Dubbed the "spiritual successor" to the original M3, which debuted 1988, the new $46,135 BMW 1 M Coupe transplants numerous mechanical underpinnings from the current-generation M3, and packs them inside the diminutive 1-series body. The engine is a slightly modified version of the mill found in the Z4 sDrive35is , while bodywork and interior components have been altered with the typically more aggressive "M" treatment.
This new pint-sized pocket rocket is BMW's first "M" car that's not powered by a specially developed engine. Does it really channel the spirit of the first 1980s-era M3—and more crucially, is it worthy of BMW's coveted "M" badge? We spent a day driving on both road and racetrack to find out, and what we discovered might surprise you.
What's to Like
Taut, muscular, and aggressively sporty, the BMW 1 M Coupe is exactly what it claims to be: a smaller but equally stirring alternative to the venerable M3 . From its no-frills interior to its buttoned-down performance, the 1 M exudes an honest, down-to-earth air about its purposeful personality, and it's that sort of earnestness that should make its allotment of 1,000 cars for the U.S. market quickly snatched up by enthusiasts.
What's Not to Like
The 1 M's stability control is triggered surprisingly easily on twisty roads, even in "M" mode, which only changes throttle response to a sharper setting; for maximum performance with a safety net, you've got to select "MDM" mode. And though the 1 M Coupe will undoubtedly attract performance-hungry drivers, its firm ride still might get tiresome during prolonged stretches on less than perfect roads. Finally, fans of clutchless driving will be disappointed: the 1 M is only available with a manual gearbox.
Though motivated by a less powerful engine than the M3 , the 1 M Coupe measures 9.6 inches shorter and 342 pounds lighter than its stablemate, enabling it to tie the M3 's 0-60 mph time of 4.7 seconds. But the real differences come through on mountain roads, where the 1 M's go-kart-ish proportions lend it an uncanny level of nimbleness. The speed-sensitive steering is accurate and nicely weighted, providing an excellent amount feedback through the leather-wrapped magnesium wheel. As we've come to expect with BMWs—especially high-performance M models—there's a rewarding tactile interplay between the progressive clutch pedal, the floor-mounted accelerator, and the shifter, which moves through the gates with a somewhat long, but Teflon-smooth throw.
We also tested the 1 M Coupe at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California, where its true intent was plumbed; though it exhib...