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First look: BMW unveils 1 Series M Coupe

M One: It’s not a successor to the original M1, but the 1 Series M Coupe will still be one that redefines BMW M cars, with M3-rivalling acceleration and a host of M-specific engineering and design features.

BMW reveals full details of its smallest-ever M car ahead of mid-2011 Aussie launch

10 Dec 2010

FIVE months after confirming that a 1 Series M Coupe was in the works, BMW has released full details of the smallest ever model to emerge from its high-performance M GmbH division – a pocket rocket that is almost as fast, and promises to be every bit as entertaining, as the blistering M3.

To make its in-the-metal debut at next month’s Detroit motor show, the 1 Series M Coupe will hit Australia in the third quarter next year in limited numbers (100 units for 2011), priced from around $100,000 – $45,000 less than the M3 sedan, which is the current entry point for the Munich marque’s M cars, and some $15,000 clear of the 135i Sport Coupe.

As expected, BMW has equipped the 1 M – as opposed to the M1, BMW’s 1978-1981 mid-engined supercar – with the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged direct-injection ‘N54’ straight-six engine already used in the Z4 sDrive35is roadster, which is the first time a standard production powerplant has been seen in the bona fide M collection.

14 center imageProducing 250kW at 5900rpm (but revving to “well over” 7000rpm) and 450Nm from 1500-4500rpm (with an overboost function increasing torque to 500Nm for short bursts under full acceleration), the engine drives the rear wheels through a newly developed six-speed manual gearbox and can send the 1495kg (unladen) two-door, four-seat 1 Series M from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.9 seconds.

This is just one tenth of a second slower than the heavier 1605kg (kerb weight) M3 sedan, which packs in a natural-breathing 309kW/400Nm 4.0-litre V8 engine, and quite a bit quicker than the 1525kg (kerb) 135i Sport Coupe, which uses a less powerful 225kW/400Nm version of the same 2979cc twin-turbo inline-six and is claimed to reach 100km/h from standstill in 5.3 seconds.

BMW quotes 17.3 seconds from 0-200km/h for the 1 M, with top speed limited to 250km/h.

Brake energy regeneration and “needs-based control” of auxiliary units, which are part of BMW’s EfficientDynamics program, have taken the M brand below 10L/100km for the first time, with the 1 M Coupe’s official combined fuel consumption rated at 9.6L/100km (the 135i Sport manages 8.5L/100km). CO2 emissions come in 224g/km.

The broader, lower stance of the 1 Series M compared to the 135i Coupe – overall width increases 55mm to 1803mm – reflects the chassis engineering work undertaken with BMW’s baby M, with a wider front and rear track (now 1541mm at each end, compared to 1470/1497mm) and the ride height now 12mm closer to the tarmac.

The M retains the 1 Series’ double-pivot spring-strut front and five-link rear suspension design, although the aluminium content has increased significantly, unique axle supports are included, the electronic differential lock is now M-specific, the electronic stability control includes an intervention threshold-raising M Dynamic Mode (MDM), the rack-and-pinion steering is fitted with the Servotronic hydraulic system, and the brakes are upgraded to M3 level, with inner-vented and perforated M-specific discs with a 360/350mm front/rear diameter, each with a single piston floating calliper.

The sporting flavour is further enhanced with a driver-selectable M Drive mode, which increases engine responsiveness.

The wheel and tyre combinations also go up a notch, with standard 19-inch M light alloy rims in a Y-spoke design, wrapped in 245/35-section tyres at the front and 265/35 rubber behind.

Par for the course are ABS brakes, an anti-slip control function (ASC), dynamic brake control (DBC), cornering brake control (CBC), a so-called ‘drive-off assistant’, and anti-fade and dry brake functions designed to further improve stopping performance.

Exterior modifications reflect the car’s M membership and the chassis work underneath, with the wheelarches heavily flared to accommodate the wider track width and the front apron optimised for improved aerodynamics.

The latter includes three large air intakes and what BMW calls “air curtains” – vertical ducts on the outer sections of the lower airdam that are designed to channel inflowing air around the front wheelarches, covering the side the front wheels like a curtain and thereby reducing turbulence.

The front end also carries bi-Xenon headlights, while the flanks have modified sills and reshaped aero-optimised wing mirrors designed in the same format as the M3.

The rear is also defined by the wider wheelarches, with other reference points including M quad chrome tailpipes and more aero elements in the form of a redesigned bumper and subtle bootlid spoiler.

Inside, the 1 M has the expected array of M features, including a unique instrument panel, M leather multi-function steering wheel, M pedals and door sill inserts, and heavily bolstered Boston leather front bucket seats with black surfaces, orange stitching and the M logo embossed into the headrests.

The dark theme continues with anthracite-coloured roof lining and dark Alcantara trim applied to other areas such as the door panels, also with orange stitching. This contrast stitching is likewise applied to the handbrake lever and the short M gearshifter.

Other standard features on the 1 Series M Coupe include dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, six-speaker MP3-compatible stereo, six airbags, headlight cleaners, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and automatic headlights, while the usual high number of options will be available, spanning audio, communications, navigation, and more.

Exterior paint finishes are limited to just three colours: an ‘exclusive’ Valencia Orange metallic, Sapphire Black metallic and Alpine White non-metallic.

Although it resisted slapping the M badge on the Z4 sDrive35is, BMW describes its motivation behind creating a bona fide 1 Series M – and going beyond the 135i M Sport package – as “paving the way for younger target groups to be able to access the hallmark driving experience offered by an M car”.

“The letter M now comes to the segment of the BMW 1 Series to symbolise outstanding power delivery and the highly dynamic driving properties of a high-performance sportscar,” the company said.

“The technology of a high-performance car is combined with the agility and lightness of a compact model to create a whole new dimension of sports-style driving pleasure.

“With this two-door model, BMW M GmbH is now realising for the first time in this vehicle class its concept of racing-oriented performance characteristics in a car developed for everyday use .”

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