BMW 1 Series M Coupe Test Drive Review by BMWCCA driving instructor

1M | November 24th, 2010 by 12
BMW 1er M Coupé BMW Welt Nov2010 211 750x500

Yet another BMW 1 Series M Coupe test drive review surfaces, but this time, reported by a professional driving instructor and an E30 M3 owner, …

Yet another BMW 1 Series M Coupe test drive review surfaces, but this time, reported by a professional driving instructor and an E30 M3 owner, the same vehicle many believe it is the predecessor of the 1M. M3 Adjuster of 1addicts shares a valuable and very insightful review of the new baby-M and we’re quite ecstatic about the things he had to share.

“My application details included my history with BMW CCA, where I am a lifetime member, having joined the club in 1993 when I purchased my first E30 M3. I have been very active with BMW CCA, beginning with autocross in 1994, my first driving event in 1997, moving up to instructor in 2001, and I currently am the Chief Driving instructor and President of my local chapter. I have attended six Oktoberfest events across the United States, and driven on over a dozen race circuits in the US, and I still autocross competitively monthly. My experience on track includes E36 M3, E46 M3, E92 M3, 335, a few Porsche 911 variants, Mazda Miata, and of course I have traveled around in the passenger seat of many vehicles while instructing. I currently still own a track prepped E30- M3, and like many E30 M3 owners, have been hoping to see BMW produce a performance car with similar characteristics as the E30… lightness, superior handling, and incredible agility.

driven bmw 1m 111 655x432Nearly 7 years ago, myself and several Dallas Fort Worth area E30 M3 comrades were excited to hear of what was originally billed a two series, with rumors of an M2. We rushed to a local dealer to put our names in for such a car. As more details came out, the car was then dubbed the 1 series, and the hatchback models were deemed not able to be sold in the US, after the E36 318ti was brought over and was roundly deemed a flop. The 318ti actually was a very decent car, it simply was under powered, and thus it never sold well. Regrettably, BMW NA still continues to be afraid to bring a hot hatchback to the US, while such cars sell by the thousands in Subaru WRX, Mazda Speed 3, and VW R32 guise . However, we had cause for excitement, when hearing that a 1 series coupe was being developed, however only 128 and 135 models came into production. So, as details have come out that the BMW M division would indeed produce a 1 series M model, I signed up at the closed room, and then of course immediately submitted my name to be the first to drive the 1, and I never could have imagined that I would win such a contest!

After a long 12 hour flight, the participants settled in at the Leipzig Westin on Nov 17th, and we were treated to dinner by our hosts from marketing and the BMW M division. We were asked to sign two short forms.. one acknowledging that we would be recorded, and for BMW to use our likenesses in marketing and advertising, and the second was a request that we not release details of the event to the public until we were given the OK, in order to allow for a video to be produced. The morning of the 18th we were shuttled to the Leipzig plant where we watched a short intro video by Dr. Kay Segler, and then advised we would be split into two groups. One group of six did a factory tour, and the other group of six was to go drive, with the groups alternating and doing the second option after lunch. My group did the factory tour first, and we were able to see every step of production at Leipzig. Our tour guide Fritz had cleverly been advised at what times the 1 series M models would be coming along the different production line ” fingers” and we first saw the body of a white 1 M coupe. We were able to see the much bolder rocker panel details, along with the massively flared fender and I realized that this car really does look the part of the boy racer E30 M3!

BMW 1er M Coupé BMW Welt Nov2010 211 655x436

We next saw the dash being installed into a Valencia Orange car, at which many commented that the orange was actually quite attractive! We went to lunch at the plant along with the workers, and we were then led outside to where there were three 1 series M coupes lined up, still in camouflage, along with an X6 M lead car. We immediately paired off two to a vehicle. There was an engineer, and a few camera people joined us, and they moved from car to car during the driving. We were asked to not pass the lead car, and to not turn off the DSC, and to be honest, with it actively raining, this certainly seemed appropriate!

We set off from the factory, and drove directly to the Autobahn! Large rooster tails formed due to the rain, however we still moved along at over 150 kph.. Taking advantage of being the trailing car, I once dropped back and got a good clean run up to 180 kph (110 mph). The engine exhaust note inside the car was wonderful, nearly rivaling the interior sound of the E92 M3. Acceleration was brisk, and in third gear, there was no flat spot or tailing off, and a shift to fourth placed the car in the center of the power band for continued acceleration. The first thing that I noticed was that under powerful acceleration, the 1M does *not* have the floaty sensation at the front end that I have experienced in the 135/ 335. At the rear of the car, the car had plenty of grip under acceleration, unless one, say… rounded a corner in second, and simply mashed the throttle. Such churlish man-handling in the wet resulted in wheelspin at the rear, with the side stepping smartly sideways before the DSC kicked in to save the day. And by save the day…. I mean just that…. On track or on road, the DSC never killed the party like it does in the E36 M3.. when the DSC kicked in, I’d say it was definitely needed! We turned onto some local roads which went from smooth to eventual cobblestone. While the cobblestone part was excessively bumpy, the ride was still rather good!

One of the engineers riding along suggested I explore the M button, which had been pre-programmed for us. Simply activating the M button gave a much more sensitive throttle response. The engineer advised that throttle response is normally linear until using the M button, where it switches to being much more aggressive. I preferred it on, and if I owned the car, I would probably simply switch it off when perhaps out on a date or with parents or such in the car. We came to a roundabout and switched drivers, and returned back to the factory. The fellow driving along with me was 6’3″ and his frame easily fit in the car… Sliding the seat back, there was plenty of legroom for even a taller driver….the seats were manual adjustment, fore and aft, with small buttons on the seat to allow it to electrically move forward to allow rear seat occupants. With a driver 6 foot or under, there was actually plenty of room for me in the rear without hitting my head or feeling uncomfortable in any way.


At the factory, we then went to a test track. The test track is a large oval with a significant kink in one side. The two ends of the oval are second gear corners with banking and Armco at the edge. The back straight is long and straight, and the front straight has a gentle bend that places it parallel to the back straight for most of it’s length, however negotiating the same bend at speed at the end of the straight is rather tricky. It’s reminiscent of bends mid way down the straight at tracks like Road Atlanta, Mid Ohio, and Road America in the US. At this point it was simply I and another participant in our car, and, being two of the more aggressive drivers in our group, we again employed the drop back method. We each attained speeds of 220 kph on the back straight, which required dropping to second gear exiting the curve, and then flat out full power acceleration out of the corner down the straight. The DSC kicked in at the top of second while launching off the corner, then up through the gears to the top of fourth gear. I once touched nearly 230 kph, which meant negotiating the bend at over 200 kph… in the WET.. with it actively raining. The car simply felt rock stable throughout and under braking at the end of the long straight, I waited as late as possible and each time hauling the car down I never reached so far as to activate ABS, but made clean, nearly effortless stops. During the last lap, I did late brake into the corner, provoking under-steer, but as I got into the corner was able to turn in smartly and use a slight lift of the throttle to bring the rear around…..all without DSC interfering…. While I didn’t know the conversion to mph, I knew I had just driven nearly as fast I had ever gone on track, *in the RAIN*, and not even in my own car. Later at dinner, someone calculated that 220kph was 135+….

At this point, I thought the driving portion would be over, but we then moved on to a small parking lot with cones! Hooray, an autocross? An actual autocross course would have been terrific, but instead there were two slaloms laid back to back with a left and a right U turn at each end. This was a great opportunity to test the car’s balance, and I pushed the car hard out of the box my first time, negotiating a sharp left turn to approach the first slalom, I engaged MASSIVE under-steer.. whoops!!! ok.. so the car can’t defy the laws of physics!

My next runs through I concentrated on transitioning and seat of the pants feel and flew through the cones, pushing aggressively, feeling my own smile get wider and wider as I did a second, a third, and then a fourth lap through the slalom… It was now getting on to about 5pm and getting dark outside. One of the engineers then took the wheel and I and another participant hopped in the back seat for some wheel spinning drifting, opposite lock u turns, and an intentional ” tank slapper” that had us being thrown about the rear of the car like rag dolls. That’s not something one will ever do with an E30! Other than being hugely fun, it again highlighted the phenomenal amount of grip from the chassis and the tires. I took note of the sizes… a massive 265/35/19 at the rear, and 245/35/19 at the front… aah.. yes… the familiar staggered setup that has been prevalent among BMWs in the last several decades. so as to create safe, predictable understeer. Perhaps in the aftermarket a balanced setup can be fitted to the car to really make it neutral..

From the skid pad, we were then taken into a large room in the back of the factory…. There.. under a cover stood a car… and without a great amount of fanfare, the cover was removed so we could see the car in all it’s glory…. Valencia orange…. no CF roof… but then again… not surprising…. In the past, the US M Brand Manager Larry Koch explained to me that the US federalization process would require testing both a CF and non CF version, which is why the E90 comes in CF roof only… no sunroof option on the 2 door model, so no surprise that in a car in the middle of the life cycle that there were no trick new body panels… However… the overall look of the car is completely badass.. Large air ducts at the front for brake cooling…. not X5 M/X6M huge but very well proportioned…. the massively flared rear quarters with those big tires in the rear… . the side mirrors have two-tone openings in them for air flow ala the E36 and E92 M3… The dash is vintage M with red pointers on the dials and a precisely placed M logo…. and of course on the rear a single //M logo….

From our conversations with the M personnel, the weight distribution is 50/50… power at approximately 340 hp (primarily from uprated tolerances and revised ECU mapping) and with a curb weight that will be under 1500 kilos (3300 lbs) this puts the car in the range of the E36 curb weight… with a lot more tire and a great deal more power….. Is this car going to replace the E30 M3… perhaps not.. but it also outperforms the E30 M3 in many ways while also being reminiscent of the E30 M3 in size, and handling. In my mind…. Dr. Kay has indeed delivered a car that IS the full package… it is ” M Pure “… easily worthy of the M logos it wears. I wish I could come up with negatives for this car, but to be simply honest, it simply exceeded all my expectations… I went to Leipzig expecting a hit… but instead found a car that is an absolute HOME RUN. Can it be equaled or bettered in the aftermarket by modifying a 135? Probably so…. but such a car will never have the cachet of an M car…nor the resale value… nor will it be the first 1M…. which in time… may prove to be as respected as the E30 M3.

Are there negatives… ?? Well it’s always easy to point out the weight if one is talking about the scale…and unfortunately the rain as well as the fact that the test track was mostly an oval may have conspired to hide the fact that the car is over 3000 lbs, however I never felt like I was driving a heavy car, which I have always felt when driving the E46M3 and the E92 M3….. Some won’t like the orange stitching on the seats and dash… but standing in a group admiring the car in the flesh… I heard no such complaints. It’s a subtle stitching that perfectly contrasts with the black Alcantara and it’s also in matching areas on the dash… It’s sharp… period! Others may complain that the color palette is minimal…. but the E30 M3 Sport Evo was only available in Jet Black or Brilliant Red. The 1M is going to be available in Alpine White, (Jet?) Black, and Valencia Orange… The orange is not an M3 GTS ” Hey look at me! ” orange, but more of a burnt orange, and it really looks classy. In time, I imagine it will have an ardent group of followers similar to Henna on the E30 M3. No matter the color… this is a special car!!! There was no indication of pricing, but if this car comes in around 45K…. in my opinion it will be on it’s way to being a collectible item.

For those who don’t like the color options… maybe you’re concerned that you won’t have time to keep your 1M clean… well.. perhaps this car is not for you….. well then you can definitely go the aftermarket route on a standard 135 instead… and..get it in blue.. .. yeah … a really cool Monaco…….

For the rest of us, simply drive it as it is first…. you might just end up walking away with the same irremovable grin that twelve people from around the world were wearing that day in Leipzig… As for me…. that same grin is still there….and I Always Bet On Black!”