First Look: 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe

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BMW's M division has a long, proud history of building cars with an emphasis on sport. Through the years, BMW M cars have gotten faster, more refined, and more luxurious, but at the expense of weight and physical size. The BMW 1 Series M Coupe is on a mission to right that course, claiming to been inspired by the original (and some say, the greatest) M car: the first-generation E30 series M3.

Consider the 1 Series M Coupe's dimensions. Measuring 172.4 inches from nose to tail, the car is just 1.3-inches longer than a 1988 M3. Of course, the M Coupe is wider by 4.8 inches, has a longer wheelbase by 3 inches, and is heavier by several hundred pounds (3296 compared to the 1988 M3's 2800-pound curb weight). Still, compared to the current 3700-pound M3 coupe, the 1 Series M is a lightweight.

Compared to the 135i, the 1 Series M Coupe features some significant design changes. Flared fenders and rear quarter panels are necessary to cover a track that has been increased by 2.8 inches up front and 1.8 inches out back. The new front fascia contains a wide central air intake covered by a honeycomb-pattern grille, flanked by two smaller ducts on either side -- mandatory to feed air to both the oil cooler and the supplemental radiator during track stints. On the extreme sides of the front fascia, openings BMW calls air curtains allow high-pressure air to "curtain" the front wheels, reducing turbulence. The technology is applied for the first time on the 1 Series M Coupe. Out back, the rear fascia features ducts similar in style (though not in function), and a lip spoiler is fitted to the trunk lid. M3-style side mirrors are wind-tunnel optimized and M-characteristic fender vents incorporate both turn indicators and the M badge.

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