• Nov 29, 2010
BMW's Version Of A Blue Light Special For Speed

All we can do is fill you in on what we learned during a long afternoon's exposure to the M-fettled 1er. It happened not long ago in the small town of Scheyern, not far from BMW's hometown of Munich.

First things first: The name. Why is the 1-Series M Coupe not called the M1? You already know. The name M1 is owned by BMW's 1979-81 mid-engine supercar and is therefore forever retired like a great ballplayer's jersey number. 'Nuff said? Good. Moving on...

The units we saw and drove were still cloaked in light camouflage. But the mod graphics couldn't hide a steroid-injected 1 Series Coupe body.

2012 BMW 1-Series M Coupe Prototype rear 3/4 view2012 BMW 1-Series M Coupe Prototype front detail

BMW shied away from giving track measurements, but they did divulge that the body is a full 80 millimeters (3.14-inches) wider than a standard 1 Series Coupe. The bulging fenders, especially at the rear, look like rippled muscles under a tight t-shirt. The body, including the flares, is all steel. When asked why no carbon fiber, an engineer explained that the cost/benefit ratio didn't favor the choice.

Facing the wind, a new fascia directs air toward a multitude of coolers; a main radiator, intercooler and auxiliary coolers. Out back, a small trunk spoiler sits above the two sets of dual exhausts.

This revised body covers what is most accurately explained as a short-wheelbase M3 chassis. As indicated by the intercooler behind the grille, the engine features forced induction, likely a more highly tuned version of the twin-turbo N54 inline-six sourced from the Z4 sDrive35is. But again, BMW wouldn't give us specifics.

2012 BMW 1-Series M Coupe Prototype engine

The current Z4's 3.0-liter produces 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Even if the new M Coupe's engine just matches this, it will still out-twist the 295 lb-ft offered by the V8 in the M3 – all in a vehicle that's 190 pounds lighter. But it seems likely that the 1 Series M will have more power than the Z4 thanks to higher max-boost levels (0.2 bar boost) and overboost limits (another 0.2 bar). Our educated estimate is in the 345-350 hp range.

When it comes to gearboxes, all four prototypes on hand utilized traditional six-speed manuals. The chatter about a DSG-shifted 1 Series M may be true, but not for the first year of production. At the aft end of the prop shaft, a look under the rear valance panel reveals the M3's M Variable Differential Lock rear differential.

Other serious chassis hardware includes plenty of bits and pieces that look like they were stolen from an M3 with the Competition Package. The springs are all steel and the dampers are non-adjustable. The front suspension is BMW's familiar strut design and the rear is an equally familiar multilink. Large 19-inch wheels wear staggered rubber; Michelin Sport Pilot tires measuring P245/35ZR19R front, P265/35ZR19R rear.

2012 BMW 1-Series M Coupe Prototype wheel2012 BMW 1-Series M Coupe Prototype rear suspension

Climbing in the car, we were informed that our vehicle did not have a production interior. When the car breaks cover in Detroit, expect to see something that looks like a current 1-Series with the Sport Package. Gauges are likely to have M-type markings and there should be special seat trim.

After we hit the starter button, we didn't care about the interior.

The motor spooled up quickly, smoothly and quietly. The short shifter moved easily into gear. Unlike some modern performance vehicles, there are no adjustments for the suspension, the steering or engine management. It is what it is. And it's very good.

The BMW Servotronic steering is a pure hydraulic setup that operates without any electronic intervention. The response is linear, direct and builds predictably through corners.

2012 BMW 1-Series M Coupe Prototype interior2012 BMW 1-Series M Coupe Prototype front seats2012 BMW 1-Series M Coupe Prototype gauges2012 BMW 1-Series M Coupe Prototype shifter

Likewise, the suspension takes a set in corners and plants itself. Unlike other 1 Series, there is no understeer, the model's Achilles' Heal. Thank the wider stance and big Michelins.

While it felt good to not have a computer intervene and give it what you think you want or need, on the damp German roads, we were glad to have BMW's Dynamic Stability Control on in the background. During our exuberant drive, DSC waited for us to screw up or be surprised. It never saw action. To burn off the mph, the brakes proved strong and balanced with good bite and better progression.

The country roads around Scheyern were full of tight to medium curves. Regardless of the corner's radius or gearbox cog, the hottest 1 carved through each one and then roared onto the straights. The torque came on like a freight train's diesel-electric motor, never flagging. Above 1,400 rpm, the entire rev range is rich with power. Turbo lag? Yes, there's some, but truly just a moment's. In most situations, you'll never notice.

2012 BMW 1-Series M Coupe Prototype front driving view

Engine control was exceptionally precise. On throttle, moving from 60-percent pedal to 80-percent, the coupe surged. Going from 80-percent to wide-open-throttle (WOT), the 1-Series jumped again.

The only thing the engine lacked was an exhaust note that matched the engine's performance. Our thinking is that the turbos remove so much energy from the pipes that the sounds we were looking for are used to create boost.

We weren't able to put a clock on the 1 Series M Coupe, but BMW representatives hinted that 0-60 mph should be in the sub-five-second range, with top speed limited to the standard 155 mph.

There's little doubt that an M3 would be faster over these country roads – BMW's pecking order gurus would have it no other way. But getting back to that age-old automotive axiom, how much is more speed worth? This is one of those cases where more speed doesn't necessarily buy you a more entertaining steer. The 1 Series M Coupe doesn't seem to be about outright speed as much as it is about full-on driving satisfaction – something we plan to investigate further once the official model lands in our laps.

Photos copyright ©2010 Rex Roy / AOL, BMW

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Today, the least expensive 414-horsepower V8 M3 will set you back $58,400."

      According to BMW's site, the least expensive 414-hp V8 M3 costs $55,400.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am sick of seeing this car covered in that crazy wrapping paper.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm sick of seeing this car, period. A fast midget, is still just a midget.
        • 4 Years Ago
        BMW should have made the 1-Series a hatchback, like the Acura RSX, they might have been able to make the proportions better that way.

        Still, I'm not complaining. I want more compact/city-sized luxury cars in USA!
      • 4 Years Ago
      little beast.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Is there anyone at BMW that looks at Performance/$ ratio ?
      Clearly this wont offer better performance than an EVO or an STI, but cost 1.5x more.
      OK, maybe better fit/finish, noise isolation and snob factor, but still not worth over $36K

      For those that may choose to consider it, think about the custom beast you could turn ur EVO or STI into for this kind of money.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Camo? Really? On a BMW? Anyways, although not symmetrical that's the best interior pic(manual transmission) I've ever seen in a BMW. The center stack is perfect.
      • 4 Years Ago
      At around $45k, might as well get an M3
      • 4 Years Ago
      I realize that it's not all about ultimate HP levels, but for the coin that they are going to want for this car, why not get an 335i with the ~300HP turbo engine? It will probably be slightly cheaper and only slightly heavier and bigger since the 1 is really not that small of a car. And while most owners don't mod, a turbo'ed engine usually is very tunable - a chip alone could possibly be enough to put it within spitting distance of the power level of this 1 series M Couple.

      While I actually like the 1, I just don't think it is light enough, nor small enough from it's cousin the 3. Maybe when it gets redesigns, it will get it's own platform to differentiate it better from the 2.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This comment is quite true. The difference is fairly impressive. That said, I haven't had a chance to compare the 135i to the 335is. Remembering that the 1M's engine is simply a tuned N54 with better cooling, it's quite possible that you can pick up a 335is (I'm curious to see the price difference) and apply a moderate tune to get similar performance. That said, I suspect the 1-series chassis will still feel tighter. Can any 335is owners comment?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Based on how many (few) 135i's I've seen on the road, this M may have a hard time finding itself in driveways. My hypothetical $45k would be spent on a Boss.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Looks almost as good as a 1995 Dodge Neon inside and out. $45K? No thanks BMW.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It doesn't really look that good... A few of the BMW's recently don't look that good... It just looks lazy...
        • 4 Years Ago
        The 1 Series has always looked awkward. The proportions just don't work.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's getting more and more interesting for the 1 series M. Chris Harris from EVO also thought that the 1 M fits pretty well in the definition of what an M car should be, so I'm looking forward to it even though I can't fully afford one!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Could this be BMW's Boxster/Cayman? It's size and potential high hp/torque per ton ratio superior to its bigger brother in every way except for the bag of history the M3 is holding on to?

      Probabaly not, but close.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm 99.9 percent sure that BMW's "Cayman/Boxster" is the Z4, as is Mercedes competitor in that field the SLK.

        This is more or less an oddball car, one that screams absurdity.

        And I love it. And want one. Really really bad.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's better for BMW to invent a new segment if it has a place. That way they're the de facto leader and/or monopoly. I've often wondered why there wasn't a baby supercar segment... don't get me wrong, the S-2000 and Miata are fun to drive, but they don't have 350+ hp. A 911 turbo isn't big in stature, but you can't pick one up for $45k either. There's definitely a gap that BMW is filling with this car, and if they'll make enough of them it could be a huge success.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Basically a lighter M3, Weight to Torque goodness...

        Only a complete dream to achieve...

        Get in line behind me...

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