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      11-21-2010, 03:35 PM   #1
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Lightbulb Leipzig 1-series M Coupe Pre-drive review (UK)

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I was one of the two UK participants. As a lawyer who took copies of everything I was required to sign, I can tell you that we are not under any contractual obligations to not make negative comments (as some have uncharitably suggested). BMW were very good hosts and went out of their way to ensure we were well looked after as you can imagine.

Personally, obviously I am not a professional road-tester and nor am I even a weekend track warrior, but I think this car is going to be great. It won’t be for that vocal minority looking for a stripped-out screamer, but the rest of us will I suspect think it is fantastic, rather as Chris Harris appears to. It feels much more different from the 135i than you’d expect and actually a bit more like an E92 M3. In fact, I’d guess that BMW had the E46 M3 in mind when developing this car. Part of this is down to the revised quad exhaust system, which provides a bassy, almost hollow, soundtrack that is noticeably more complex and potent-sounding than my 135i (which is fitted with a Performance Exhaust), even if it is perhaps a touch quieter than the racket the Performance Exhaust makes. Definitely provides plenty of aural pleasure though.

The car comes with an “M” button on the steering wheel similar to that found on the E92 M3. Personally, once I’d found it, I left it permanently on for the improved throttle response. As standard, the 1M has a sharper, more responsive feel than the 135i, but engaging the M button definitely gives the car a welcome further dose of alacrity when you brush the accelerator. And brushing the accelerator reveals that this car feels much more eager than the 135i and is genuinely rapid. It may not be very much quicker in absolute terms, but it certainly feels it – on the autobahn you are doing 120mph+ before you can bat an eyelid. And that was with three people on board and in absolutely bucketing rain. The engine is astonishingly flexible with bags of torque to spare, so even at motorway speeds, strong effortless acceleration is available without shifting down from sixth. But when shifting is this slick, that would be a pity, especially given the engine’s epic mid-range punch. The gearshift’s throw has been shortened and the box on the car I tried was largely slick and intuitive – you can lightly flick it between gears with speed and precision. Only a couple of power downshifts from third to second on the circuit session were a bit baulky and required a firm hand (but that may be me!). The clutch is perhaps heavier but not noticeably so. The steering actually feels lighter but, as ever, doesn’t provide a whole heap of feel through the typically plump steering wheel rim.

Does it rev like an M3? No, of course not – this is the N54 after all. But it nevertheless runs very vigorously to the redline – I didn’t feel the need to shift up short of 6,500 revs. And when you run out of space, the brakes are very strong – the 135i already has six-pot calipers and the 1M adds huge cross-drilled discs to the mix fore and aft which (I gathered from one of the M guys riding with me) are sourced from the M3. Despite the huge and fat 19” alloys (which look superb), the ride is also rather better than the standard cars thanks to non-runflat tyres in the true M tradition. We drove through a cobbled East German town centre at one point and the ride was noticeably more fluid and comfortable than my 135i is on my cobbled mews street at home.

However, ride comfort has not been obtained at the expense of handling. We took the cars around a handling circuit which was soaking wet and it is clear that this is a very agile, nimble-footed beast for something weighing 1500kgs. It's no Elise but you really can't feel the weight. Clearly, if you are ham-fisted, plenty of safe understeer will result, but if you work at being fluid and deft with the car, then it has lovely handling balance and, even with the DSC on, you can provoke little flicks of oversteer and really feel the LSD working. We didn’t get to drive with the DSC off, but I was taken for a short drifting session by one of the engineers with DSC switched off. And the car is clearly enormous fun in the right hands – it puts its power down cleanly and from where I was sitting it felt like it is very throttle-adjustable, which adds to the car’s general sense of eagerness.

So, apart from the driving, what gives? Appearance-wise, non-petrolheads may not notice this is much different from a 135i MSport although they are likely to notice that it has a very muscular planted stance and is clearly a performance car. Enthusiasts will have no trouble, especially in a light colour. The front and rear bumpers are quite different compared to the 135i, with bigger intakes, extra vents and a rear diffuser framing the quad pipes. There are new front and rear light graphics. The arches are flared front and rear and really improve the side view and sill line. This makes the car look infinitely better than the standard coupe, which looks a bit portly and underwheeled by comparison. There are also new M3-style wing-mirrors which look spot-on and are a big improvement on the Dumbo ears fitted to other 1 series these days. Generally, in my view this is one 1-series which finally you can actually call attractive - as a package it looks classically M without scaring the taste police.

Based on what we saw, the interior looks like it will be pretty much as per the normal M-Sport but with all stitching in orange and with liberal lashings of tactile black alcantara trim on the cars we saw. Oh and there are bespoke M dials. This doesn't sound like a whole heap of very much, but actually it does feel rather more special than the normal versions - the orange stitching is a classy touch. It’s a shame there aren’t bespoke seats but it’s not the end of the world. I gather they tried fitting the M3 seats but I think they said they found they were less comfortable.

So, overall, I can hand on heart say that I loved it. It’s going to be an expensive little thing though, and I expect that will be many people’s biggest beef with it – but then it does feel classy, well-made, well-engineered and generally expensive. And it really does seat four normal sized-people which is rare and useful in this performance and size bracket.

Any criticisms? I’m not overly fond of the new headlight design which has an illuminated eyebrow strip but that may improve with familiarity…. Oh and the limited colour palette is annoying. None of Valencia Orange, Alpine White or Sapphire Black really floats my boat. Actually, the orange is very smart but it’s also very flashy and personally I just couldn’t live with the flak it would inevitably garner from others.
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      11-21-2010, 03:45 PM   #2
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Great review... Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us!
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      11-21-2010, 03:46 PM   #3
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Thanks for the review. Sounds like a great car! I've had a deposit down for a while and everything I've heard just confirms my plans to buy one. Don't mind all the conspiracy theorists and naysayers on this forum. Internet forums like this attract more than their share of people with issues. Its easy to throw around accusations and trash talk with the anonymity of the internet
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      11-21-2010, 03:48 PM   #4
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Great review, thanks!
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      11-21-2010, 03:53 PM   #5
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Informative review ... Thanks
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      11-21-2010, 03:57 PM   #6
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Thanks for the review, sounds like the car I was hoping for.
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      11-21-2010, 04:09 PM   #7
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Excellent review, thanks for the info.

Bummed about a few things now. Whether they will stop me from buying it I don't know. Individually they wouldn't be a problem but when you add them all together.

Lets see:

1 - No CF roof (is that confirmed? Do you have anything to add on that?) - very minor issue

2 - 3 colours only - Perhaps my biggest beef. Black hides the details, white gets dirty too quickly (in UK at least) and they are everywhere and orange is just too bright and look at me. I would personally prefer a nice blue.

3 - Standard hood (again, can you comment on this? Any new bulges, curves or lines) - Another minor issue

4 - Orange stitching seats - minor

5 - Not M3 (bespoke) seats (are you saying they are just the regular M sport seats like in your 135i?) - Minor

6 - Engine specs - minor

7 - LCI lights - like the fronts but the rear still contain too much white/silver, was hoping for more like 3er LCI and new 5er - minor

8 - Wheels - Is it true that the 19" may be an option and that 18"s will be standard?

As I say, one or two of these things alone would be nitpicking but if all 8 are true AND it costs 40k, then I may just have to look elsewhere.

Its still early days and I am still looking forward to December but I am soooo conflicted.

I saw the vid of the event and got all excited again and then out of it came more bad news and rumours!

Cheers,

Mark.
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      11-21-2010, 04:09 PM   #8
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Well written and very informative.

Did you perceive any differences in gearing between the 1M and your 135?

From what I can tell, there were always 3-4 people in the car during the test drives. That's a bit unfortunate due to the added weight.
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      11-21-2010, 04:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by as7920 View Post
Excellent review, thanks for the info.

Bummed about a few things now. Whether they will stop me from buying it I don't know. Individually they wouldn't be a problem but when you add them all together.

Lets see:

1 - No CF roof (is that confirmed? Do you have anything to add on that?) - very minor issue

2 - 3 colours only - Perhaps my biggest beef. Black hides the details, white gets dirty too quickly (in UK at least) and they are everywhere and orange is just too bright and look at me. I would personally prefer a nice blue.

3 - Standard hood (again, can you comment on this? Any new bulges, curves or lines) - Another minor issue

4 - Orange stitching seats - minor

5 - Not M3 (bespoke) seats (are you saying they are just the regular M sport seats like in your 135i?) - Minor

6 - Engine specs - minor

7 - Wheels - Is it tru that the 19" may be an option and that 18"s will be standard?

As I say, one or two of these things alone would be nitpicking but if all 7 are true AND it costs 40k, then I may just have to look elsewhere.

Its still early days and I am still looking forward to December but I am soooo conflicted.

I saw the vid of the event and got all excited again and then out of it come more bad news and rumours!

Cheers,

Mark.
Thanks.

1. Roof looks normal to me. I doubt there is budget for a CF one.

2. Agreed.

3. Bonnet looks normal to me.

4. Looked good to me.

5. Same seats as 135i MSport but with M-branding on headrests IIRC.

6. ?

7. Didn't hear this. There is an 18" design (which is not CSL style) that we saw but we were told it was the winter wheel option.

Honestly, I think when you drive it, whether it has a carbonfibre roof or a bonnet bulge is neither here nor there. The limited colour palette is the major annoyance for precisely the reasons you state for each of the three chosen colours.
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      11-21-2010, 04:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Woland's Advocate View Post

4. Looked good to me

6. ?
I did once spec an Audi TT online with orange stitching and seat panels and online it did look pretty good.

I just hope its an option. Were there both leather and cloth seats? Do you know if one is standard?

Re engine specs, I mean that it's not a bespoke M engine and is the regular N54 with some (M magic) modifications. Output is only marginally higher than 135i.

However with all the data at the moment I am still 99% for this car so I will wait it out.

Really appreciate your input!

Cheers,

Mark.
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      11-21-2010, 04:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Thank you for your thoughts...

Coincidentally, how quick is the turn-in, does the car transfer well, even on public streets, etc... ?
No one can say. There were always 4 people in the car it sounds like. I hate driving my m3 or any car <400hp full of people. Hell it makes my M5 feel sluggish with four dudes in it.

T
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      11-21-2010, 04:37 PM   #12
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No idea regarding the seats. But for the price I'd hope leather seats were standard. I did gather xenons would be standard.

I don't think it matters that this is not a bespoke M unit. Under the circumstances and predicted low volume (my understanding is that it's not going to be limited to a set production number, but that nevertheless it'll be like the Audi RS4 - limited by the fact it won't be on sale for that long given the base coupe is nearing the end of its lifecycle), it simply isn't realistic to expect a bespoke M engine. It must be cheaper to modify the N54 which is already engineered for the chassis, rather than the old Z4M's engine, which wasn't.

According to the M engineer who rode shotgun in the white car I drove, they used the older N54 biturbo unit rather than the new N55 single turbo unit, because the N54 was easier to tweak it to provide the expected M car responses compared to the N55 which is engineered more for better efficiency and economy.
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      11-21-2010, 04:41 PM   #13
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Quote:
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No one can say. There were always 4 people in the car it sounds like. I hate driving my m3 or any car <400hp full of people. Hell it makes my M5 feel sluggish with four dudes in it.

T
Not so. On public roads there were max 3 per car I think. On the circuit and handling circuit, we were just two up. I thought the turn-in and transfer was great - certainly there was nothing that I, as a wheelsman of mere limited talents, could take issue with.
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      11-21-2010, 04:55 PM   #14
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Awesome review!, Im curious to see these LED lights...
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      11-21-2010, 04:58 PM   #15
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Great review... What's the price on it?
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      11-21-2010, 05:00 PM   #16
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Well TBH I think the M tweaked N54 will suit my driving style better anyway than any high revving high capacity unit like the M3 V8.

I'm more used to driving torquey diesel engines and have hardly ever taken my MINI above 5500-6000rpm.

I have always wanted the M3 until now and the 1M just looks tailored made for me right now.
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      11-21-2010, 05:00 PM   #17
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Thanks man for the write-up... sounds like a great car... but why put same seats of 135i M-sport and then put M-branding on headrests IIRC?
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      11-21-2010, 05:03 PM   #18
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You remind me of Peter Sarsgaard

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      11-21-2010, 05:06 PM   #19
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Attachment 458686
the ride is also rather better than the standard cars thanks to non-runflat tyres in the true M tradition. We drove through a cobbled East German town centre at one point and the ride was noticeably more fluid and comfortable than my 135i is on my cobbled mews street at home.
Sir, thank you for the review. You are also the second one to mention standard tires over the run-flats. I also am not a fun of run-flats and this has elevated my interest in this car. Did BMW say anything about a spare tire, can of sealer, etc? Or do you just go around with no spare? I have long accepted that BMWs bread and butter comes from people that don't care about a spare tire, but I have asked them if they at least would include a spare tire well so we could buy and put our own without losing trunk space. Did you get any notion of what the plan is with the 1M?

Thank you.

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      11-21-2010, 05:09 PM   #20
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BMW offers a Repair kit for tires without run-flat. anyway, I really like run-flats. And even more, now that the Run-Flat 3G are out. They have almost the same weight as normal tires so the negative sideeffect of runflat tires are going off....
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      11-21-2010, 05:14 PM   #21
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I doubt that there's going to be a spare wheel. The battery sits in the wheel well on the 135i, so I assume the same holds true for the 1M meaning there is no room even for a spacesaver.
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      11-21-2010, 05:29 PM   #22
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thanks for the informative review. My favorite part of it is you say it reminds of e46 M3. Sounds like a great car and great trip
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