No doubt about it, the 1-series M coupe is just as good as Jason Cammisa claimed it was in our first drive report in our August 2011 issue, and it is clearly going to enter the history books as one of the most exciting performance cars to debut in 2011. We're well familiar with this N54-series twin-turbo in-line six-cylinder engine, having driven it in both the 3-series and the Z4 roadster, but never before has it been installed in a car with such a keenly tuned chassis. Throttle response, brake pedal modulation, brake performance, clutch pedal take-up, gearshift action, steering precision and feel: all I can say is yum, yum, yum, and double yum again. No surprise on those fronts, since much of the chassis is taken straight from the BMW M3.
I was pleasantly surprised by how good the ride quality is, considering the short wheelbase and the ultra-sporty suspension tuning that virtually eradicates pitch, dive, squat, and body roll. Even as I trundled up seven floors of our parking structure this morning, the multiple speed bumps didn't make me cringe the way they have in some other recent test cars I've driven over them, such as the Nissan GT-R.
Last Friday night, after watching the Detroit Tigers annihilate the Los Angeles Angels 12-2, I handed the keys to our orange 1-series M coupe tester to road test editor Chris Nelson for the drive back to Ann Arbor. Associate web editor Ben Timmins rode shotgun, and I wedged my tired body into the rear seat. Here is where one realizes a principal difference between the M3 and the 1-series M. There's no center armrest, space is tight, and there's a very annoying driveline resonance beating away at your back and butt. The next day, back in my rightful place at the steering wheel, I was again bothered by the resonance, which settles in once you've reached your 80-mph cruising speed and are in sixth gear. Strangely enough, downshifting to fifth gear quells the noise a bit, but that's hardly ideal for freeway cruising.
What am I saying? As Timmins noted the previous evening while I piloted the three of us from Ann Arbor to Detroit in rush hour traffic, I had the 1-series M in fourth gear most of the time, the better to dive into holes in traffic at 90 mph and generally make a spectacle of ourselves on eastbound M-14 in our little orange BMW rocket. And this car does get a lot of attention; plenty of people seemed to know what it was. Thankfully, we did not get the attention of the police, but I would have a hard time avoiding the cops if I owned this car.
Thank God for the little bit of Alcantara trim in the cabin. Oh, sure, there are the wonderfully bolstered sport bucket seats and the typical thick M steering wheel with the red and blue stitching, plus some M gauges, but there's not much else to signify that this is anything more than a garden-variety 1-series. One turn behind the wheel, though, and you'll know that it is indeed far more than that. Oh, yes, this is a great, great car.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
We're going to be talking about this car -- and holding it up as a benchmark -- for a very long time. It is plainly clear that this is a future classic, and I feel very fortunate that I was able to drive one of the limited number (probably less than 1000) of cars that'll be sold in the U.S. There is no better possible way that you could spend $46,000 on a new German car today.
The 1-series M's steering is fabulous, its gearbox feels great, acceleration is incredibly snappy, and it looks completely badass. My single complaint is that the exhaust note gets pretty droning on the highway. Simple solution: drive faster!
Damn the fact that I drove it mostly on the highway in the rain. (By the way, it's ridiculously easy to get stability control to kick in if you carefully floor the throttle in sixth gear at 70 mph on a wet interstate.) I wish I'd had a chance to drive this car on a racetrack, but perhaps it's just as well -- I can definitely see Jason Cammisa and Phil Floraday's point that this little Bimmer can get you into trouble quickly.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I hope the fine folks in Munich have found as much inspiration in the BMW 1-series M Coupe as we have. The latest M car is proof that simplicity and purity trump technology and complexity.
The result should refocus the Bavarian engineers on the lithe, sporty cars they've forsaken lately. Building the perfect modern M didn't require adaptive suspension hardware or exotic handbuilt engines.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor