IS IT ANY SURPRISE THAT THE BMW 1-series M Coupe is fast approaching modern-classic status? After all, it ticks every box. It was the first proper M-car to use turbocharging, it had a manual six-speed gearbox and looked so pumped that the World Anti-Doping Agency had serious questions to ask of BMW’s design office. It was rare too – just 450 came to the UK.
I ran a 1M on evo’s Fast Fleet and loved it I have to say, I would prefer to own one over the current M2. In rounding off the lM’s edges, the M2 has objectively improved but it has lost some of the purity that defined the older car’s character. I appreciate that this is a subjective point but the 1M was singularly unapologetic. The ride was hard, the power delivery spiky at times, and the rear grip was – how can I put this? – sub-optimal in less than perfect conditions. But I loved all this and more. I loved that it made you a better driver: perfecting heel-and-toe changes and asking you to carefully meter out the power.
It is the polar opposite of so many of today’s ‘stamp and go’ performance cars. I also loved the fact that even in M Dynamic mode you could agitate the rear into oversteer, and hold it. It was doing a form of drift mode before drift modes became a thing. Switch everything off and it was a true challenge. The short wheelbase and aggressive M differential demanded quick reactions, but if you responded in kind, the 1M was dizzyingly entertaining, helped undoubtedly by its 50:50 weight distribution. Certainly not for the fainthearted, but if you like your thrills accompanied by jabs of adrenaline…
Criticisms? At around 11.7 1/100km, the 53-litre fuel tank never yielded much more than 480 kilometres between refills, and the ride and brakes weren’t good enough. The damping always felt rather abrupt on the 1M, and we could never get in more than two laps of the Bedford Autodrome before the brakes wilted. If I owned a 1M now, I’d head to Litchfield and ask the guys to sort both issues. And while they were at it, I’d ask them to boost the power a little from the standard 340hp. Despite the lunacy of the 1M, you always seem to want more from it.
In terms of everyday use, if you could handle the ride, it was brilliant. Compact enough to feel lithe on B-roads or in the city, and loaded with options such as Bluetooth, DAB, Harman Kardon surround-sound, sat nav, voice control and heated seats. Today it feels barely older than the M2. The lM came third in eCoty 2011, beating the Porsche Cayman R, Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 and Ferrari FF. Indeed, only the sublime Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 and McLaren 12C finished ahead on points. That’s how good it was, and six years later still is.