Through the years, I’ve had the good fortune of test driving almost all the latest machines coming out of the fabled Munich manufacturer’s front gates but, there were a few that managed to slip by and the much-celebrated 1M was one of them.
Somehow, the opportunities to bring the 1M out for a drive just never materialised back then, and the constant praise and glowing reviews that this car had eventually turned the BMW 1M into one of those “never meet your hero” cars. At least for me. Which is why I’ve always turned down offers to take the car out for a spin around the block when given the chance. I just didn’t want my first time with an 1M to be a brief 10-15 minute affair. I wanted a slightly longer, more intimate session.
8 years after the 1M first arrived on the scene, it was finally my turn, a full overnight experience. Now, to be clear, this is not my car, it is not even a dealership owned car. This is a privately owned 1M whose owner cherished it the day he first collected the keys, so no, I did not give it the full Jeremy Clarkson and I drove it as carefully as I could, as sparingly as I could, knowing full well the current market values of these machines.
That said, even driving at 6/10ths, this car felt special. It had a good creamy spread of torque from its turbocharged power-plant, a fantastic action to the slick gear selector, great feel and weight through the steering and an eagerness to showcase its prowess each time you prod the go pedal.
The BMW 1M might share plenty of styling cues with the E-chassis code 1 Series Coupes but the driving experience is a World apart. We’ve had a 120i Cabriolet previously and even with 3 different suspension setups, the ride and body control feels nothing like the 1M. BMW M division have definitely done their homework and created an extremely taut machine that rewards your every input with immediate action. Think of it as a roided-up, overpowered and oversized go-kart.
Imagine giving it the full beans!
Dive deeper into the throttle pedal and the 1M rewards you with plenty of speed and sound. That instant surge of juicy turbocharged torque might feel familiar today in an era of force-induced BMWS, but this twin-turbo straight-six was M Division’s first modern day turbocharged unit. And what a unit it is. 500Nm of pulling power and 340 horses. These numbers might not sound like a great deal today but in a car with as short a wheelbase as this, it is an absolute blast and license losing speeds come up way too quickly.
Having driven the original Z4M Roadster and BMW M2 in anger, the 1M’s driving characteristics are much closer to the M2. he Z4M I like to think, is its own thing, a screaming classic on its own and never to be repeated. The M2 though, feels a little more smoothed out, a little more refined and probably a little easier to live with on a daily basis.
You can feel through driving the BMW 1M, that it was an engineer’s pet project, it was a car put together with choice bits lifted off other BMWs put together so well you couldn’t tell the fact, a car so full of life that just looking at it tingles your senses, a car that cares more about the overall driver’s experience than absolute numbers, a car that has not only met but exceeded my every expectation. This is BMW at their best and I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to experience it, even if it meant an 8 year wait.
So Dear BMW, please continue making cars like these. The World needs them.