A cast iron investment that’s an utter riot to drive – what could be more heroic than the 1 M Coupe?
From such humble origins – namely BMW’s dumpy 1 Series coupe plus a big box of M3 and Z4 bits – it’s hard to believe BMW M created a car already elevated to a legend in its own lifetime.
In fact, it’s just four years since we first saw the 1 Series M Coupe and since then it’s lost none of its impact. That cartoonish silhouette is hardly subtle. Even non-PHers can spot that this 1 Series is nothing like its more prosaic brethren. But few would be able to comprehend the sheer pace and pleasure offered by this pint sized hot rod.
Because it’s fast. No quantifying statements needed here. We’re not talking about “in class”, or “compared to the base model”. We’re simply talking FAST. As in pull up next to anything this side of a supercar and look ’em dead in the eye fast.
That N54 turbocharged straight-six, tweaked to 340hp in a sub-1,500kg car, was never going to be found wanting. But even those figures don’t do the 1 M justice. First there’s the delivery of that maximum 369lb ft of torque. While it might be momentarily hesitant on big throttle openings with few revs, hold the loud pedal open for anything more than a few seconds on most British roads and speed limits are breached very easily.
That noise is pure bliss for BMW fans too; a grumbly six-cylinder idle right through to a top-end howl. Although the two teeny turbochargers do sap a fair bit of the character and provide some interestingly harsh overtones, we’ll let them off the hook because they do such a sterling job of keeping the 265-section rear rubber warm.
The fact that this kind of power and response is hooked-up to one of BMW’s best ever gearboxes (hat tip to the Z4) just adds to the endless pleasure of driving this car. The stubby shifter slides Teflon-smooth from gear to gear and the ratios are perfectly matched to the engine. Feed it lower gears for ridiculous neck-snapping sprints, or higher ratios for belly-rumbling turbo torque.
Dial M for murder
BMW’s latest M3 and M4 offer a multitude of buttons to switch from back lane thrasher to Monday morning commuter. There are three settings for steering, three gearbox speeds and three powertrain modes just as a starter. Is that really easier than the old days?
While tempting to harp on about the purity of old cars that lack even the simplest driver aids, that’s just not a wise idea for most drivers in everyday use, especially with this much power. So the 1 M has just two buttons to worry about; the stability control on the center of the dash (on, M Dynamic Mode, off) and the M button on the wheel (off, on). With ESP on and the M button left alone, power is cut before you slide and a full range of active braking will control understeer and oversteer situations. In MDM the car will poke its bum out with heartwarming regularity, but will steadfastly refuse to spin without some sort of outside influence (oil, grass, hitting other cars…). And off is off. See the first comment of this paragraph.
The chassis, of course, handles all of this drama without the slightest grumble. This is a PH Hero, after all. So without providing the Crown Prosecution Service material for a gift-wrapped conviction let’s just say that it’s communicative. It’s responsive and it’s fun. Whether it’s committing to your favourite bends just a bit quicker, or navigating a slippery roundabout in a manner that would cause a traffic officer to regurgitate his fried dough confectionery into his lap, the 1 M delivers with style and aplomb.
So if ever there was a car that could offer you the headiest mix of modern technology with downright anti-social driving dynamics, and the tantalising possibility of negligible depreciation, the E82 1 M Coupe is it. Hero status guaranteed.