When it was launched back in 2011, many people questioned whether or not the 1M Coupe was worthy of its badge. After all, it borrowed its engine from the 740i limo and had – shock horror – turbos! Were those fears unfounded?
The standard 1-Series Coupe was an ungainly thing, looking like a Victorian dressing table on casters. For the 1M, BMW fiddled around with the styling, adding an aggressive new front bumper, reworked rear bumper and four exhaust pipes (everything’s better with four exhausts). That might have been enough, but since the engineering department had widened the track by A Lot, the wheelarches needed massively flaring to cover the huge wheels.
The effect is dramatic, turning a frankly rather ugly car into one that looks brilliant. Just don’t pay too much attention to the interior. No amount of leather, alcantara and M badges can rescue that.
The 1M’s 3.0-litre, twin-turbo six-cylinder engine was controversial only because it was turbocharged. In other BMW’s it was highly regarded as one of the smoothest, most enthusiastic turbocharged engines out there. In the 1M it was tuned to 335bhp and 332lb/ft of torque. Any fears that it wouldn’t feel like a true M engine were soon allayed.
With a small turbo working at low revs and big one cutting in at the top end, the 1M is effectively lag-free and responds immediately to the throttle. Sure, it doesn’t sear round to the redline in the same way the naturally aspirated M motors do, but it’s torquey delivery is ultimately more useful in the real world. And it still sounds fantastic.
Mercifully, the only gearbox option was a proper six-speed manual. If you could strings the gears together quickly enough, 0-60mph took just 4.7 seconds, with top speed limited at 155mph. Which is profound performance in a small saloon.
Ride & Handling
This is the 1M’s trump card. The handling is utterly joyous. The steering is sharp if a little short of feel, the chassis almost over-talkative. With huge grip from the huge tyres, it is an amazing point-to-point machine. Well, when the road’s dry. And though you can’t turn the traction control off entirely, it will play hooligan all day long. Despite being a saloon, it will string a set of corners together as well as the best sports cars. But then, most of the chassis was lifted straight from the M3.
Slightly surprisingly, the 1M makes a capable cruiser. Road and wind noise don’t intrude much into the cabin and the seats are very comfortable. Of course, the exhaust will fill the cabin and most of whichever county you happen to be in with glorious noise, but that might get a bit wearing if you just want to get home.
Space & Practicality
The 1-Series Coupe actually has a bigger boot than the hatchback. Access to the back seats is easy enough and once there, there is plenty of space even for six-footers.
As standard the 1M came with 19-inch wheels, aircon, leather seats and Xenon headlights. Satnav, DAB radio, a USB socket and heated seats were all options and are worth looking for on a used example.
The 1M never really had any direct rivals, but at the time the likes of the Audi RS3 and Porsche Cayman S offered similar performance and handling for similar money. But those have since become just another used car. Only 250 1M’s were brought to the UK and it became an instant collector’s item. Values have already bottomed out and its started appreciating. A really good one will cost not far short of the list price when it was new.
The 1M Coupe may have been a parts bin special and had a backwards name. But there is no question that it is a true M car.
BMW 1M Coupe
Engine: 3.0-litre, twin-turbo, straight-6 petrol
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Power/Torque: 335bhp; 332lb/ft
Economy/Emissions: 29mpg; 224g/km of Co2
0-60mph: 4.7 seconds
Top Speed: 155mph
- Glorious engine
- Appreciating in value
- Not pretty
- Interior a bit dull
- M car purists still complain