It is a dare-devil ad, showing a professional driver drifting on an elevated helipad. There are no barriers to keep the car from sailing off the edge a la Thelma and Louise.
BMW's M cars are special, and known for their speed and and handling. This must be understood. So, it makes sense to do an unusual ad infused with some Derring-do.
For many drivers, BMW is the first and last word in performance street driving. For others, it's Porsche. And, okay, that is well deserved. Porsche's are great machines with timeless styling.
But BMW, for the most part, owns the whole idea of the "sport sedan." And in the case of the 1M--the sport coupe. Until the Bavarian automaker introduced the 2002 sedan in the late 1960s, in fact, the "sport sedan" did not really exist as an idea anywhere in the auto industry.
Today's 1 Series is meant to be the spiritual and mechanical descendant of the 2002. And we already liked the 1 Series a lot before BMW added the M version.
But BMW did what BMW does best for the 2011 model year. It created an M version of the car. M stands for "Motorsports." And it joins a family of M cars--the M3, M5, M6, as well as M versions of the X3 and X5.
View Gallery: 2011 BMW 1M
The whole idea behind the M Series from its beginnings in the 1970s is to take some of the engineering and learning from BMW's racing cars and dial it into a few street-legal cars. Why is this car called the 1M instead of the M1? The original M car was called the M1, and BMW execs say there is only ever going to be one M1.
The 1M has been widely praised by some of our peers. I have to join the chorus.
What makes it go? The coupe is powered by the same twin-turbocharged inline-six engine found in the BMW Z4 s sDrive35is and 335is. The 3.0 liter and double-turbo engine cranks out 335 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 332 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 4,500 rpm. Vroom.
And in a welcome back-to-the-future move, BMW is offering the 1M with a manual transmission only. No drivey the sticky? No drivey the car. That is a move praised by M car enthusiasts who have carped about BMW offering the M3 with an automatic tranny. This is a car that demands to be driven with a stick and clutch, not the "sport mode" of an automatic transmission.
What makes it an M? BMW spent a lot of time dialing in extra bits and tweaks into everything connected to the suspension and wheels. The front track was extended by 2.8 inches and fitted with double pivot struts, while the rear track got an additional 1.7 inches. There is a standard multi-link suspension. The wheels are taken from the M3 Competition Package, including 19x9-inch front wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 245/35R19s and 19x10-inch rear tires with 265/35R19s.
For full fun, I recommend turning off the traction control. You will enjoy the twisty roads without it. If you aren't confident, you should leave it on. But if you aren't confident, don't buy it in the first place.
[For a more detailed and techie review of all the hardware, check out Damon Lavrinc's write up on Autoblog.]
One of the best and most welcome aspects of the 1M is the relatively spare interior. The stick means that BMW had no place to put the iDrive controller found in its other cars. So, it's pretty much you, the radio and AC. The way it used to be. The only thing missing from this car to make it perfect is a hinged triangular vent window for the driver to handily flick cigar ashes.
Back in 2004, I wrote a book called Driven: Inside BMW, The Most Admired Car Company in the World. The 1M is a terrific expression of why I chose that title.
Do M Cars have competition? Sure. Because of the love of M cars and their credibility, Audi developed its RS models, Mercedes-Benz's has its AMG models, and more recently Lexus has created F model(s) and Cadillac has released V model(s).
All worthy vehicles. But there is something to be said for being the original.