First Drive: 2011 BMW 1-series M coupe

I first saw the 1-series M coupe in late 2009 in a cordoned-off garage of the Motorsport division headquarters in Garching, Germany, near Munich. The black prototype featured silver and gold BBS wheels, a set of highly extroverted air dams, and the then-stock 1-series interior. The real car looks a lot better, inside and out. The front air dam and rear spoiler aren't too flashy, but the reworked fenders, swollen to accommodate the wider front and rear track and ultra-fat, nineteen-inch wheels, are subtly purposeful. That's the case, at least, in the white or metallic black livery; choosing the metallic orange, a hue exclusive to the 1-series M Coupe, turns up the visual wattage significantly.

M division chief Dr. Kay Segler originally was concerned whether the market would take the 3000-or-so units his distribution squad had in mind. Now, one and a half years later, the car is going on sale [now, in Europe, next month in the United States], and it's clear that BMW could sell a lot more; the U.S. market, for instance, will get fewer than 1000 examples of this one-year-only model.

It's not hard to understand the excitement. The turbocharged 3.0-liter is mated exclusively with a stick-and-clutch six-speed gearbox, and has been taken from 300 hp and 300 pound-feet, to 335 hp and 332 pound-feet of torque (370 pound-feet with overboost). That exceeds its output in the 335is, but in the smaller, lighter 1-series, the result is M3 performance: 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds, 155-mph top speed -- this at a price ($47,010) that's just $3000 more than a 335i coupe.

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