it’s all controlled via a slick, short-throw six-speed manual. The M3’s dual-clutch M-DCT transmission isn’t an option, but it doesn’t matter – gone is the knuckly shift that’s plagued both BMW and M Division products in the 21st century.

What else?

BMW M is steadily improving its steering too. The M3 has taken a step forward since launch in 2007, the helm of the latest Competition Pack cars offering up more clarity to the driver, and the steering of the 1-series M is even crisper.

But without the M3’s adaptive EDC dampers, the firm one-size-fits-all suspension means a fair bit of pitch and enough yaw to deflect you from your chosen path. And that extra low-down oomph means less provocation is needed to send yourself slewing sideways, but despite that M diff it’s a little trickier on the limit that expected.

Inside the interior is ageing, but there’s a chunky steering wheel, Alcantara (with contrasting orange stitching) on the dash and binnacle shroud, the latest iDrive system, and a stubby little gearstick. Properly bespoke M Division instruments also make a return, with that wonderful pale grey-blue background all at CAR so love. The 1M is only available as a two-door coupe though, and don't expect to be able to cross whole countries four-up, like you can in an M3.

Verdict

The 1-series M is a proper M car, no doubt. Sure, it’s different from what’s gone before, but different doesn’t mean it’s not as good. Our first experience of a proper turbocharged M Division machine has unveiled a 1-series with a character all its own. It’s definitely not a hotted-up 135i, and now we’re looking forward to the future of M.

But how does the BMW 1-series M Coupe match up against its obvious rival from Ingolstadt, the Audi RS3 Sportback? Rear-wheel drive versus four-wheel? A 335bhp/332lb ft twin-turbo 3.0 six-cylinder versus a 335bhp/332lb ft turbo’d 2.5 five pot? Six-speed manual versus seven-speed S-tronic? Only CAR Magazine has brought the two together, and you can read the exclusive twin test in the new May 2011 issue, out now.

Click here to see a full digital preview of the new May 2011 issue of CAR Magazine

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wittgenfrog

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wittgenfrog says

RE: BMW 1-series M Coupe (2011) CAR review

In case anyone is still following this thread Clarkson called it the "greatest car of all time" (well close) in TG.

27 June 2011 15:08

 

JohnnyD

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JohnnyD says

RE: BMW 1-series M Coupe (2011) CAR review

@comment8 - Are BMW's the only car that Aussies have to pay a premium for? What about Audi and MB?

No I wouldn't pay 110k for a M3 but how much are AMG's and RS cars in Australia??

Car pricing is a subjective matter. I'm well aware that I pay more in the UK than the US but it always been that way and isn't likely to change very soon! I happen to pay more in the UK for fuel too!! Where do you stop/start?!

As for the 1M, I guess you haven't read the May issue? GK plumps for the RS3 in the head to head. Nothing vague there. And having read the article, I agree.

And finally it may lack a 'M' engine but this is a M car in every other respect. I believe that, you don't, so its quits there.

05 May 2011 14:16

 

Moretti

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Moretti says

RE: BMW 1-series M Coupe (2011) CAR review

 Anyone following my comments would be familiar with my general dislike of German cars and modern ones in particular, but I this is the first BMW that I've found appealing since the E39 M5.  I don't love the looks, but there's something about it, perhaps the slightly ridiculous flared wheels arches, that reminds me of the 2002 turbo more so than the E30 M3.  I like the smaller footprint of the 1-series, but the standard car looks overstyled to me.  I think that the M adds just that extra bit of OTT style to make it amusing, possessing a charm like the old muscle cars, as Joe also mentions.  That it only comes with a man's transmission makes it even more appealing.  I'd almost say I'm disappointed it's not a turbo 4, but I can't find a way to complain about an inline 6, which is one of my favorite engine configurations (as opposed to V6s, which I near universally dislike).

05 May 2011 02:19

 

comment8

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comment8 says

RE: BMW 1-series M Coupe (2011) CAR review

@johhnyd - do you agree with GKs "vaguely" assertions? All 1s and 3s are very closely related in order to maximise the benefits of platform sharing - but the 1M will still have far more in common with a 135i than it will an M3. The 1 M is only "vaguley" similar to cars which have carried the M badge in the past  but that has not prevented CAR from placing it in the context and company of its far more illustrious predecessors in order for some of the historic gloss to rub off on its marketing lead, vaguely related progeny. One can only conclude that BMW owners like being ripped off. They must gain some preverse pleasure for paying through the nose in order to demonstrate their ability to throw (mostly borrowed) money away. Any objective appraisal of a BMW product is "rubbish" in the eyes of the religeously fervent faithful. Be thankful for small mercies - whilst UK punters "only" pay an 18k premium for their M3 badge over their US cousins, Aussies have to shell out an enormous 72k premium. Would you pay 110k for an M3? People do of course - seduced by exactly the same marketing and glowing press -  but UK punters must look to the Americans how the Aussies would seem to the Brits - fleeced. This of course is not unique to BMW and the RS3 and AMG cars are all hugely overpriced. The problem with the latest Ms is their lack of substance to back up the outrageous price - note even an M engine??

04 May 2011 00:14

 

JohnnyD

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JohnnyD says

RE: BMW 1-series M Coupe (2011) CAR review

@ Comment8 - If Car is just an advertising supplement for the M cars, how come Georg Kacher rated the RS3 as the better all round car?!

Rubbish BMW bashing as per usual. If you had anything balanced to say about ANY BMW product I might actually take your whining serious!!

03 May 2011 12:10

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