Editorial: Speculation And Our Analysis On BMW 1M

1M, Featured Posts | September 1st, 2010 by 20
BMW 1 series M 463 750x500

I have a confession to make. I own a 135i and I like it. I even like the looks of the 135i over its 3 series …

I have a confession to make. I own a 135i and I like it. I even like the looks of the 135i over its 3 series sibling. (I know, blasphemy.) But the car has the right size, right power, and the right combination of comfort and handling that I had wanted for a long time.

I’ve mildly modded the car (Koni FSDs, Conti ExtremeContactDWs, E93 M3 front anti-sway bar, but NO engine mods at all – it has all the torque I need, thank you). But my big regret was not taking delivery of the 135i in Europe.

Now, BMW is tempting me again, with the M version of the 1er (politically correctly named the 1M, not M1). But BMW is being stingy with the details, preferring to string us along and ‘water torture’ (drip, drip, drip) us with tidbits of information. In reality BMW is becoming a past master at using social media to generate buzz for its lineup, and the demographic that uses social media is squarely in the sights of BMW for the 1M.

BMW 1 series M 332 655x434

So what’s a guy to do, they aren’t spilling the beans and I want to know what the 1M really is. I guess I’ll have to speculate a bit.

Up front I suspect they’ll use the N54 cylinder head with the twinscroll turbo found on the N55. Why? I think that the Valvetronic gear in the N55 head is less adaptable to the mission of the car or cannot be adapted in time for the launch – software is a big piece of making it work. There’s online speculation that the N55 cylinder head will be the starting point of the next M3 engine.

BMW 1 series M 463 655x434

Since the 1er is based on the same platform matrix as the current 3er, the suspension bits developed for the M3 are available for use in the 1M. That means that there’s a very strong possibility that the M3 parts bin will be raided to build out the 1M’s suspension. All the nice aluminum M3 bits fit.

There’s talk that the car will only be available with a manual transmission and again this may be an issue with software. Engine management and the transmission software will have to talk to each other and there may not be time to sort it out prior to release of the production vehicle. That may mean that the engine in the 1M is significantly different than the one in the 335is. But the buzz on the manual only is mixed, it may keep some from putting the 1M on a short list to buy. That doesn’t bother me, I’ve never owned anything but manual tranny cars (since I don’t consider the wife’s cars mine).

One thing Dr. Segler mentioned in the interview with BMWBLOG, was that the car has to be multi-functional, rather than a single purpose sports car. Does this hint at an ‘active’ suspension? Regardless, the 1M should be to the 135i as the E46 M3 was to the E46 330i ZHP. One step above – a knife edged version of an already suitably sporty car. But, from an enthusiast’s perspective, the really good news, that is actually revealed, is that it will have an honest-to-god limited slip differential. Hooray!

While the buzz online has been relatively positive, other than the fan-boys of other marques that will always find something wrong about any BMW, there is an undercurrent of “I can build a 135i out that’s better than a 1M”. The 1M will be a hard sell if BMW doesn’t clearly differentiate it from the 135i or can’t clearly communicate why it is better than any 135i that’s been ‘tuned’ with aftermarket pieces. That is an imperative! And I believe that if BMW ignores it, it will be at their peril.

So the 1M has piqued my interest, I have to determine whether or not it makes sense. I don’t track the current car, not sure that I want to (how about a Lotus 7 clone – that’d work!). So if the suspension is harsher than I want it’ll make the decision harder. What about price? Currently the base M3 coupe has an MSRP of about 126% of the base 335i coupe. Taking the 126% as a multiplier for the current 135i, the price may be in the $45,775 range, which tracks with a lot of the buzz on price.

So will BMW tempt me to buy again, this time with an M car that I can pick up in Europe. We’ll have to wait and see . . .

20 responses to “Editorial: Speculation And Our Analysis On BMW 1M”

  1. Wooo hoo. says:

    Riiight, I don’t see a single thing about the 1er that would make me choose it over an 3er. In M-Format, for just a few Thousand more I can get a “Real” M-car and not some entry level pseudo M-Car priced for the masses.

    I suppose that this will sell well becasue like I said in the past, with the birth of the 1er, ANY one will be able to afford it now. It’s bad enough, seeing people driving around in BASE stripper 1er cabriolets thinking that they are somebody…. Now we get to see 1er owners with the M-“apperance package” looking down on a 335 owner?! LMFAO…

    • A few thousand more? A 335i starts around $40k base with the E90 M3 sedan at about $55k base. By that math the M3 commands a 38% premium over a standard 3 – not exactly an easy jump for most people.

      As for your comment on 1 owners vs 3 owners – people who know BMW’s know that the 135i and 335i are both quick cars but serve different roles/markets. I doubt most 335i owners could care about a 135i and vice versa.

      BMW is smart to offer a cheaper entry M car. When the guy who picks up an 1M gets a promotion or starts a family and wants to stay with a performance line from BMW he’ll upgrade to an M3 or M5 – not move over to Lexus of the IS-F or Benz for the C63 AMG. It’s a long-term sales strategy.

      • viper says:

        3 series cars, including the M are just too big for some drivers. We like our compact cars in Europe. The 1 series will be very special for BMW in the years to come, it will be seen as BMW going back to it’s sporting roots even though that wasn’t the original intention with the 1er.

        • FreudeKing says:

          I love the 1 Series coupe. It is just an amazing design – striking, modern and powerful. The only pity are the bug eyes.

  2. My suspicion is the same as yours, single turbo with N54 heads. Definitely makes sense and removes the issues with valvetronic.

  3. At that pricing point I would probably spring for 1M over a used E46 M3.

    Hugo, you always make me regret not pulling trigger on a 135i!

    • Hugo Becker says:

      I really like the E46 M3 – it is an outstanding car. The S54 engine may be the pinnacle of the I6 (possibly it’s swansong).

      But I really like the way the 135i fills the Grand Touring role it’s been assigned, it’s comfortable and quick in a ‘right-sized’ package for my taste – remember I’m conmfortable driving a Lotus 7 ;-). So what don’t I like about the 135i – well almost everything from the B-pillar back in the interior – it’s cheap (but I don’t sit back there so I don’t care – in fact the backseat has been used three times in two plus years).

      The other thing that I wish the 135i had is some steam in the engine above 5500 RPM – the N54 falls on it’s face at about 6000 RPM. SO if they extend the torque curve peak (actually plateau – ’cause that engine has a flat-a$$ torque curve) to 6000 RPM it’ll still be going gangbusters @ redline.

  4. Hugo Becker says:

    Oh, and I cannot stress this enough, if the 1M turns out to be a ‘parts bin’ exercise, it’ll be a monumental FAIL. If it’s an ‘is’ engine (a ‘golden key’ software tune – in other words, unlocking already existing power potential w/ a software update) and M3 bits scattered in the suspension, they are never going to hear the end of it – and some wiseguy(s) will stand on their soapbox and say, “I can make a 135i that’s better than a 1M!” (hell, they will anyhow ; -). And how are you going to dispute it? BMW runs the risk of cheapening M (and some say they already have) if this is a simple cobble job.

    • viper says:

      In the real world no-one stands on any soapbox and says anything. They just look at your car and think ‘nice’. Then hate you for it.

      The irony behind all this is going to be that BMW’s best M in a long time is going to be a rushed job using existing tech.

      The sum of the whole is greater than it’s parts.

  5. adc says:

    Not sure why you guys think it’s using N54 heads with a single twin-scroll turbo – wouldn’t it be easier to develop the twin-turbo? For one, it’s been proven to make a lot of power – and if you remove valvetronic, what advantage can a single turbo possibly offer?

    • Hugo Becker says:

      The only thing I can think of is that the twin scroll has an exhaust impulse hitting it every 120 degrees of crank rotation, rather then the 240 degrees of crank rotation of the individual turbos. You should be able to have a larger impeller and potentially more boost at higher revs than the ‘snails’ on the twin turbo N54.

      That is the only thing I can think of logically, but then some folks say the N55 engine is ‘laggy’ and blame the twin scroll turbo. I’ve yet to drive an N55 engined car so I can’t really say one way or the other. But the exhaust impulse @ 120 degrees of crankshaft rotation is the reason I suspect it.

      And, BTW, nice to see you posting here too adc! You have a wealth of experience and your comments are truly appreciated.

  6. Shawn says:


    Great article, excellent writing! Room in your suitcase?? I’d love to do the European delivery as well.

  7. Wow you nailed it perfectly with that E46 M3 vs. E46 ZHP analogy. The “1M” better have far better performance than guessed at in some other blogs I’ve read on the topic. Better have the full aero kit too — the 135 is fugly IMHO.

    If not a big enough performance boost, as you say it will fail spectacularly. And the Germans will blame it on Americans hating small cars.

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