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BMW 1M Coupe

Click to view picture galleryBMWs M defines the hard-core
  performance versions based on
  everyday BMWs. Great news for
  petrolheads is that there
s a number
  of M-badged BMW models to be
  had including the new 1M Coupe,
  iconic M3s, the soon to be released
  new M5 Saloon and the M6, as well
  as the X5M and X6M
...”


THESE M-BADGED BMWS are undeniably extreme performance machines and last year BMW sold 1,235 in the UK. And with 450 1M Coupes (already all sold) and the new M5 Saloon lining up on the starting grid, sales will be even higher this year.

The compact 1M Coupe is small but big on performance and price £40,020; but given the long list of tempting extra-cost options, the likely on-the-drive price will be closer to £45,000. Not that this will deter M enthusiasts, who will appreciate the image, heritage and reputation… and, of course, the 335bhp put out by the twin-turboed, direct injection, straight-six 3.0-litre petrol engine. For them, the £-per-bhp cost will no doubt be good value.

“Enthusiasts will
appreciate the image,
heritage and reputation
and, of course, the
335bhp put out by the
twin-turboed, direct
injection, straight-six
3.0-litre petrol engine.
For them, the £-per-bhp
cost will no doubt be
good value
...”
Traditionally, BMW introduce M versions relatively close to the end of a model range's life. I find this strange as logic would suggest that a 'halo' M version would be a brilliant sales tool for new mainstream versions however, this does explain why the 1M Coupe is not based on the very latest 1 Series.

Let's be honest with its two doors and a boot (rather than a tailgate), the 1M Coupe is not the prettiest of models. Due to its lower-riding and compact 4.38-metre length, deep front spoiler, wide wings with muscular wheel arches housing 19-inch alloys (9J at the front, 10J at the rear), side skirts and minimal rear overhang, it appears square and chunky a thug of a car.

The 1M Coupe uses BMW's EfficientDynamics lightweight body technology and tips the scales at just 1,495kg, so the power-to-weight ratio is massive. Drive is to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual 'box and an electronically-controlled limited slip rear differential.

With a potent 335bhp and 369lb ft of torque on tap from 1,500 to 4,500rpm, the 1M Coupe sprints to 62mph from standstill in 4.9 seconds. The top speed is limited to 155mph and the official Combined Cycle fuel consumption is an unexpected 29.4mpg more surprising, this was easily achieved during long motorway trips, where my test car maintained an indicated 30.3mpg. Even in real-world stop-start town and fast country road driving the consumption only dropped to 28.2mpg overall. For trackday events its natural territory! expect something in the 15mpg arena.

For a race-bred engine you'd expect pretty horrendous CO2 emissions; at 224g/km, they're not. Admittedly this still means a First Year road tax bill of £580 but for the second year onwards this drops to £260. Company car drivers fortunate enough to run a 1M Coupe will have to dig deep: BIK is 34% and insurance 42E.

Of the 450 1M Coupes originally destined for the UK, all are now sold. But at least, one hopes, they've gone to enthusiasts who appreciate their performance rather than speculators or poseurs. Barely a handful of us road-testers have managed to get behind the wheel of this proper driver's car, but those who have can confirm that Yes, if it has to, the 1M Coupe copes bravely with the day-in, day-out drudgery of commuting. That noted, this M Coupe's natural habitat is the open road or the race track.

“This M Coupe’s natural
habitat is the open road
or the race track.
And this, especially when
the surface is dry,
is where the 1M
truly excels. When I say
it has a back-to-basics
feel about it, I mean
it generally feeds back
information very well and
accurately to the driver —
this is a performance
car in which you can
feel what it’s doing
...”
And this, especially when the surface is dry, is where the 1M truly excels. When I say it has a back-to-basics feel about it, I mean it generally feeds back information very well and accurately to the driver this is a performance car in which you can feel what it's doing.

Appropriately, there's not much in the way of electronic guardian angels diffusing feedback; and neither do the electronics intervene greatly, mostly because the 1M has so much grip most of the time. Only in the wet does the electronic stability and traction control light flicker on and then only occasionally.

No surprises with the ride: due to hard spring rates, it's really firm. And it's evident most of the time, although you can live with it.

However, winding B-roads driven at speed are not only uncomfortable for the occupants but also for the car it struggles to maintain adhesion as it hops from bump to bump, and fidgets from one tramline depression in the tarmac to another.

Call it characterful if you like, but the ride's not made any better by the ultra-low profile rubber. At least BMW's M Division does not follow the now-common policy within the brand of using run-flat tyres. For obvious reasons (the different width front and rear wheels) there's no spare, just a can of sealant and an inflation kit between you and being stranded.

The heart of the 1M Coupe is its 335bhp twin turboed 3.0-litre straight-six. A high-revving unit, its strength is the 369lb ft of torque developed between 1,500 and 4,500rpm which ensures instant response over a wide range of speeds.

As you'd expect, it gets off the line very quickly. More impressive, however, is the way it allows the driver to overtake slower moving traffic in an instant; not being a hooligan just safer. It's not all about speed: because of its wide-ranging capabilities, you don't need to drive this 1M Coupe hard to enjoy it.

For a start, the flexibility of the engine cuts down the need to worry about always being in the right gear at the right revs; as it happens, the torque will allow you to drive at a very sedate pace in high gears without fuss. Be that as it may, dropping a cog, pressing the loud pedal and hanging-on is far more fun. And if you really want to 'pull the pin', just press the 'M' button and the performance grenade goes off a mode, I'd caution, strictly for trackdays… otherwise, smile for the camera!

“Mercifully, the front
sports seats are well
shaped and very
supportive although the
lumber support costs
an extra £205
...”
Mercifully, the front sports seats are well shaped and very supportive although the lumber support costs an extra £205. Black Boston leather upholstery is standard and, like the handbrake, gear lever gaiter, fascia and door panels, is jazzed up by red stitching. Also fitted are M-branded door sill finishers, and every 1M Coupe comes with a numbered plaque confirming it is 'one of 450'.

Apart from that, the 1M's cabin is rather conservatively styled certainly more functional than showy. Standard kit includes automatic AirCon, power front windows and door mirrors, sound system, cruise control, multifunction M steering wheel, auto wipers and lights and parking distance control.

Extra-cost options that boosted my test car's on-the-road price to £45,340 included Bluetooth preparation (£545), DAB radio (£320), powerfold door mirrors (£245), speaker upgrade (£765), metallic paint (£515), SatNav (£2,010), front seat heating (£265), sun protection glass (£240) and USB (£210).

So why would you want one? Exclusivity and M Division image, handling and grip, mild or manic performance modes. And the sound from the four exhaust pipes...

Against? Small car but big price, function-over-fashion looks, very firm ride, tiring road noise intrusion, basic equipment, and conservative cabin styling.

BMW's M Division wizardry and engineering, the stunning performance and the exclusivity value all transform this so-so small family Coupe into a hard-core, road-gobbling machine than can flip from being functional to fantastic. Enjoy! David Miles

BMW 1M Coupe | £40,020
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 4.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 28.2mpg
Power: 335bhp | Torque: 369lb ft | CO2 224g/km