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BMW 1 Series M Coupe 2011 Road Test

The BMW 1 Series M Coupe has all the ingredients to become one of the most coveted BMWs of the decade. It's quick, sensationally good to drive and just 450 of them are coming to the UK.

It has a legendary heritage to live up to, which probably explains why it's taken the engineers at BMW's M Division so long to apply the M treatment to what is one of the firm's best-selling models. The 1 Series is hardly in its first flush of youth: the hatchback will be replaced towards the end of the year and the Coupe is now approaching its fourth birthday. So this, the M Coupe, is its last hurrah.

The starting point for the car is a re-worked 135i, but scratch under the surface and all is not as it seems. Out goes the existing standard chassis components and in come the suspension, brakes, alloy wheels and the differential from the current M3.

Power comes from the twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six that's used for the Z4 sDrive 35iS rather than the 4.0-litre V8 in the M3. It's an engine that doesn't need to be redlined to 8000rpm to get the best from it with usable power at almost any revs and in any gear. The breath of torque is stunning with 332 lb ft available between just 1500-4500rpm. It means that you have options as to how you unlock the full 340bhp on offer. It will happily sit in sixth at around 1000rpm and, with a dab of the throttle come alive and pull cleanly away for speedy overtaking. Alternatively, work it harder through the gears, and you'll be rewarded with a meaty-sounding exhaust note as the revs increase and scintillating acceleration. Although sensationally quick - 0-62mph is just 4.9 seconds - it never feels hardcore like some of BMW's other M models; it's easy to drive and easy to live with.

To cope with the components from the larger M3, the 1 Series M Coupe has had to fill out a little and is more muscular than the standard Coupe with flared arches and 19-inch wheels. It's transformed it into one of the best looking M cars of recent years. At the front there's a large triple-duct air dam to force air into the engine and M3-inspired wing mirrors, while at the back you'll find BMW's M trademark: four large exhausts. You certainly won't be mistaking this for anything else, especially in stand-out orange (it's available in black or white).

Fans of a proper manual won't be disappointed - there's no flappy-paddle gearbox for the 1 Series M. It sticks with a conventional six-speed manual gearbox, operated in conjunction with an electronic M differential. Gearchanges are slick, short and precise and the stubby gearlever is a pleasure to use.

The ride is, as you'd expect, rather firm, but no unbearably so. At speed it tends to bounce around a little and amplify the bumps in the road, but it's controlled and otherwise retains is composure. At lower speeds and on smoother roads it's suppleness shines through.

Inside the cabin is beginning to show its age and is very dark, but remains functional and well designed. The seats are incredibly comfortable and touches - like the Alcantara trimming on the dashboard and orange stitching throughout - highlight that this is an extraordinary BMW. The speedo – which is bespoke for the 1 Series M Coupe – is grey with blue backlighting and goes up to 180.mph

So it comes as no surprise that 300 out of the 450 1 Series M Coupes coming to the UK are already spoken for. And that's without most of those buyers getting behind the wheel. Once other potential buyers get a test drive, the remaining 150 are unlikely to hang around for much longer, either. 

 

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