In the studio with BMW’s 1 Series M Coupe

In the studio with BMW's 1 Series M Coupe

It feels like we’ve been waiting an eternity to see BMW’s newest M-car set free of its body mask and released on the road. We’ll have to wait a little longer before it can be driven, so today is all about drinking in its muscular lines, discovering all of its unique M-features and describing to you what it’s really like to see for the first time.

As I write these introductory paragraphs we’ve yet to meet the new M Coupe – we’ve talked with many of you during the last few days about what you’d like us to discover and we’ve soaked in the anticipation and excitement from the many discussions on the main BMW forums and blogs.

It would be fair to say that the 1 Series M Coupe has already struck a chord with enthusiasts – BMW’s ethos of going back to its roots and rediscovering the purity of the iconic E30 M3 is just what the doctor ordered, although in the 25 years since this first M3 appeared on the scene a lot has changed. Cars have become bigger, heavier and more filtered in their responses.

BMW’s M Division CEO Dr Kay Segler has already responded to critics by saying it would be impossible to build an E30 M3 in today’s marketplace, but he believes that his team have produced the next best thing in the new 1 Series M Coupe.

If you remember before taking over at BMW’s M Division Dr Segler the man in charge of Brand Management at Mini – we interviewed him 12 months ago when he explained that his vision for the M-brand is “Childhood automotive dreams realised”, which explains why he’s been so visible in the build up to the 1 Series M Coupe’s launch – I’m sure he would freely admit to feeling like a kid in a sweetie shop and can’t wait for customers to get their hands on his latest creation.

His close involvement in the project even extends to performing in his own video – you can see his latest cameo performance below.

BMW 1 Series M Coupé. Step 3 - A video BMW introduced last night under the title Look out for pirates!

But enough of this preamble, we’re off to see the car for ourselves and will show you what we discover later on today..

Need to Know

If you read our recent 2011 X3 First Drive then you’ll already be familiar with our Need to Know (NTK) segment, which is basically a cut-to-the-chase summary of the stand-out characteristics that make this car what it is – a ‘cheat sheet’ if you like. This is what you should look out for when examining the 1 Series M Coupe more closely..

  1. Take an E46 M3 and improve it

    Surprised? You probably shouldn’t be. BMW have done this before with the Z4 M – which contained much of the chassis and light-weight components from the E46 M3. Well if it ain’t broke, so those clever engineers at M Division have followed a tried and tested process – take a format that already works and improve upon it. Porsche do precisely the same with the 911 and it hasn’t done them any harm.

    To give you an idea of just what we mean, the 1 Series M Coupe weighs 1495kg unladen which is exactly the same as the E46 M3. It has a power/weight of 227hp/tonne or 4.4 kg/bhp, which is pretty well the same numbers quoted for the E46 M3 back in 2002. It uses “a number of key components that were originally conceived for the E46 M3”, including the light-weight front and rear axles, an updated Variable M differential and it wears the same 19-inch Y-spoke alloy wheels that graced the E46 M3 Competition. It even costs virtually the same as the E46 M3 did back in 2002 – £39,990 OTR. So despite BMW’s many references to the E30 M3 when characterising the new 1 Series M Coupe, you’d do well to bear in mind that in many ways it’s a slightly shorter, but wider E46 M3 with a shed load more torque than its elder sibling.

    If all this talk of E46 M3 rather than E30 M3 is beginning to blunt your enthusiasm for BMW M’s new model then don’t. For a start, it’s been blessed with the benefit of 8 years more engineering and technical know-how and to quote BMW, “it is expected to be significantly faster around the Nurburgring Nordschleife than the previous generation E46 BMW M3.” Move over old man…

    In fact we now know that the 1 Series M Coupe has recorded a lap time around the Nurburgring some 10 seconds quicker than the 3rd generation E46 M3, and only 7 seconds slower than the current generation E92 M3. That’s an 8 minute 12 second (8:12) lap – recorded on its standard Michelin PS2 road tyres.

    Take a closer look: The 1 Series M Coupe possesses 135 Nm more torque than the E46 M3, despite wielding the same peak power and carrying the same weight – sounds like it will be fun doesn’t it?
  2. One of the best value M cars yet

    When BMW’s marketing team sat down and priced up the 1 Series M Coupe they had one criteria clearly in mind – it must not encroach upon the E92 M3s market, so that meant that the new M Coupe had to be priced below £40,000 here in the UK. This has been no easy feat since it comes with an extensive array of standard equipment, including 19-inch Y-Spoke alloy wheels, two-zone air-conditioning, cruise control, BMW Radio Business with MP3-capable CD player and six speakers. It also has a Boston leather interior with Alcantara trim with Kyalami orange stitching in the cabin.

    Take a closer look:Optional extras include Comfort Access, Harman Kardon Surround Sound System, Professional Navigation system with hard drive storage, Adaptive Headlights and High beam Assistant. See the spec sheet with UK option prices in the photo gallery below.

The details

The sporty character of the BMW 1 Series M Coupé is expressed by its dramatic exterior design, with widened wheel arches, exclusive 19-inch Y-spoke M alloy wheels, and dual chrome tailpipes. A discreet rear spoiler lip generates additional downforce and a rear apron with side openings echoes the look of the front air intakes to ensure the look of sporting intent matches the car’s sporting ability. L-shaped rear light clusters with two light banks fed by LED units complete the M car look.

There will be just 3 paint finished to choose from – Alpine White non-metallic, Black Sapphire metallic and the exclusive Valencia Orange metallic. Valencia Orange was the colour of the car we shot in the studio this afternoon and it’s another one of BMW’s classic paint mixes – if you know your BMW paint colours then rather like Interlagos Blue or Vermillion Red, this is a burnt orange with lamp black mixed with the metallic flakes, so it’s great at showing the body’s lines and undulations and looks great in either low or bright light. Having seen the car today we now understand Dr Segler’s excitement when he described it as a ‘must have’ colour. It really is stunning, not as hard to live with as the E46 M3’s unique Phoenix Yellow but at the same time unlike any other car colour on the road.

The BMW 1 Series M Coupé is fitted as standard with twin corona bi-xenon headlamps, and LED-fed positioning lights. A hallmark M-branded feature is the elongated chrome gill element on the front wheel arch, while the door mirrors are from the E92 BMW M3, but tuned for the specific aerodynamic characteristics of the 1 Series M Coupé.

Paintwork. In an age where manufacturers such as Porsche consistently seem produce boring paint colours, it's good to see BMW yet again bringing out a future classic. Ladies and Gentleman I bring you Valencia Orange.

We counted 7 M logos on the car, 2 on the side gills, one on the rear, two on the front seat headrests, one on the instrument dials and another on the gear stick. You’ll therefore be in no doubt that you’re sitting in an M car. You’ll also be in little doubt that you’re sitting in something very special. The standard sports seats in Boston leather feature Kyalami orange stitching and hold you tightly but comfortably. It’s a shame in some ways that BMW chose not to fit a variation on the BMW Performance seats, with their Alcantara trim and more deeply bucketed shape, but then most owners will be running their cars every day and would probably prefer leather trim.

The interior is exclusively modelled for the BMW 1 Series M Coupé, with an M leather steering wheel and the use of Alcantara with Kyalami orange contrast stitching on the door trim, door inserts, handbrake and gear lever gaiter and instrument binnacle cove. The M logo is also embossed in the front of the headrests. You’ll see from the photos that the alcantara extends to the dashboard, which is a nice touch and adds to the overall upmarket feel of the 1 Series M Coupé.

Engine and Drivetrain

Rather than the ground-up bespoke engines of previous M models, the 1 Series M Coupe uses a development of the powerplant found in the 135i and the 335is. In some respects that’s a shame – when you open the bonnet there’s nothing more impressive than in any other BMW besides the ‘Powered by BMW M’ badge, which in some way cheapens the impact.

At its heart though is still a high revving, in-line six-cylinder engine with twin turbocharger, direct injection technology and double VANOS variable valve timing to develop a maximum output of 335bhp. Such performance equates to a highly desirable car that takes just 4.9 seconds to accelerate from zero to 62mph. The BMW M tuned twin-turbocharger technology used consists of two relatively small turbos which, because of their low inertia characteristics, are active even at low engine speeds, ensuring no turbo lag, yet a peak power output which is achieved at 5,900rpm.

The 2,979cc engine is flexible though, with a maximum torque of 450Nm produced from as little as 1,500rpm. A flat torque curve for swift in gear acceleration sees peak torque maintained up to 4,500 rpm. This figure can then be increased by another 50Nm when the car is under full throttle by means of an overboost function.

What these figures don’t tell you is just how good it sounds. We were in a studio, so let’s make allowances for the acoustic reflections that would have added to the bassy thrum, but this is not how a 135i normally sounds. The silencer system developed exclusively for the 1 Series M Coupé generates a sonorous sound with a permanent yet unobtrusive sound, deep and purposeful with a characterful popping sound on the overrun. We recorded a video this afternoon, so you’ll get to hear it for yourself when we publish this tomorrow.

Rear Bazookas? Check. Yes the 1 Series M Coupé really does sound as good as it promises.

As we’ve become accustomed to in the past decade the M engineers have designed two engine maps for the 1 Series M Coupé, activated by a button on the steering wheel. In standard mode the power curve is optimised for torque with a more flexible character to the engine’s performance delivery, but in M Dynamic Mode (MDM) the throttle response faster and the engine sound alters to produce more intense changes in frequency.

The cooling system of the BMW 1 Series M Coupé has been designed for constant high load, high speed track driving, through the use of an additional separate radiator and a specific air duct to deal with the increased thermal stress which can occur when driving on the race track. The intercoolers for the turbochargers are visible behind the scoops of the front spoiler and it’s these that cooling is directed towards rather than the brakes.

The efforts made in optimising performance and efficiency are also reflected in a newly developed dual-mass flywheel. Its lightweight construction benefits the engine’s efficiency and it also has an increased solidity which is able to cope with the six-cylinder engine’s high level of torque. This has been combined with a newly developed 6-speed manual transmission, specially designed to work with high-torque engines. The transmission is operated using a very short-shift M gearshift lever, clothed with some tactile alcantara trim.

In addition, EfficientDynamics measures such as brake energy regeneration and needs-based control of auxiliary units ensures a recorded combined fuel consumption is 29.4mpg and CO2 emissions are 224g/km.


The chassis of the BMW 1 Series M Coupé has been thoroughly developed using BMW M GmbH’s usual Nurburgring development process. Light weight is of course vital and the latest M car tips the scales at just 1,495kgs courtesy of its extensive use of aluminium. The double pivot front axle and the five-link rear axle are made almost entirely of aluminium. Tubular stabilisers, axle links made of forged aluminium and aluminium shock absorbers round off the lightweight construction concept.

With chassis technology derived directly from motor racing, a power-to-weight ratio of 227hp/tonne has been achieved. The footprint of the car is bigger than a standard BMW 1 Series Coupé with it being 55mm wider than the BMW 135i Coupé and the width of 1,803 mm is the result of BMW’s optimisation of the front and rear axle to enhance driving dynamics.

As standard, BMW 1 Series M Coupé comes with Variable M differential lock, compound brakes, DSC with MDM and M Servotronic. The Variable M differential lock responds to differences in rotational speeds in the rear wheels, redirecting torque within a fraction of a second for optimum traction and maximum thrust on slippery surfaces and when accelerating out of bends. It’s the same unit that’s worked so well in recent M3 models, so expect the 1 Series M Coupé to be another great M car for driving sideways…

Brakes. Not Bremos unfortunately, but they look more than up to the job. BMW's sliding calliper system has come a long way since the E46 M3.

Whilst you’ll hear about the 1 Series M Coupé’s M-specific high-performance brake system, you may be disappointed to hear that it doesn’t come with the Brembo 6-piston calliper setup available for the regular 1 Series via the BMW Performance catalogue. The discs are inner-vented and perforated with a diameter of 360mm at the front and 350mm at the rear, and we’ve no doubt they will provide impressive stopping power. BMW’s sliding calliper design has come a long way since the E46 M3, they are now extremely light and stand comparison with the best high-performance systems, so until we experience the 1 Series M Coupé on track let’s give the M engineers the benefit of the doubt.

Rack-and-pinion steering is fitted with Servotronic hydraulic power steering while the Dynamic Stability Control system that includes elements such as an anti-slip control function (ASC), the brake assistant Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), a drive-off assistant, Cornering Brake Control (CBC), an anti-fading function and a dry brake function are also standard. As usual the driver can activate M Dynamic Mode (MDM) on the instrument panel, raising the point at which the driving stability control system intervenes and the full system can be switched off leaving the driver to control the car’s stability with his (or her) right foot.


So for the time being, that’s it. We’ll follow up tomorrow with our first impressions from spending time with the new 1 Series M Coupé, as well as that all important video that we shot.

At a glance

Vehicle reviewed: BMW 1 Series M Coupe
Price: £39.990 OTR
Top Speed: 155 mph
0-62 mph: 4.9 secs
0-125 mph: 17.3 secs
Consumption: 29.4 mpg (combined)
Emissions (CO2): 224g/km
Weight: 1495 kg (DIN Unladen)
Engine in-line six-cyl, 2979cc, M TwinPower /turbo direct injection (2nd Gen.)
  Power: 335 bhp @5900rpm
  Torque: 450 Nm @1500-4500rpm +50 Nm with overboost
  Gearbox: 6-speed manual transmission
On sale: UK deliveries May 2011. Limited to 450 cars.

Photo gallery

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  • Cooblie

    Ouch. £45k? Similarly specc-ed RS3 is what £41k – £42k. I only hope residuals are OK for leasing.

  • Mark, I haven’t tried speccing up an RS3 yet, but I’d be surprised if there was much of a difference. As standard the 1 M comes with most of the equipment that anyone would want, thereafter the main costs are professional nav and the HK sound system. That seems reasonable to me.