I don't believe in love at first sight. And at first sight, it's definitely hard to love the BMW 1-series M coupe. While West Coast editor Jason Cammisa says the 1M doesn't have any flaws, I have to disagree. Put aside the performance numbers you already know and just look at the Bimmer's front bumper. What happened here? I would've loved a gently massaged 1-series front fascia, but this one looks like a very pissed dinosaur who's really just sad underneath it all, thanks to droopy, repurposed, already-ugly M3 side mirrors.
Cammisa and I may have different opinions of what flawlessness is, but we have very similar tastes when it comes to race-ready road cars. So when he wrote that the new BMW is, "one of those rare cars that's so good that it shrugs off flaws," I began itching to get behind the wheel of the itsy-bitsy M, hoping it would live up to the hype.
And it does. The obvious place to start is the beginning -- starting the car. A delightful beep, which kindly reminds you that you have now entered the vehicle and have inserted the key, is drowned out by what can only be described as automotive opera. A contralto exhaust burbles while soprano twin-turbos sing away. Add in a little more throttle and the two dramatically rise and work together to create complete harmony. All of this before you pull out of the garage.
On the road, the beautiful sound becomes insignificant. A modern-day-classic twin-turbo in-line six-cylinder engine and an absolutely astounding chassis demand your attention. Wicked throttle response and more-than-ample power keep the electronic stability control hard at work. And the chassis? After a few tough corners, you're pretty sure the 1M could tuck, roll, somersault, and land on its rubber without a scratch. It's that tight. Just like deputy editor Joe DeMatio, I'm shocked at how comfortable the car is -- despite its short wheelbase and taut suspension -- when you're cruising at or under the speed limit (which will not happen until you get stuck behind a minivan in a no-passing zone).
Luckily, looking at the interior is a pleasure as well. Orange stitching on suede accents and M blue-and-red corset stitching on a leather-wrapped steering wheel are some of the few things that set this car apart from a plain 1-series, but it doesn't bother me like it does DeMatio. I would've been fine with a standard 1-series interior, to be frank. The touches were nice and thoughtful, and they didn't take the BMW into the netherworld of tuner interiors.
I'm brand-new to the world of automotive journalism and, unlike many of my colleagues, I've driven only a few dozen cars in my life, not a few thousand. So far, the BMW 1-series M coupe is without question the best car I have ever driven, and I bet it will retain that status for some time to come.
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor
On one particular occasion with our (dearly missed) Four Seasons 2008 BMW 135i, I literally chucked it into a corner to see if it would oversteer only for it to plow more or less straight ahead. Why, I wondered, did BMW engineers tune such a powerful little sports car to understeer? The answer, as provided by this M treatment, is that the 1-series is insane. Insane, I tell you. Freed of its understeering straightjacket, the short wheelbase twitches even with stability control enabled in M Dynamic Mode. Dive into a corner in this setting, and you can feel the back end step out before the brakes chatter to keep your sorry picture out of automotive blogs. Floor it out of a stoplight, and the safety electronics effectively throw up their hands, as the bushels of torque overwhelm the rear axle and kick it sideways. Obviously, this is fantastic fun. Moreover, the reward for the bad behavior in back is razor-sharp steering in front. Actually, razor-sharp everything. As Joe DeMatio notes, clutch, brakes, and shifter are all above reproach. And if the gas pedal isn't quite as progressive that in the M3, it's still sensitive enough that you can literally adjust the throttle by flexing your big toe. Of course, with the turbocharged straight six, it's always tempting to be far less delicate, hence the rear-end twitching and the stability-control-administered slaps on the wrist. Get everything right on a highway on-ramp, though, and your life will momentarily seem perfect.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor