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Old-school driving enthusiasts who pine for the days of lightweight European sports cars will find a lot to like in the BMW 1 Series M Coupe. That's because this short-lived, smallest member of BMW's high-performance M lineup illustrated the truth of that old saw about how "less is more."
Its 3.0-liter six-cylinder that produced 335 horsepower would seem far less impressive than the fire-breathing engines found in other M-badged cars, but with twin turbos and less weight to lug around, it still managed to match muscle cars at the drag strip. Better still, with suspension, steering and brakes adapted from the M3, the 1 M nearly matched its esteemed bigger sibling's handling ability.
There are downsides, of course, the most significant one being that only 1,000 were imported during its run in 2011. Consider yourself lucky to find one of the high-performance diamonds in the rough of used car classifieds.
Most Recent BMW 1 Series M Coupe
The BMW 1 Series M Coupe was produced for the 2011 model year only. Based on the regular BMW 1 Series coupe, the 1 M was offered in a single body style and one well-equipped trim level. Power came from a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that cranked out a healthy 335 hp and 332 pound-feet of torque that could be momentarily boosted to 370 lb-ft via an overboost button. A six-speed manual was the only transmission offered.
The 1 Series M Coupe came with a long list of upscale standard features including 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, 10-way adjustable manual sport seats, leather upholstery and suedelike Alcantara trim, dual-zone automatic climate control and a premium sound system. An optional Convenience package added rear parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system and the iDrive electronics interface. An available Premium package included auto-dimming power-folding outside mirrors, power seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and an iPod/USB audio interface. Some of these items were available as stand-alone options along with heated front seats, satellite radio and a premium Harman Kardon audio system.
The 1 Series M Coupe's passenger cabin wasn't quite up to the quality of more expensive BMWs, but its leather upholstery, contrasting orange stitching and Alcantara trim spruced things up nicely. The front sport seats offered a good combination of comfort and support in spirited driving, and believe it or not, the standard manual seats offered greater adjustability. The backseats were a tight squeeze, but the trunk offered a surprising amount of room for a car this size.
While all that practical stuff is fine, it's the coupe's performance that's obviously the main attraction. While it didn't wail away to a high-strung redline like other M engines, the 3.0-liter twin-turbo six-cylinder produces a great deal of torque and benefits from magnificent midrange power. In our track testing, the 1 M hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds -- practically equal to the contemporary M3.
The car's light weight and retuned suspension gave the car a distinct sense of agility and a stable attitude in hard cornering, while large cross-drilled disc brakes at all four corners provided abundant stopping power. The quickened steering ratio and the transmission's short throws added to the feeling of precision in a wide variety of driving conditions. Unlike some high-performance models, the 1 Series M Coupe was easy to drive at normal commuting speeds, and its surprisingly comfortable ride quality helped make it a realistic daily driver.