So can the “baby-M” keep up with the market leader in midsize premium market? Let’s take a look at a few of their findings.
“Benchmarking the 1M (isn’t that better?) against an M3, a car that’s gotten no shortage of praise in these pages, would seem the perfect way to find out.
Admittedly this is an awkward pairing — forgetting the $34,367 price difference — because the 1M leans heavily on the M3 for parts, taking its differential, rear suspension, brakes, wheels, and tires. With the same shoes, its dance moves are unsurprisingly similar. Around our figure eight, the two produce identical lap times. The M3 edges the 1M out slightly on average lateral g and acceleration while the 1M’s lighter, more compact package lets it catch up in braking and turn-in (stops from 60 mph took 105 feet). But what’s most interesting about these two is the change in the philosophy under the hood.
Lieberman leads with the 1M, blasting pebbles and dirt from the rear tires as he exits the turnout in a fury of torque. I lug out with the M3 in second gear and play catch-up. The increasingly sonorous character contained within the tach’s never-ending swing to 8400 rpm is worth savoring. The 1M may pull strongly when its computer allows the torque boost, but while it’s figuring that out, the M3 simply revs. And how it revs! This exhaust note should be weaponized; anyone within earshot is rendered a quivering mess.
When we pull over, Lieberman is stupefied about the 1M’s torque supply, asking, “370 pound-feet? On what planet? This feels like so much more.” While he goes on about BMW’s penchant for underrating its engines’ output, I try to make sense of the 1M’s exterior.
The 1M’s steering feels distinctly quicker and lighter, and while entertaining, it’s a tick less communicative than the M3′s telepathy. And though these two share track and width, the 1M’s wheelbase is 4 inches shorter. As a result, it can feel darty along these imperfect roads, exhibiting noticeable chop when the asphalt degrades. The 1M’s ride is busier, sometimes playfully so, sometimes in a way that makes you second-guess your speed.
The 1M signals a return to driving-focused enjoyment, not to mention it’s as fast as the M3 and costs way less.
But is it better? Lieberman and I agree: No. This big, heavy, and expensive M3, with its unflappable confidence and lascivious powertrain, is the car we want, the car we’ll remember as the best of the naturally aspirated Ms. It’s the one we’ll tell young gearheads about in a few decades with the same fondness and reverence as given its E30 ancestor. The 1M doesn’t measure up to the M3′s standard. Few cars do.