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      05-03-2010, 02:58 PM   #1
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Thumbs up Why BMW is building an M version of the 1 series coupe, and not just an 135iS

Why BMW is building an M version of the 1 series coupe, and not just a 135iS.

The need for a sporty 1 series car
It's been a difficult time for fans of BMW's 1 series coupe, the compact and agile whippersnapper from Munich. Why? News, rumors and spyshots filter through the internet on a daily basis, enough to overwhelm even the most dedicated BMW fanatics. Many of us have been left asking, "What does this all mean?".

Actually, comments have also started to sound like this, "It can't be a real M model, this must be a 135iS. I mean, BMW has already laid down a path with the 335iS and the Z4 sDrive35iS" Nope, that's wrong. "But, this would come way too late in the life cycle of the current 1 coupe and also would kill sales of the M3, right?" Wrong again, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves for the moment.

BMW has a tradition of offering marvelous little machines at a rather affordable price, traits that have been seemingly neglected with their current lineup of M cars. Nobody can deny the appeal of the current M3 and M5 models, but they are bigger, heavier and more expensive than their predecessors. Which of course were in turn bigger, heavier and more expensive than the versions they replaced. You get the point. It is for this very reason the man in charge at BMW M, Dr. Kay Segler, announced during an interview with the German car magazine AMS that BMW was seriously considering building an "M variant of the current generation 1 series".

This was great news back in November 2009. But, it was too early to get excited about this comment, we've all become cautious with announcements of new cars, to be precise we've become cautious mainly because of announcements of cars that have subsequently never seen the light of production. As time passed by, it has since become safe to assume that this car will not share the fate of being axed with other models like the CS. There were reports (or rather blog entries) citing unnamed sources at BMW, that the M variant of the 1 series coupe had been green-lighted for production. Even if we ignore these reports (which can't easily be verified), we have seen two prototypes testing on the famous Nürburgring -- day after day. Dr. Segler mentioned in the aformentioned interview that they were on a tight schedule developing this car. "Usually, the development of such a car takes 3 years," he went on to say, "but we've learned to be more flexible."

It’s an M, not an iS
This inevitably raises the question if the spy pictures we've seen so far actually show the car Mr. Segler was discussing. The answer can only be 'Yes', without any 'but' or 'if'. In other words, what we see here is an M version of the current generation 1 series coupe (E82).

How am I so sure?
Here we go: If we look at the hints floating out there on an individual basis, one rightfully could be uncertain as to what this car is. But putting all the information and pictures out there together, this can be an M version and nothing else.

1) The most convincing argument is the fact that both (or all three) test mules we've seen so far, are equipped with many parts straight from the M3 parts shelf. Let me show them to you:

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You clearly see the M3's brake system and mechanical LSD being used for the E82 M prototypes.

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Furthermore, the area around the turn indicators at the front quarters is masked:

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2) Looking back in the past, BMW has done the samething with the M3 prototype to cover up the characteristic M fender grills:

3) These mules have wheels from the M3 Competition package and no sunroof, two more things that point to a car coming from the M division.

4) Even the interior has been prepped up with M parts, despite still being in a rather early test stage:

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You can clearly see M3 seats, the M3 steering wheel and red tachs, another M trademark feature.

It’s important to mention that neither the 335iS nor the Z4 35iS do have any of these components. BMW clearly wants to separate their M models from their iS cars. The latter are fit with options sourced from BMW's Performance program, a dedicated parts lineup meant to make standard BMW models appear and drive more sporty, while still being tied to BMW AG rather than BMW M in both development and marketing. So there really is no chance that BMW would crossover BMW M specific parts onto a BMW Performance vehicle.

5) There's a video of the M1 caught on a parking lot near the German Autobahn. Have a look, in case you haven’t seen it yet:

The most interesting part of this video isn't the 1-series prototype, it's actually the company it carries. The other cars are development prototypes for the next generation M5 and an M3 GTS. You might think that this doesn’t necessarily say something about the 1 series, but it does. To fully understand this I have to reel off a bit: Many probably know that BMW M is an in-house tuning company fully owned by BMW AG. So you might think that M models and regular BMW models might be tested together, but that’s not the case. M runs their own business (despite the obvious influence on a management level from BMW AG) and they run their development independently. They don't just mix AG cars and M cars together and test them simultaneously. M runs their own testing program with their own test engineers on their own schedule. Hence, the fact that these cars have been spotted together speaks volumes to this car being an M car.

What's its name, then?
This is the $1 million dollar question. And a controversial one as well. Logically, the M-variant of the 3-series is called M3 and the M-variant of the 5 series is called M5, M1 would be an appropriate name. Think what you will about this, but the people at BMW just won't do that. I don't want to get into details about why the mid-engined car BMW built back in the 80's has made the M1 name unusable. All that matters is by BMW's thinking the name M1 has been ruled out. But it's safe to assume that there will be an M in the name and that there will be an 1 in the name. This still leaves us room for some possible names.

Does it make sense?
Lastly, let me mention why this car makes sense. The two most commonly referenced reasons why an M 1-series doesn't make sense: 1) The tight schedule and 2) the existence of the M3.

Without question, it would have been better to debut this car earlier in its life cycle, but it's still not too late. Remember that BMW doesn't need to develop every part for this car from scratch, but can use the M3 parts. It would be naive to assume that BMW just took this part and that part, bolted it on to the E82 and called it a day. It's still quite a task to accomodate existing parts to a different model, but the effort to do so is less than starting from scratch. After all, BMW couldn't have launched this car based on the current generation 1 series without the existence of M3 parts, so it's an engineering win-win. They need less time to develop and they need fewer cars to be sold to make a sound business case. Expect a short run of 1 or 2 model years and (maybe) a limited production run.

As to killing the sales of the M3, that won't happen for several reasons. For instance, the focus set for this car is clearly different from the M3's. The guys at BMW M used to have a saying to the effect of "1000kg is better than 1000PS". As mentioned in the first paragraph, newer M models have become heavier and heavier, so they've been forced to increase engine output powerful in order to ffer better performance. The intention of this car is a sort of return to their roots. This means the focus of this M version will be on a superb handling rather than offering the best straight line performance. Compared to the M3, it's just another case of different strokes for different folks. If your main interest is straight line performance, the M3 is and will be the better choice. However, if you're willing to give up some tenths of acceleration for better cornering, the 1 M version probably is the right choice for you. There will always be people who prefer the performance of the M3, the feel and throttle response of the high revving NA V8 engine is still worth the premium to many. The comparison between this M and the M3 will be no different than the one between the M3 and the M5: The bigger the car, the better the performance (due to the higher output); the smaller the car, the better the handling.

I hope this write-up helped understand why an M version is coming and why it makes sense. It also probably shows that I -- as virtually every member of the bimmerpost (or is it 1addicts ) staff - is looking forward to this car and can't wait to get their hands on one. Feel free to leave a comment or to correct me where you think I got something wrong. This is the thread to talk about this.

Best regards,
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      05-03-2010, 08:17 PM   #2
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Wow, thanks for the nice write up. I do believe this is an M version of the 1 series. Additionally, I agree with you completely, when you say an M version of the 1 series will not cannibalize sales of the M3. The M3 is an established icon with an intoxicating naturally aspirated V8 engine, while the 1series will offer a FI engine for those who prefer that type of engine. Furthermore, some people will prefer the looks and size of the M3 over the 1 series M and vice versa, so each car brings different flavors to the M arena.

The Power of M

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      05-03-2010, 08:23 PM   #3
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I take my hat off to you, Southlight.
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      05-03-2010, 08:30 PM   #4

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That was a really good write up, thanks Southlight.

It will be interesting to see the sales forecasts for this m 1 series compared to the M3 which sells in bucketloads. BMW cant build enough of the 135i's for Australia as it is. I cant stand the debate about it munching M3 sales as they will no doubt be completely different. I liken it to the debate about M vs Auto vs DCT. There are many people who will stick to a manual transmission as opposed to moving to faster DCT because, simply, thats how it is! Many in the market for an M3 would definately not consider the 'baby BMW' even if its lineball in speed and handling. Its the kids car! And I'm happy to be a kid
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      05-03-2010, 08:52 PM   #5
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Well written: Clear and Balanced!


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      05-03-2010, 08:55 PM   #6
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Cant wait for the haters to come in and try to dispute that logic
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      05-03-2010, 08:57 PM   #7

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Muy Excelente, Senor Southlight!!

I like how the M3 mule in that photo has chromelime trim around the windows like the M1/1M. E9X M3's don't come with those if I'm not mistaken. Just further proof that BMW is not done adding the cosmetics.

Originally Posted by BrokenVert View Post
Cant wait for the haters to come in and try to dispute that logic
I'll be waiting.
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      05-03-2010, 09:06 PM   #8
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Well Done
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      05-03-2010, 09:10 PM   #9
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South, thanks for taking your time to write that up. It is as factual as we can currently be and entertaining. Nice job!!
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      05-03-2010, 09:14 PM   #10
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Thank you! There are too many people in denial still.
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      05-03-2010, 09:19 PM   #11

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Nice write up.
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      05-03-2010, 09:32 PM   #12
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Good read. Could mention the carbon fiber roof mock up as well. I don't think any 'is' model has one of these.
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      05-03-2010, 09:38 PM   #13

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Wow! One of the most cogent posts I have read in a long time. I would say that this, in addition to Scott's input, makes the fact of a 1 series M version irrefutable.

Now can we return to other matters, like power output, the turbo setup, the extent of CF usage, whether EDC will be available, pros/cons of DCT (for those of us with limited DCT experience), and of course what will be the best color (Inka?).
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      05-03-2010, 09:48 PM   #14
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Does that mean you can start deleting post saying that it is an 'IS' because it has no quads?
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      05-03-2010, 11:05 PM   #15

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Good stuff, southlight. Thanks!
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      05-03-2010, 11:21 PM   #16
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      05-04-2010, 12:56 AM   #17
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I agree 100%, but would add that the "is" models involved NO bodywork modification, only the addition of side skirts and a different front bumper. The mystery 1 prototypes clearly have different front and rear fenders as well as a front bumper with new ducting and (I believe) new rear bumpers.
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      05-04-2010, 02:24 AM   #18
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Good points. Now the rebuttal from Auggie
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      05-04-2010, 02:54 AM   #19
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I believe!
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      05-04-2010, 03:26 AM   #20
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Post is good, that's for shure but I'm still don't know what to think about materia. We'l see in future.
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      05-04-2010, 07:15 AM   #21

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Awesome post! I want one!
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      05-04-2010, 09:06 AM   #22
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Nice work South--very logical and well thought out....
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