BMW 1M: The ultimate…commuter car?

1M | April 22nd, 2015 by 75
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I traded in my 135is only 10 months after getting it and got myself a Valencia Orange BMW 1M. Here is my life with the BMW 1M

“I don’t believe in driving a beater” is what I said when i signed a contract to work as a Physician at a University Hospital located 65 miles away from our apartment in Brooklyn. So back then I bought a brand new 2011 Audi A3 quattro 5-door hatchback to celebrate my new job. I used the A3 for about two years and the commute started off being difficult, however subsequently became habit—and then became something much worse; painfully boring!

I traded my A3 in for a 2013 BMW 135is with a 6-speed manual. Wonderful, wonderful car. Thoroughly entertaining and my first BMW. It felt like I was in possession of the true ‘modern’ interpretation of the 2002tii. I loved the car but there was only one lingering problem with the 135is; the fact that the 1M existed before it.

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I spent hours and hours stalking every 1M for sale ad in the U.S. and would email sellers, call dealerships, and save photos. After a test drive of a 1M, I realized the 135is was the nice tidy cup of ice cream, the 1M felt like the full fat, eat-butter-out-of-container, mutated and beastly version. It was nice that I was driving the ‘next best thing’ to the 1M in the form of the 135is, but it didn’t have the M3 steering rack, axles, brakes, suspension, wheels and LSD.

It also didn’t have a hilariously wide fenders and stance which only previously existed in my imagination! My wife knew about my 1M infatuation and she told me I should buy one.

So I traded in my 135is only 10 months after getting it and got myself a Valencia Orange 1M. The day I picked it up I literally felt like I was 7 years old. I had to stop five times during that two hour drive home from Connecticut just to contain my excitement.  Just for that feeling alone, it was worth spending the money.

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I’m not a collector, I’m not a show-off, and I’m not a materialist. I just want to enjoy driving. I drive 130+ miles a day. I sit in traffic jams. I drive my amazing wife around the city. I break loose on open and empty freeways. I sit at traffic lights. I get gas. I get coffee. I pick up groceries. I buy food. I drive around NYC. I take weekend trips out of town. I pick up my family at airports. I drive for emergencies to the hospital in the middle of the night on occasion. I have important phone conversations in the car. I listen to my favorite records. I’ve also been known to get up early on the weekends to go drive around aimlessly.

I do all of these things and many more in my limited production, Valencia Orange BMW 1M as my sole daily driver. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Do I worry it’s going to get damaged around NYC? Sure…but it doesn’t stop me from living.

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My philosophy is that I don’t buy nice things for ‘special occasions’. I think every day is a special occasion and for me material possessions are just assistants to making our lives more enjoyable and entertaining. Most of us work hard to make money to have a decent life, live in a nice place, eat nice things, and try to get all of the resources that can help us have a fruitful and pleasant life.

My wife works in Midtown Manhattan and we love living in Brooklyn; so moving closer to my workplace outside of NYC was not a consideration. After 3+ years of doing the commute in and out of NYC every single day; I still LOVE driving. The only thing I learned about long distance commuting is: don’t buy a boring car! Buy the best car you can for your daily commute!

The 1M was my ultimate ‘want badly’ car four years ago when it was launched and since buying it the 1M has made my commute an event and celebration of motoring every single damn day. There are days when I leave my apartment at 5:30am and leave the hospital at 10pm at night.

Want to know what a great feeling is? Walking out of an exhausting, draining, challenging, and eventful day at the hospital and seeing that beautiful Valencia Orange 1M waiting for me in the parking lot. Wrapping my hand around the Alcantara steering wheel, starting it up with a growl, and then being inside one of the finest sports cars made in recent history.  Every day of your life should be an occasion, so saving an object to preserve its value is putting an object ahead of your life.

The memories you keep are far more valuable than the depreciation you pay for.

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So what is the 1M like to live with in NYC and to be used as a ‘heavy commuter’ daily driver?

It still feels special every day. I’ve become used to the staring, the pointing, the waving, the thumbs ups, the children waving at the orange car through the school bus, the JDM kids wanting to street race me, the conversations at the gas station, the comments when I get out of it in a parking lot, the fact that the “Top Gear generation” seems too know exactly what this orange 1M is all about.

I’m not a snob. I love talking cars and I love to discuss the 1M whenever I get asked about it. In terms of driving it, the 1M is an ‘M car’ in terms of suspension settings and dynamics. It is relatively harsh when compared to non-M cars and when compared to most other cars this side of a Porsche. The ride can be jarring on the rough (often terrifyingly poor) streets of NYC and I have quickly learned which roads are meant to be viciously avoided. I have had a violent blow-out of a tire on the Expressway through Queens when a shiv/scalpel (not sure what in the world that was doing on the freeway) inserted itself through my rear 265/35/19 Michelin PSS and blew it out.

In fact I’ve had several nails embedded in my tires…but oh well! Things happen; no big deal. I’d rather they happen to me in a 1M than in a “beater.”

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The steering is immediately responsive on the 1M (same steering rack as the E9X M3) and I find it to be totally joyful in its old-school hydraulic setup. The brakes are grippy, safe, and confidence inspiring. I feel I can react in the 1M to anything thrown at me in traffic. Anyone who has driven in NYC knows that there are pedestrians, cyclists, taxis, buses, dogs, kids, people who run traffic signs, people who drive like they’ve been stabbed in the ass with a habanero-coated needle.

The N54 Twin Turbo ‘factory tuned’ version used in the 1M is just a beautiful engine. The torque overboost (to 370lb/ft) never fails to light up the rear tires when used with a lead foot and the 335hp (wheel HP according to most dyno testing) is an active beast of an engine when compared to other modern engines. By most accounts, the N54 was a very special engine and even more special when in 1M or Z4 form (which also had a similar tuning). The 6-speed manual (now being used in the F8X M3 and M4) transmission is perfect, albeit has taken practice to really feel comfortable with. The clutch is relatively light, and the “M” button transforms the throttle response into a swift kick in the pants.

I do not plan to modify my 1M at all; except for a Vorsteiner exhaust which will be put on the car sometime this spring. Otherwise, there is nothing more I could ever want in a sports car. I felt that way about the 1M before I bought it and I feel that way even more after driving it for the past nine months. It has exceeded all of my expectations.

The 1M can be very animalistic in its behavior and it feels like a caged angry bear that is constantly trying to punch above its weight: wild, a bit reckless, a bit unhinged, but powerful and capable. As someone who has a great appreciation for older sports cars like the Alpine A110, BMW 2002, Alfa Romeo GTV/GTA, Lancia Fulvia, and NSU TT, the 1M feels like it captures the ‘madness’ of those cars in spirit. There is a certain amount of intangible madness built into this car. A Frankenstein-type of of character which makes it feel special beyond its price or status.

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I daily drove the 1M this entire winter. In freezing rain, in snow, in blizzards, in rain, in slush, you name it! I ran 235/40/18 Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 snow tires (Nokian invented the snow tire in 1934).

Firstly, these tires are amazing. Forget your Blizzaks or Alpins; if you care about driving in snow, Nokian snow tires are the way!

The 1M was unbelievable this winter. Zero issues in any amount of snow: deep, icey, or shallow. I can’t even remember a single time this winter where I felt any loss of control…oh wait I do remember. I was doing massive amounts of donuts every time it snowed in the large, empty university parking lot near where I work!

After driving Audis for several years, I have never missed AWD since switching to RWD with great snow tires. It’s a shame that people don’t drive their sports cars in the winter as the enjoyment is immense with the right tires! I drove most of the winter in MDM (M Dynamic Mode) as I felt more control over forward motion rather than traction control interference going overboard.

The 1M never missed a bit this winter and it was a heavy winter!

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Every day is a little journey contributing to the larger journey and nobody knows what tomorrow is going to bring to your life. I am massively thrilled that we are having a baby-boy this July and the 1M has just been signed up in our house as the official “Baby Vehicle”.

This will be the newest badge of honor on the 1M’s curriculum vitae. At least my boy will be able to tell his friends when he is older that “my dad used to drop me off at daycare in a 1M”. I told my wife when I was buying the 1M that this was the car I wanted to pick my firstborn child with at the hospital and that’s exactly what is going to happen.

The memories you make with a car are more important than the car.

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75 responses to “BMW 1M: The ultimate…commuter car?”

  1. FoggyAgave says:

    Great post – and beautiful photos – did you shoot them?

  2. Mike Vella says:

    I enjoyed this story a lot, thank you!
    And you’re right, if you have to commute and drive yourself, you should do it in something you enjoy driving and being in.
    Excellent pics, too.

  3. Nick Psaros says:

    I love this car. its truly a special machine and i think people will be kicking them selves in the future for now going for one when they could. this will be a $100k car at some point.

    • TheBingoBalls says:

      While I think the 1M is going to appreciate in value, I don’t think it’s going to get to $100k levels. The 1M is a great car for what it is but it isn’t that unique in nature because of it’s turbo engine. Could I see a E9X M3 appreciate, maybe because it’s a lot harder to modify something to make it behave and perform like the N/A V8 used. Yes I know there is more to every M car than the engine but again, the 1M wasn’t an unique car in the sense that it was basically put together with various parts of other BMW/M cars – it’s a lot easier to modify an E82 to something close to a 1M.

      • Nick Psaros says:

        I have had both a e92M3 and now my 1M. i have to say that the 1M is a better driving car. it makes driving fun again. sure the M3 is a surgeons scalpel but i dont want that when i am cooking dinner. my point is, cars are not built like this in the modern age, especially with a story like the 1Ms.
        also M cars are not really about their motor. they are about chassis. the 1M and M3 are titans in this area. again, driving pleasure comes from its ability to give the driver confidence, inspiration, and results. the 1M certainly doesnt disappoint.
        i think it will easily grow over $100k in the next 10 years. why? because its a drivers car made by a company as a reaction to the demand from people that wanted a modern e30 M3. the economics of what it costs to build that by any company is tremendous… therefore i dont expect to see a repeat of this little frankenstein any time soon.

        • syedhoda1 says:

          i think prices of the 1M will probably rise in the future; but i’m not too bothered either way as i’d like this to become a car i keep for a very long time and pass onto my kid(s). like a documentation of this time….my 1M will probably never be on sale again!

      • Em/1 says:

        UNIQUE! FIRST TURBO M-CAR (not truck). LAST 1M. Coolest car since M1 and/or first M3…

  4. Alejandro Valerín says:

    Best car related story I’ve read in a long time. I fell just like him with my M235i.

  5. joseph_rma says:

    great and emotional story, and this car is UHH don’t know what to say to describe it properly :)

  6. W says:

    Best article I’ve read on BMWBLOG in a long long time. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Juan Manuel Martinez says:

    I am currently a third year medicine student from Colombia, a country in which salaries are ridiculously low (trust me you would laugh and then cry if you compared how much a physician does here) yet still, (even though the car is not out yet) every single freaking day I think about maybe in ten years when I have finished my career and specialization (a must in this country if you want to live decently) buying an M2, used of course. I know it will not be my first car but I just want it so bad.

    Such a nice reading.

    • Juan Manuel Martinez says:

      I just hope that unlike the 1M, the used M2 market keeps rational, I don’t want the car to be an inversion and I want to be able to afford it.

    • syedhoda1 says:

      my only advice to you is: aim high, do not compromise, be as good of a physician as you can be; and you will be fine :) Good luck!

      • Juan Manuel Martinez says:

        Thank you for your kind words, I have to admit that my family has a good position and I study in what’s probably the best school in the country, it is always nice to have something to look for, and I enjoy every single day at college.

        And also… Congrats! that’s a beautiful car.

    • PaulP says:

      3rd year med school student, just like you (although in France), I often dream about driving a 6-cyl petrol BMW… Just hearing a 335i getting off at a red light it makes me smile.
      I love this post, I’ll think about it when I’ll feel a bit down because of a lesson I can’t remember or a bad day in clinics… Juan, we’re on a long way to the graduation with all this work, but the job’s worth it, right Syed? :)

      • syedhoda1 says:

        the job is worth it. it’s hard….challenging….thought provoking, but very very rewarding. I am surrounded by intelligent and caring people; that makes it a lot easier! You guys will do fine…just takes a bit of time :)

      • Juan Manuel Martinez says:

        Right! :)

  8. Daniel Johnson says:

    Great read, thanks for sharing!

  9. Christian says:

    Great read – I hope i’ll have many of the same experiences in a M2 if I ever get enough money for one.

  10. Andres Iturralde says:

    Great story, i DD my 1M too, fantastic car, i don´t do many miles as you do everyday but traffic sucks in mexico city, car is comfy, and i really like being in there, and enjoy driving this little hoooligan, pot holes, busses (2 close encounters and counting..) it doesnt matter i love driving this one and will continue to do so, cheers!

  11. Carlos Arce says:

    Great post, feel the same about my E92 M3.

  12. Jeff Swaim says:

    Awesome article!
    +1 for daily driving 1Ms!

  13. Abdul R. Kublan says:

    On of the greatest BMW car ever made!
    Enjoy it and thanks for the story!

  14. Will K says:

    I commute through LIE to MT Tunnel daily. I think I’ve seen you before :)

  15. IceDree says:

    Excellent post!
    And I completely agree, if you have a long daily commute … Get something you love & enjoy driving! Life is too short to spend that much time in a Camry

    • syedhoda1 says:

      exactly, my friend! it’s amazing how much I enjoy my commute these days….and it doesn’t have to be the most expensive car or the most fancy anything—as long as it’s something you really like, is a lot of fun, and puts a smile on your face; that’s the MOST important part. Not just a practical and boring car you buy because you don’t want to waste your ‘good car’ on a commute. EVERY DAY is never a waste of time….that’s all your time! :)

  16. James Baek says:

    great post. I drive 1M as a daily car in Korea. I’ve never felt “It’s boring.” want to be with this car for long time.

  17. Sam says:

    AWESOME ARTICLE!! He is right on so many points!! lucky guy!!

  18. Horatiu says:

    I need to drive my 1M more often. Only 20k on it.

  19. Albrecht Fischer says:

    Just did the same after four years N54 135i – and i dont regret it!

  20. MTBway2B says:

    Excellent points about using cars. There’s nothing really wrong with babying something you plan on selling one day or handing down to your kids (that’s how people like us find great cars like this and my own), but if you’re buying a fun car- at least one that doesn’t break down once per tank- use it to make your life that much more fun. Since I got my NA Miata, even post office runs and dropping books at the library in all but the worst weather are events to look forward to. (Might not be picking up a newborn in it, though..)

    Thanks for the great read!

  21. GetItSidways says:

    When I was looking to buy another M people were telling me just to keep my E46 M and buy a DD. I want to drive my cars. I bought an E90 M to DD not sit in my garage. You did a great job of describing why we drive. We are not snobs or show offs. We just really like to drive fantastic cars. I loved this article.

    • syedhoda1 says:

      there are definitely people who tried to discourage me about this, but plenty of people who encourage me as well. ultimately i decided to just do what i felt was natural (was going to make up my own mind anyways!)….as you did too by buying an E90 M3 as your DD (love those, BTW!). Thank you!

  22. andrew maness says:

    Excellent story, really enjoyed reading it.

    As a professional courtesy I have to point out there are a number of typos in sentences where I think you got ahead of yourself (happens to me all the time) thus trying to convey a thought twice or without the word that makes the sentence work. Might want to just go through it as this is getting lots of traction.

    I’m considering a 135i M-Sport or 228i M-Sport for my next car, if I could afford a 1M I’d go in on one no question. Congrats on driving your dream car!

    • syedhoda1 says:

      i’m not a professional writer or even good at writing. but thanks for the tips :)

      the 135i is a fantastic car. Would definitely recommend it. I’ve driven the 228 on the street (as a loaner car for 1 week) and also a 228 on an autocross course and was not too impressed by it, if i’m honest. It was much softer than the previous 1-series and felt a bit heavy.

  23. winstonsmith39 says:

    Love it. Normally I wouldn’t go for such a bright colour, but I think I could make an exception for such a sweet machine.

    • syedhoda1 says:

      for the past 10+ years i had been driving black or dark coloured cars. I never thought i was the type who could pull off a bright orange car—-but somehow it has worked out! It’s not discrete though, that’s for sure! lol

  24. Dan Arifakis says:

    IEDEI! I literally just posted on the Sighted thread how jealous I am everyday that I see your car. (I’m the BSM 135i at SBU) Thing is on another level and I truly look up to you not only as a car enthusiast but as one who enjoys their life and makes the most out of everyday!

  25. CoconutSid says:

    “Anyone who has driven in NYC knows that there are…….people who drive like they’ve been stabbed in the ass with a habanero-coated needle.”

    OH. SO. TRUE.

    Awesome post and glad you’re enjoying your beautiful car in our amazing city!!!

  26. jamison_io says:

    Awesome post. Love the the info on the RWD in Winter. That is my biggest concern with an M.

    • syedhoda1 says:

      before getting the 135is, i had driven 2 winters in the A3 quattro with snow tires. Honestly after going RWD—i have had NO issues whatsoever. The key component here is getting really great snow tires like the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2s. They are wicked. The 1M is even better in the snow than the 135is was, mainly due to the mechanical limited slip differential; but aside from the occasional squrming at snowy traffic light launches, i have never felt that i could not control the car. MUCH better in the snow than i ever expected. I made it into work on days when many others who live much closer than I do could not!

  27. bagster8660 . says:

    Great post. I am also lucky to be the custodian of one of these great cars, they are a special machine much greater than the sum of the parts. I recently test drove an M4 and although it was a brilliant car, I can honestly say I would not swap it for my 1M. It’s all about ‘soul’!
    I have made a few modifications to mine but nothing too radical. I think they address the few weak points of the engine and I have gone for a bit more power. I run a Milltek cat back exhaust which took care of my first bugbear…the 1M drone. Secondly I replaced the standard intercooler, which is an embarrassment to BMW with a larger Wagner IC from Germany; thirdly I replaced the cheap plastic charge pipe with a performance aluminium one. The latter two mods were in preparation for a tune via a Cobb V3. I am running a Stage 2+ map and let’s just say that the car is not wanting on power.
    I love the view that experiences will always trump depreciation in a great car and the 1M is a great car.

  28. evoiii67 says:

    Nice Story…

    I too have VO 1M, along with an original Sport Evolution E30 M3 and an E36 M3. The 1M has been a lot of fun to drive since new, different beast than the Sport Evo, but special too. You don’t mention if you have taken your 1M to the track and/or autocross. If you haven’t, do it, you won’t regret it, is one of the most fun cars I’ve had at the track, and I’ve have had all M3 generations. It’ll outperform a stock E9x M3 at the track if driven correctly, although it’s close…

    I still miss the sound of my ex E90 M3, but the 1M is a lot of fun. I don’t daily drive as you do, but I find myself driving it more and more lately, just to enjoy it.

    You don’t mention how many miles your 1M has, and I’m sure it’s a lot, but it looks like you’ve enjoyed all of them, which is what matters…

  29. krzykk says:

    Great read. So inspiring. Make me want to pull one of my garage queens and use it as
    daily driver. Thank you for sharing and motivation for enjoying life to fullest!

  30. Adam C says:

    I daily drive my 1M. Welcome to the commuter club

  31. BeeDunc says:

    Syed, you’re spot on. Your typical camry-corolla owner says ‘it’s just a car that gets me from point A to point B’, why do I need anything else? I cannot comprehend such thinking. For a device that I spend 2-3 hours a day in, why not make that time worthwhile and enjoyable? Life’s too short.

  32. Greg W says:

    Every time i hit the starter button of my 1M I feel alive. Each time I park the car, I look back in anticipation of when the next rush will come. An indescribable joy that few understand and only a few can experience each and everyday.

  33. deni2s says:

    “I do not plan to modify my 1M at all; except…” – this is the funniest part :D So many really believe in that :D

  34. Quang Tran says:

    BeautIfully written Syed. Kudos to you for enjoying your pride & joy mate.
    Cheers to all the 1M drivers out there.

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