BMW previews the 1 Series M Coupé

Last week BMW offered us enthusiasts a sneak peek at a forthcoming new M model – named ‘1 Series M Coupé’, BMW decided against using the ‘M1’ label for its entry-level M car preferring to following their second (sub?) nomenclature approach.

Dr. Kay Segler, CEO of BMW M GmbH, explains; “BMW M1 is a name with powerful historical associations. So we have decided to follow our second nomenclature method. In the tradition of the BMW Z4 Roadster and of the current models BMW X5 M and X6 M we will put our brand identifier at the end of the name, so our new model will be called the BMW 1 Series M Coupé.”

Is this reinforcing a two-tier hierarchy for BMW’s M models? After all, the X6 M and X5 M, although great cars to drive are not ‘M cars’ in the same tradition as the current M3 or the outgoing M5 and M6. It may well be an unfortunate coincidence, but we noted further reasons to question the hard-core credentials of BMW’s latest M car.

The video released last Friday (see below) shows the M Coupé being driven around the Ascari Race Resort circuit in Malaga Spain, interspersed with some carefully scripted messages from Dr Segler. The M Coupé was being demonstrated to a select group of journalists as part of the M3’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

SkiddPlayer

BMW 1 SERIES M COUPE. STEP 1.

The 1 Series M Coupé will be powered by a 335-PS version of the turbocharged N55 inline-6 as fitted to the Z4 sDrive35is, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, and runs on a widened track with M series suspension incorporating firmer springs, thicker anti-roll bars and larger 6-pot brakes, together with the usual M car trimmings such as side skirts, rear spoiler and a quad exhausts.

Dr Segler went on to say, “…it is one of my most urgent goals to offer a small, affordable M model in the tradition of the very first BMW M3.”, which is certainly what would ‘appear’ to be the case, however there are two issues which may or may not spoil such a dream being realised.

Firstly the 1 Series is no lightweight – the M Coupé is unlikely to weigh less than the 1560 kg 135i, which makes it over 300kg heavier than the E30 M3. Secondly, it’s powered by a modestly tuned standard BMW engine (with just 30 bhp more than the mainstream 135i) rather than the bespoke power-plants that have graced the M3, M5 and M6.

Is this a problem? Well I guess it depends on where you stand on ‘heritage’ versus ‘the ends justifying the means’. As enthusiasts we’d much rather see a high-revving 3-litre six in a stripped out shell, but as Segler goes on to explain “All models grow, have more equipment features and options which can be freely chosen. Ultimately this is reflected in the vehicle dimensions, weight and price, too.”

Further information and pictures will be released over the next few months, with first deliveries commencing during the first half of 2011.