First ride | BMW 1-series M Coupe

Published: 13 July 2010

CAR’s in Spain today and we’ve scored a first ride in the new BMW 1-series M Coupé. It’s the much-anticipated ‘M1’ version of the 1-series, albeit badged more sensitively so as not to upset fans of BMW’s original 1970s supercar.

The 1-series M Coupé arrives in June 2011 so we’re riding onboard a year ahead of UK launch. It looks squat and purposeful, the track stretched out the same width as the E92 M3 coupé’s with flared arches at each corner. Turns out the suspension is essentially lifted from the big daddy M3, with fixed dampers. Sounds promising.

What’s the engine in the 1-series M Coupé?

A shroud of secrecy hides many of the facts about BMW’s new pocket rocket. But we continue to probe the car’s minders and driver Frank Isenberg and uncover a fair amount of detail as we lap the Ascari race circuit.

The engine will be the same as the 135i’s – right down to the twin turbos. However, an engine remap and extra boost send power spiralling to around 350bhp. All that grunt in a small coupé bodyshell is contained by a limited slip diff and sticky 245/35 ZR19 and 265/35 ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport rubber.

How does it feel on track?

The highly strung, bi-turbo engine sounds very obviously forced induction, with a whooshing rush of air dominating the soundtrack as the revs wind out. The yellow rev limit area starts at 7000rpm, slipping into the red by 7500rpm. We spend most of our time hovering around the red; it sounds exciting, with a light pop when the driver backs off.

Front-end grip feels very strong, but from where I’m sitting the rear feels agile enough if less willing to play than the uber-coaxable M3. It’s obviously difficult to say from the passenger seat, but my overall impression is of a clean, tidy, nimble handler.

Our driver, who’s the project manager and been working on the 1-series M for a year, says the manual shift suits the car. The 135i doesn’t have BMW’s twin-clutch DCT ‘box and as far as we can make out, nor will the M 1-series.

The brakes, which are drilled and swollen from the 135i’s anchors stop us firmly from high speeds, though they grumble in protest during some deceleration runs. No doubt their stopping power though.

Is the 1-series M Coupé a worthy M car?

The acid question. From our passenger seat, we’d say the 1-series M feels fun and agile. At around £35,000, it’ll be conspicuously good value for a Motorsport product, too.

Yet we really need a proper drive of our own to judge this car’s merits. Only then will we know if the spiritual link to the four-cylinder E30 M3 is a genuine bloodline or mere marketing spin.

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator