Drive Thru: BMW 1 Series M Coupé

BMW 1M

Regular readers will know Australian deliveries of the BMW 1 Series M Coupé have been taking place over the past week or two. One has even ended up in our hometown of Canberra. AUSmotive was lucky enough to be offered a brief drive thanks to owners John and Dianne.

First impressions? It’s a great looking car. You really do just want to get in and drive the thing as soon as you see it.

You either love or hate the design of the 1 Series range; there are rarely any middling opinions. We’ve always admired the way the 1 Series Coupé looks and with M division offering unique styling cues, like those almost comically beefed up guards and an aggressive body kit, we think the 1M has reached a new peak.

The special order black wheels on John and Dianne’s car look superb as well. They complement the already gutsy presence the 1M has from factory.

BMW 1M

BMW 1M

Inside, too, there’s a sense of purpose and occasion when you settle in behind the wheel. Once again, the look has been given a subtle, but important, nudge over standard 1 Series trim. The seats are supportive without being too firm, the M steering wheel feels tough and the flashes of alcantara trim really set the car apart from lesser models.

Our time in the 1M was brief—more on that later—but we made use of our home ground advantage to seek out a fun twisty route, as well as some coarse bumpy stuff, to best judge the car’s ride and handling in the time available.

In general terms, the ride is harsh in the 1M, but no more so than you would expect. At town speeds the car drives smoothly, it’s compliant and moves effortlessly through the gears.

The engine has a strong linear feel and it delivers a great snarling sound, too. Although, like most modern cars, that exhaust note doesn’t make it all the way into the cabin. You’ll need to stand outside the car for best effect. Yeah, we agree, there’s no fun in that when there’s a chance to be behind the wheel.

BMW 1M

BMW 1M

When we arrived at the start of our short mountain run I faced a quandary. Alongside, the 1M’s owner, happy the eight-month wait for his car was finally over. Ahead, a section of blacktop I know well, where I can pinpoint every apex and every bump. Like a spotty kid on a first date with a hot girl, I had to find a way to get to first base, and perhaps beyond, without her parents finding out.

With that little M button pushed to sharpen the car’s senses and a nervous energy I pressed on. In doing so I soon discovered the 1M provides the confidence to go chasing for more. When you do, you may find the front a little skittish over mid-corner bumps, but not desperately so. I was surprised at how eager the fun police were to illuminate on the dash. There was plenty left in reserve as far as my right foot was concerned, that’s for sure. Thankfully, though, the DSC was not too intrusive at all.

At all times we found the steering to have a really nice weight. It’s precise and direct, too. Likewise the gear shift; on the right side of notchy and, much like the car really, it provides a genuine sense of competence.

BMW 1M

BMW 1M

As noted, power delivery from the 250kW twin turbo 3.0 litre six is linear. If you choose, you will get where you’re going in a flash, while building momentum slowly. That’s to say, there’s no untoward slingshot effect that can afflict some boosted motors. As a result, unless you redline the thing from standstill there’s not a huge rush of raw pace. This is not intended as a criticism, rather a blessing of the car’s versatility. It can be as naughty as it can be nice.

Prior to launch there’s been two main criticisms of the 1M. The first is its kerbweight. At 1495kg it’s actually not that bad. Around 80kg lighter than an Audi RS3 (not offered in Australia) and more than 180kg lighter than the M3. The 1M doesn’t feel heavy and it is much more willing to be thrown into a corner than we remember the 135i being. The second main criticism is the theory the 1M is a spare parts car and not a proper M car. Sure it’s been cobbled together with some very tasty M3 bits and borrows its engine from the Z4 sDrive35is. But so what. Who really cares if the 1M is the first M-badged Bimmer that doesn’t feature an M-specific engine. The 1M’s raison d’être is to serve the enthusiast market. On this first viewing, BMW has delivered in spades.

I mentioned earlier our time in the 1M was brief. That’s the thing with the 1M, you see, it wouldn’t matter how much time you had in the car, we get the feeling it will always leave you wanting more. We certainly experienced enough to know we’d love to have a 1M in the garage at AUSmotive HQ.

We’d like to close by making a comparison that BMW would never have considered and we acknowledge it may be a little left-field. The 1M reminded us of Keith Miller. A former Australian Test cricketer and Victorian footballer from the post-war period, Miller had charisma to burn. Dashing good looks, a razor sharp wit and the athletic ability to match. Men wanted to be like him and women wanted to be with him. Respected by teammates and opponents alike, Miller was an all-rounder in the truest sense. He could do it all.

BMW 1M