BMW 1-series M Coupe (2011) long-term test review

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Starring on the small screen: our 1M video – 23 March 2012

Before Jethro Bovingdon departed the CAR offices, he recorded a lovely film about our long-term test BMW 1-series M Coupe. In all the to-ing and fro-ing of him leaving, we never got round to showing his video review of our favourite small long-termer on the fleet.

Watch this new video to see why we like so much!

By Tim Pollard

The 1 M’s headlamps are rubbish – 8 November 2011

Is there a theme developing here? Our 530d Touring’s headlamps have left us squinting, with a woefully poor illumination on dipped beam as the light pattern obscures the nearside kerb. And now the clocks have changed, our 1 M appears to be suffering a similar problem.

Here the 1 M’s beam pattern is just set too low. When dipped, the headlamps simply point too low down, lighting up what feels like a scant 30ft in front of the car.

The truncated beam pattern is the worst I’ve driven in recent months, making you slow right down and drive within the lights’ illumination. They’re fine on full beam – all BMWs have laser blazers on with the blue dashboard light winking at you. But how often do you drive around with your lights up full?

Road test editor Ben Pulman and I were driving back from an event the other night and took this photo to show how sharply cut off the 1 M’s beam is. Flipside? We surely can’t be dazzling any other drivers. Just a shame we can’t really see where we’re going either.

By Tim Pollard 

Changing our view on the 1M – 10 October 2011

I don’t mind admitting that I was rather swimming against the tide when I first tried the 1M. Every other journo I spoke to was telling me it was the Second Coming. But when I first tried it I couldn’t get it to flow like an M car should. I loved its feeling of compactness, the way it seemed to pivot around the gearstick, but the way the torque ramped-up so quickly combined with that short wheelbase and high levels of grip made it feel impatient and grabby at the limit. An M3 just gets better and better the harder you drive, but the 1M seemed to want to spit me off the road for daring to think I might be able to handle it.

See also  BMW 330d Touring (2014) long-term test review

My view has changed since those early awkward drives. I still prefer the normally aspirated M3 engine (although 18mpg is hard to swallow in this day and age) and the honey-coated dynamics, but the 1M’s hard-nut persona has won me over. The sheer grunt of this little car never gets old and the way the 275-section tyres deal with all that power and torque is genuinely startling. I’ve even come to love the sudden spike of oversteer it serves-up on corner exit just when you think the bend is done and dusted.

How does it compare to the M3 overall? Well, it’s a very different beast. The ride is harder and EDC dampers wouldn’t go amiss, the engine is nothing like as satisfying but its power is much more accessible and the handling balance itself is broadly comparable: no understeer, great traction and easy to balance beyond the limit. The difference is that the transition to get the thing sliding smoothly is very tricky to master. That might seem unimportant but it’s a huge part of the M car appeal for me. No question, I’d rather have the M3.

But let’s not condemn the 1M. It’s about 100-times more entertaining than an RS3, it’s quite extraordinarily fast and feels genuinely special every time I jump in it. If I could choose just one word to describe it I’d go for ‘exciting’. Life with the 1M is never boring. 

By Jethro Bovingdon

A bullet-point review of the 1M – 24 August 2011

Filed by our roving news man, Tim Pollard from his Blackberry. A few quickfire thoughts on our new 1M:

• Love the colour – looks distinctive
• It’s funny how a conventional handbrake marks out a car as old these days. Give me one of these over a button any day!
• The 1M’s steering wheel is FAT (insert drainpipe/sausage gag here)
• Nice to have frameless windows
• It’s positively spartan inside, love the simplicity of it
• Gorgeous simple suede grab handles, gear gaiter – the stuff even trims the dash and cowl too
• Slightly naff ‘one of 450’ badge on ashtray
• Love the size of the 1M – compact and nippy
• Performance well judged: just speedy enough, but do we miss the M pedigree and romance of a bespoke engine?
• Lovely seats, grippy inflatable bolsters
• The armrests on the central console and door are at wrong heights. Small niggle, but this annoys me
• 1M rides really well. How do they do it?
• Especially when steering is so fast, deliciously pointy and with an instant response
• Bog all rear space. But at least those seats are there for emergencies/bags 

See also  BMW M4: the long-term test verdict

By Tim Pollard

Life is good – 15 August 2011

The miles just keep piling on the 1M Coupe. It’s been to the Nurburgring twice (although tragically the only lap it did was a parade behind a pace car) and more recently I took it to Spa, too. One-up it’s quite a tool for European road trips. There’s a fair bit of exhaust boom at around 90mph but the stereo drowns it out easily enough. Stick to that sort of speed and you’ll see 28mpg or more too. Past 100mph (in Germany) that drops quickly, but then you’d probably expect that, wouldn’t you?

Spa was amazing (I was racing) but once again the 1M missed out on track action. I’m itching to get it on a circuit but so far the only flat-out driving has been at Elvington airfield. Predictably it was great fun in the vast open spaces and would smoke its tyres with the best of ‘em. Quite how it’ll perform at a real track with kerbs and Armco it’s hard to say. The body control feels great but I have my concerns about the brakes. It’s a standard criticism of M cars, but even during quickish road driving they get rumbly surprisingly quickly.

So in the next month or so I’d really like to take it to Donington or perhaps the new Silverstone to see if it can rival the Cayman for genuine road and track thrills. I’m hoping I’ll be able to drive it to the circuit, do a dozen laps or so and drive home without feeling like the car has suffered hugely. I know the Porsche would cope so I’m rooting for the 1M to do the same. Slowly but surely I’m falling for its pumped-up looks, pumped-up turbocharged delivery and easy everyday attitude.  

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By Jethro Bovingdon 

BMW 1-series M Coupe hello – 28 July 2011

It’s here. In all its lovely Valencia Orange glory, the 1-series M Coupe has arrived. We’ve got it for six months (or hopefully more) and I’m over the moon to be running the new baby M car. I love M cars, love the look of the pumped-up 1M and have been begging CAR for a rear-drive long termer for some time… I didn’t expect it to pay off quite so spectacularly.

We’ve got plenty planned with the 1M, from huge continental drives to trackdays to meeting-up with an ancestor or two. However, before all that here’s a run down of the spec of my new favourite long termer… The 1M starts from £40,020 and that sparkling orange paintwork is an extra £515. Our car is fitted with Bluetooth prep (£545) and a DAB radio (£320) – both of which make long journeys much easier. However, the optional folding mirrors at £245 seem a bit of a rip-off and having to pay extra for lumbar support (£205) seems pretty mean, too.

No complaints over the Harmon Kardon speaker system that comes in at £765 but sounds terrifically punchy and clean. Heated seats add another £265, sun protection glass is £240 and a USB interface chucks another £210 on the bill. The biggie is the BMW Professional Navigation system at a whopping £2010. That little lot adds up to an on the road price of £45,340. 

That’s a lot of money for a 1-series, no question. But this isn’t a normal 1-series. It looks incredibly aggressive and I’m getting used to people clamouring to take photographs of it – often when they’re driving along next to me. It seems the combination of a compact M car with 335bhp and a six-speed manual ‘box has already created a halo around this thing.

First impressions? Love the steering, love the obvious reduction in weight compared to the M3, still getting used to an M-powered machine with turbos… However, I’m a very happy boy at the moment.

By Jethro Bovingdon




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About Tim Pollard

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A tech enthusiast and content writer, has a knack for simplifying complex technical information. He enjoys researching and writing about the latest gadgets and technology trends. He has a degree in computer science and is experienced in creating content for tech blogs and websites.

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