2011 BMW 1-Series M Coupe first drive
A friendly ride
Despite the on-track composure, the 1M retains the ability to soak up bumps and dips. It's not as serene a highway ride as a 335i, but it's not far off. That, if you've had any experience speccing or tweaking your own car's suspension, is something akin to black magic.
The roads we drove--those of New York and New Jersey, both highway and by-way--were far from the worst we've driven (Michigan, we feel for you). They were also far from the glassy, undulating, blessed strips of asphalt we know and love in our secret middle-American playgrounds. There were holes and ripples and cracks and dips--yet the 1M Coupe sidled by, even at a solid clip, with no complaints from its passengers.
Perhaps, spending more than a quick day's dash with the car, I'd find the ride tiresome, the engine note a bit too brash, the black cabin oppressive, the thrum of tires on pavement too loud. But that will have to wait for a more thorough test.
Angelina Jolie meets Sofia Vergara
There are many kinds of beauty in the world, from the subtle, rolling grasses of the plains to the noise, light, and energy of New York City. So, too, are there different beauties in cars. No subtle, sleek, and stealthy thing is the 1M. It's all curves and bulges, grilles and lips.
But they're all (or nearly all, anyway) in the right place, and those that are a little off give it character. It's a design that's well beyond the restrained swagger of the typical M car, and it fits its role as the brash little brother as much as its does its innate performance. It may not satisfy every eye, but it does mine.
At the finish line
So why would this be the M car I'd buy? Why, especially, when the M3 is just about 10 percent more expensive, and so much more car? Not so much because of what it is, but because of what the 1-Series M Coupe isn't: it isn't 400 pounds heavier, it isn't $5,000-$7,000 dearer, and it isn't more than 10 percent slower. It is still fully capable of speeds, corners, launches, and general hoonage that is well beyond the legal limit of any locality, and also able to go far beyond the limits of almost any driver likely to buy it on the track. And it does it for less than any other M car.
To top it off, it's a limited edition, all but guaranteeing long-term resale value and collectibility. That M3 convertible with 108,000 miles on it? Not so much.
But even beyond the cold calculations, the 1-Series M Coupe is just fun to thrash on the road or the race track. It reminds me more of the E36 M3, as it it's less spartan and sprightly than the E30, and its torquey wall of thrust feels utterly unlike the S14's pitchy four-cylinder. But the E36 was a great car. And now you can get one that's a dozen years newer and even more refined.
Disclaimer: BMW flew me out to Newark, put me up in a Marriott Courtyard hotel for a night, and fed me lightly from moderately good buffet lines to bring you this drive report.