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First Drive: BMW 1 Series M Coupe - VIDEO ENHANCED

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
BMW 1 Series M Coupe - Henny Hemmes At Speed

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
Amsterdam Bureau
The Auto Channel

BMW 1 Series M Coupe (select to view enlarged photo)

MUNICH - October 9, 2010: Earlier this summer I reported on the surprise unveiling of a prototype of the M version of the 1 Series Coupe. It was even possible to be taken for a ride on the Ascari race track in Spain by Albert Biermann, the development chief of BMW M GmbH (Story Here)

This week a couple of M coupes were available for test drives. They all were still in the prototype stage, partly covered with the black and white stickers that BMW uses now for disguise of upcoming models. That was also the reason why we had a guardian on the passenger seat, to prevent us to take the cars to their limit. But our first test drives through the country not far from Munich would offer enough diversity of roads for a very first impression of what the 1 Series M Coupe will be offering us in the future.

What is in a name?

The new M model will definitely be dubbed 1 Series M Coupe. Quite a mouthful, so we asked why not call this M version of the 1 Series an M1, just like the M3 or M5?

Fact is, that it has everything to do with the original M1, the only BMW ever with a mid engine, that was built between 1979 and 1981. The name M1 therefore, should be reserved for the iconic sports car. But, we question Mr. Biermann: “Since it is so long ago, why care. Who would be confused? Not us, nor the young customers you want to attract with this new M model, who probably were not even born?”

He cannot prevent, though, that 1M or M1 will soon be common.

BMW 1 Series M Coupe (select to view enlarged photo)

BMW does not release any details or photos, except for the expected release time (mid December) However we got a fair chance to talk to Mr. Biermann and were able to come to some conclusions.

From the first encounter in Ascari we know that the basic structure of the 1 Series is left untouched and that the track up front and at the rear is wider to suit the M wheels with 245/35 ZR19 rubber up front and 265/35 ZR19 at the rear.

Another fact Mr. Biermann offered, is that the engine is the very same one that propels the Z4 35is. This 3.0-liter 6-cilinder unit with turbocharger has 340 hp/250 kW at 5900 rpm and 450 Nm/323 lb.-ft of torque at 1500-4500 rpm. With this power plant, the Z4, that weighs 1600 kg/3527 lbs, sprints in 4.8 seconds from 0-62 mph.

The development chief also volunteered that the 1 Series M Coupe shall have a weight of ‘around 1500 kg’ (3307 lbs) with a 50/50 balance front/rear. Since the M is higher and is not as aerodynamically shaped as the Z4, we can expect the ‘1M’ to do the sprint in the low 5s.

BMW 1 Series M Coupe (select to view enlarged photo)

Why does BMW use this existing engine and not develop a real M-power plant, you would ask It is because the car has to be affordable. According to Albert Biermann is this strategy based on cost and development. “But the Z4 35is is very fast and you will experience how fast this One is, ” he says.

We also talked about a real M1, which in his opinion should have at least 70 hp more than the fastest model of the series, in this case 300 hp of the 135i. So, may be it is better to consider this an M-tuned variant…?

Click PLAY to watch the BMW 1 Series M Coupé teaser video

The first with the 1 Series face lift Almost every suspension part is different. The springs are stiffer and the dampers have less travel. The bushings of the trailing arms are changed from rubber to joint balls and some rubber ones are stiffer. The suspension cannot be adjusted – also to keep the cost down. But the body is lowered by 10 mm (0.4 in). The track is approximately 30 mm wider up front and between 30 to 40 mm wider at the rear. The brakes are completely different from the 135 I with M Compound brakes.

BMW 1 Series M Coupe (select to view enlarged photo)

The front axle carrier is the same as in the 135i, but in the rear the one of the M3 is used. Four exhaust pipes will mark this M variant, that also is the first model that has the face lift that is scheduled for the 1 Series next year.

Well, it’s time to start the engine and to take off. My passenger, once again, says that this is not the final product, that the sound will be different. But that the suspension is what you are going to get. And that is impressive indeed. You feel the security of the wider track and serious sizes Michelin rubber, as well as the suspension improvements. The balance is perfect.

You can believe the German car magazine that spotted the 1M testing at the Nürburgring, registering a lap time of around 8’10”. That means this version is faster than the E46 that does (8”22”).

BMW 1 Series M Coupe (select to view enlarged photo)

The ZF 6-gear stick shift works well, but here is a missed chance: Why not have flippers on the steering wheel???? That is what is cool nowadays and if you want to attract younger buyers, you would have to offer this possibility to shift at the steering wheel. Sure that is more common with an automatic transmission, but still.

Steering feels very direct and the engine is fast, reacts immediately to input of your right foot. I think the suspension is so good that it would be possible to have even more horsepower than this I-6 delivers. We will have to be patient and wait for the real introduction event, that probably will be somewhere in January and at a race track no doubt. The BMW will also be able to show us the final body and interior trim and tell us all we want to know. What we could figure out so far, is more than we had expected.

BMW 1 Series M Coupe (select to view enlarged photo)

Discussions about the price of the 1 M Coupe led to the conclusion that in Germany the car will cost between 50,000 and 55,000 euro. Since the M3 sells there for 66,650 euro, I expect the 1M’s price to be closer to € 50,000. The official debut will be at the Detroit auto show in January 2011, while we may expect the 1 Series M Coupe to hit the market around May. There is no convertible planned, nor will there be a Club Sport Series.