Full 2011 BMW 1 Series M Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe is a low-production, high-performance version of the regular 1 Series.
Stop reading right now. You don't have time for this. Only 1,000 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupes will be heading to the United States, and rumor has it that this will be the only year for production. You're going to have to move quickly in order to get one. And believe us, you do want one.
If you're still on the fence, though, here's the story. For its new 1 Series M (it's not called the "M1" due to the company's pre-existing M1 supercar from the 1970s), BMW took its regular 135i coupe and gave it an M performance division treatment. Hard-core BMW enthusiasts will likely bemoan that these upgrades break with M tradition, as the 1 M shares its 3.0-liter turbocharged engine with the "plebeian" BMW 335is and much of its underlying hardware with the M3. We'd agree that the 1 M isn't quite as unique as previous M cars. But it's hard to argue with the result, and this is one of the finest driver's cars available for under $50,000.
With the first turn, you know you've happened upon something special. The steering is beautifully direct and surprisingly light in effort, allowing you to grip the wheel with your fingers and feel every texture of the road. With its short wheelbase and massive torque, you can also steer with the seat of your pants. Powering the tail end out can be great hooligan fun, but the 1 M can also bite back hard should you start playing above your league. In that sense, the 1 Series M is a sharp response to those who complain that the regular 1 Series isn't sporty enough.
Pleasingly, much of the regular 1 Series daily drivability is still intact. The clutch is appropriately a bit heavy, but it's very easy to modulate and rarely bothersome around town and in traffic. That wickedly powerful engine also proves to be surprisingly docile when you have it on an urban leash. The 1's ride is also relatively compliant -- you won't notice jarring wallops going through your spine while encountering massive bumps as you otherwise might with a high-performance car. In that sense, this is truly an M car.
As you can probably tell, we think very highly of the 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe. Granted, it's not the prettiest car on the road (far from it) and its interior isn't the most spacious or upscale. But compared to dedicated sports cars like the Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche Cayman, the 1 M does give you the option of transporting four people semi-comfortably. Perhaps with some irony, BMW's own M3 coupe solves these issues -- it's prettier, roomier and nicer inside. But it also costs nearly $13,000 more and is not nearly as rare. So for the driving enthusiast looking for an affordable and under-the-radar M car, the 1 M makes the grade. Just act quickly.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe seats four passengers and is available in a single trim level. Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, high-performance tires, automatic and adaptive xenon headlights, heated mirrors and windshield washer jets, cruise control, automatic wipers, automatic dual-zone climate control, 10-way manual sport seats with power-adjustable bolsters, a tilt-and-telescoping M sport steering wheel, leather upholstery, Alcantara faux-suede interior trim and a premium sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack and HD radio.
The Premium package adds auto-dimming mirrors, eight-way power front seats (with power-adjustable lumbar support, driver memory functions and manual thigh adjuster), interior ambience lighting, Bluetooth and an iPod/USB audio interface (the latter two items are available separately). The Convenience package gets you rear parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system and the iDrive electronics interface. Stand-alone options include heated front seats, advanced iPhone connectivity, satellite radio and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system.
Powertrains and Performance
The BMW 1 M Coupe is powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-6 that produces 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. A temporary overboost function allows for 369 lb-ft at full throttle. This power is sent to the rear wheels through a standard six-speed manual transmission.
In Edmunds performance testing, the 1 M accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds -- the same as the M3. Estimated fuel economy is respectable for a high-performance car at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.
The 2011 BMW 1 M comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the 1 M came to a stop from 60 mph in an excellent 106 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the 1 M Coupe is generally competitive with its rivals in terms of materials quality, but hard plastics are more prevalent here than in the M3. To differentiate it from the regular 1 Series, BMW added orange stitching for the standard black leather seats and faux suede to replace what was wood or metal trim on the dash -- the latter is certainly an acquired taste.
The M sport front seats are superb, and we actually suggest that you stick with the 10-way adjustable manual seats, as they offer a greater range of adjustment while still featuring power-operated adjustable bolsters. As with other M cars, the 1 has an almost comically thick-rimmed steering wheel. The rest of the car, though, is pretty much identical to the regular 1 Series.
Although the BMW 1 M is technically a four-seater, the rear seats are more cramped than the M3 coupe, so they're best left to cargo or those of smaller stature. Still, that's better than a Porsche Cayman, which doesn't have a backseat at all. The 1 M's trunk is generously sized, capable of holding 13 cubic feet of luggage.
One moment, the 2011 BMW 1 Series M is a tire-smoking monster ready to lay down hot lap times at your local track day. The next, it's a docile runabout happily filling out your weekday commute. This sort of balance is a BMW trademark.
Admittedly, the 1 M's twin-turbo engine isn't as special as it should be. It has a mountain of low and midrange power, but there's little to be gained by winding it out all the way to redline. That's a sharp contrast to BMW's traditionally peaky, race-oriented and hence more thrilling M engines. But the 1 M nonetheless generates very impressive acceleration times and is fun in its own sort of way.
In terms of handling, the 1 M boasts skid pad and slalom test numbers that are virtually identical to the M3's. On top of this, the 1 is smaller and lighter, and consequently has a more playful and delicate feel to it than the comparatively brutish M3. But frankly, any time a car is favorably compared to the brilliant M3, you know it's in good standing and a total blast to drive.