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      05-22-2011, 08:02 PM   #1
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Exclamation BIMMERPOST Review: BMW 1-series M Coupe (1M)

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BIMMERPOST Review: BMW 1-series M Coupe. The Road, the Track, and the Willow Springs Experience.
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The Road, the Track, and the Willow Springs Experience in BMW M's newest coupe.

By Jason and Donnie Isley

The 1M Road Experience - by Jason

By the time the west coast BMW 1M press drive event came around last week, I had seen and sat in the 1 Series M Coupe (1M) on many occasions at various auto shows and press events. Each time was more and more of a tease, particularly once positive preliminary reviews began trickling in. There I was, sitting in BMW M's newest creation, but never with the keys and an open track (or at least permission to run hotlaps around an auto show floor). It's no wonder sleep proved evasive on the eve of the press drive. But any cobwebs and bleariness which remained in my head instantly faded as I saw the lineup of 1Ms for our choosing at the hotel the next morning. Just moments later I was in a valencia orange 1M coupe and with the first stab of the throttle and rumble from the exhaust, I was finally off on a one day date with the 1M.

You've all seen the many great reviews and reactions to the 1M coupe so far. There's certainly been no lack of them. Prior to test driving the 1M at BMW's west coast press drives at the Willow Springs International Raceway in LA, we wondered if there would be any unique perspective for us to share with our readers. We hope so. We've shared our opinion on how the 1M compares to the M3 on the road from an M3 owner's perspective, how the 1M performs on the track according to a BMW performance driving instructor with 25 years of racing experience, and a description of the Willow Springs experience (as well as tips on negotiating the track).

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I drive a 2008 E90 M3 with manual transmission and EDC suspension, and have some beginner track experience, including at Willow Springs. Joining us on the track portion of our review was Donnie Isley (user "willwin2day"), a BMW Performance Driving School instructor with over 25 years of racing experience in formula cars in the SCCA and IMSA racing series; and the most enthusiastic and encouraging instructor I've had the pleasure of knowing.

Our day began with a 2.5 hour drive through local and canyon roads, which took us from our 1M pickup point in Westlake Village to the final destination at the Willow Springs Raceway in the high desert of greater LA. What followed was 2-3 hours of open track time with the 1M and Competition M3 DCT sedan & coupe. The day concluded with a 2 hour highway drive back in the 1M from Willow Springs. The following is our reaction to the various aspects of the 1M from approximately 8 hours of exposure.


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Looks
The attractiveness of a car is always in the eyes of the beholder and we've heard/read both positive and negative comments on the 1M. But, nearly everyone (us included) agree that the 1M has a pugnacious look owing to its upright and squarish design and markedly flared fenders. It's a bulldog of a car. And as with a bulldog, comments on the 1M's aesthetics often include: powerful, squat, unique, and slow (no, not that last one... the 1M is the complete opposite). Judging from our readers/members comments, it seems the 1M's attractiveness is often correlated to how much the reader/member "gets" this car - what it represents and what it is capable of. It comes in only 3 colors - alpine white, black sapphire metallic, and valencia orange. This was first time we've seen them together and out in the wild. After seeing all three colors together under natural conditions, if forced to pick a favorite, alpine white would be my personal choice. The white 1M shows the unique 1M styling bits best - the aggressive front bumper with air curtain inlets, the extra side fender bodywork, the rear quarter panel design vents, and the widened fenders.

Sounds
In a word - awesome. Not exotics-level-awesome, but awesome for a factory car in this segment and price range. This all comes from the 1M exhaust - one of the best factory BMW exhausts I've heard. Standing in pit lane listening to the 1Ms pegging their tachs while rocketing towards the track was an aural delight. The 1M's exhaust is deeper and louder than the M3's factory exhaust. As the M3's revs climb however, it becomes a much closer match due to the sweet blend of its high revving engine & exhaust. At the higher RPMs I still give the nod to the M3 as I prefer the sound of its metallic fury to the boomier 1M. But, as with looks, sound often comes down to personal taste. The one issue we did notice with the 1M's sound was a slight exhaust drone in the 2-3000 RPM range, which we experienced on the highway at cruising speeds (our 1M had >2000 miles on it). So is there any room for improvement? If we were asked for any improvements at all to the 1M's sound, we'd ask for more induction noise.

Engine
Torque torque and more torque! The 1M pulls hard throughout the rev range and in all gears, making the car great for daily driving conditions and arguably better as a daily driver (at least from a torque perspective). On route to the track, we took the car through alternating local and canyon roads but never felt a need to change our shifting habits much in order to have the proper power on tap, despite the varying conditions. Its wide torque band means not having to always watch what gear you're in for good acceleration. The downside, if any, is that the N54 in the 1M isn't as rev happy as the free revving M3 S65 engine and doesn't sound nearly as good. Although the 1M's M mode (more aggressive throttle map) made for a more sensitive throttle, the M3's engine was still more responsive and lively in its own M mode.

Transmission
The 1M's gearbox is its one part we can say is better than the M3's, with no qualifications. It's an ultra-slick shifting transmission where each shift smoothly and neatly clicks into gear. There is simply no slop or stickiness, which the M3 exhibits on occasion. The 1M's gear knob also appears to be shorter, which leads to shorter shift travel, and a faster shift. It was a pleasure to use in all the conditions we encountered during the day.

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Suspension / Handling
The 1M carries over the M3's suspension and steering system. But, unlike the M3, the 1M is not available with the variable-suspension setting EDC option. To those familiar with the M3's EDC settings, I would compare the 1M's suspension to the "normal" setting on an M3. In addition to inheriting the M3's suspension, the 1M also comes standard with 19" M3 competition wheels and adopts the M3's steering system with its 12.5:1 ratio. As my M3 also sits on factory 19" wheels and usually runs in the normal EDC setting, it's no wonder the 1M suspension and handling felt incredibly familiar.

Overall, the 1M handles and steers just as great as the M3, but also a bit different. The 1M's wheelbase is 4 inches shorter than the M3 while having the same track width. And at 3,362 pounds curb weight, it's also 342 pounds lighter than the M3. Taken together, what we experienced from these factors was that the 1M offered a slightly better turn-in than the M3, but also less stability at very high speeds. Turning at the higher speeds, the 1M was a hairier affair than the M3 and required more attention and fine steering adjustments. But, we're describing behavior in the triple digit MPH range, which are mostly only seen at the track. The 1M's MDM (M Dynamic Mode) behaved similar to the M3 and appeared equally good at allowing some slip and drift, while keeping our butt on the track and out of LA's high desert ditches.

Put simply, like the M3, the 1M's suspension/handling is agile and responsive enough for spirited driving around town or a weekend at the track, but not so razor-edged or stiff that it makes regular daily driving tedious. M engineers really have struck a happy medium here.

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Verdict?
So which is the better car - the 1M or M3? Well, both. And that's not just a politically correct answer to appease both the 1M and M3 owners on 1ADDICTS and M3POST. The 1M has M3-like speed and handling, all available at a lower cost of entry. The M3 has M3 speed and handling (obviously), more stability at the limits, more performance technologies (EDC, M button controlling much more than just throttle map), and a better appointed interior, albeit at a higher cost of entry. Both cars are great and each has a place and purpose in the M lineup. M3 owners shouldn't be afraid to admit that, I sure don't. One thing's for sure though... that we can even compare so closely the 1M to the M3 on so many levels is a telling sign that the M engineers have brought us exactly what they set out to make - an M-badge-worthy car at a lower price point to attract younger (and more) M drivers.



The 1M Track and Willow Springs Experience - by Donnie Isley

To start off with, it didn't take long to beam obvious why Willow Springs Raceway is labeled, "The fastest road in the West!" I have raced most road courses on the east coast and have yet to find a corner that comes close to the entry speed of one of the last corners at Willow...I think Turn 8 (T8). There's been only one other corner this fast that I have seen on a road course, and that is at the Salzburgring in Salzburg, Austria. More about this corner later.
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T1:
From inside the car, you would not know that the entire front straight at Willow is downhill. You do not notice this until you are standing along the pit wall and see the elevation change from the last corner that leads onto the front straight to the end. With this being said, the 1M is making big power as it spools up its turbos going down-hill to T1. Speaking of the turbos, as was the 335i with this N54 engine, you would not know your engine was normally aspirated with the lack of turbo lag. The turbo lag is non-existent as it winds up the turbo seamlessly! Just barely touching 130mph at the end of the straight, you are on the brakes hard for T1 which is a true 90 degree left-hand corner. Something I expected from the 1M but which it did not exhibit was how stable the car is under heavy and aggressive braking. I am reminded of other cars with a short wheelbase as they dance & dart back-and-forth as you slow the car from high speeds. I would surmise that the stability of the 1M comes as a result of having the same track as the M3. While the 1M has a shorter wheelbase, the width remains the same as the M3. Now....down from 4th gear to 3rd. I love the way this car shifts! Like everything else about this car...it is fast and smooth! It makes it easy to have a seamless heel-and-toe downshift. (However, this driver would soon install a short shifter kit if he were lucky enough to own one of these cars.) With what has to be a 6 degree banked turn, the car has more grip than what you might think and allows you to quickly add more power from the apex to track out.


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T2 & T3:
The next set of corners...I would assume are T2 & T3. They are extremely fast right-hand corners! You are lightly on the brakes to first set your speed at the entrance for this long corner. This corner is a lot of fun as it allows you to feel exactly what is going on within the suspension of the car. You are just at the point of the car losing grip for a long ways which allows the driver to manage the throttle. Should you even think about getting a little greedy with more throttle thru this corner, you can just barely lift to get more grip to the front of the car. As with all BMWs, the 1M allows the driver to feel exactly what is going on with the grip and quickly instills confidence for the driver. This corner is very late apex. Very important NOT to turn in too early as the corner flatten outs on the exit, and you suddenly do not have the grip that you once did. As with most corners, turning in too early makes you feel real good at the entrance; however, you are soon feeling really, really bad on the exit. Same here...an early turn-in will force the left side of the car off the pavement for an exciting ride through the California desert! Speaking of which, just about every corner is equally important at Willow Springs as they all lead onto another straight-away (i.e. late apex).

As you accelerate up hill, you are looking at this huge wall of asphalt which is the next corner. Because of the up-hill climb, the car quickly decelerates. Again, the 1M is very stable under this aggressive braking. I would carry 3rd gear into the corner and quickly make a downshift to 2nd for a short distance. This is the section of the track where the 1M in my opinion is faster than the M3. It allows you take advantage of a lot of boost and a lot of torque through this slow speed (but technical) section of corners.


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T6, T8, & T9
Now....I'll jump (no pun) to the next corner which I believe is T6. Very important to compromise the exit of the previous corner allowing you to set up properly for this blind corner. Keeping the car in the middle of the track up to the top of this very fast right-hand corner. (Have I mentioned that every corner at Willow Springs is fast? ) After a few laps, you soon learn that this corner is flat out across the top of the hill, although your mind is telling you to lift! Another 10 mph on this corner....and you are probably seeing some daylight under your tires as you crest the top of the hill! What's very important here is to have the steering somewhat straight as the suspension compresses on the back side of this hill. Somehow, the car remains stable with some big-time suspension compression on the left side of the car. At this point, you are sending accolades to the engineers for choosing a fat tire that has a lot of grip!

Just as you catch your breath, you have the best view off the back side of the hill of what is about to come! Turns 8 and 9! WOW! Taking advantage of massive amounts of boost and torque (and the fact that you are going downhill), you quickly upshift to 4th gear (eventually into 5th in the DCT M3). The speeds continue to climb to over 130mph to one of the fastest corners I have ever been through on a road course! Just a very light tap with my left foot on the brakes...not so much to slow the car but only to settle the car for a very fast corner entry speed. With some R compound tires (or my boss telling me to go for it and my job was not on the line), I am convinced this corner could be flat out in both the M3 and 1M!! I cannot describe how fast this corner is! Again, with just a quick tap of the brakes, you are back on the throttle through a fast section. This, in my opinion is where the M3 is more stable and faster than the 1M and explains why the M3 produced a quicker lap time of 1.1 seconds (though it easily could have been 1.6 seconds - see times below). This is not a criticism of the 1M, but simply a reflection of the vehicle dynamics of a shorter wheelbase car. The longer wheelbase of the M3 transitions over a very bumpy but high-speed section of pavement. In what first appears to be a huge wide radius 180 degree corner, there is actually a straight section allowing you to accelerate before you once again on the brakes. Another late turn-in and apex, you must be patient before you unleash the boost leading onto the front straight. Just at the apex, there is a slight dip. You are waiting for the suspension to compress and then back onto full throttle. If you have carried the proper amount of speed on the exit, you will use actually use the extra pavement of the entrance to pit lane as your track out.

In short, it was a great week at Willow Springs of driving a great new addition to BMW's M fleet....the new 1 Series M! The 1M and M3's performance were fairly evenly matched at Willow Springs, with the M3 having a slight advantage in stability due to its wheelbase length. As mentioned earlier in this thread, if you are on the list for one of these rockets...you are very lucky! The BMW engineers have brought 30 years of M technology into a car that will bring a huge smile to your face just as it did to me. Can you tell I am excited!? The new 1 Series M is BMW!! The marketing description of "joy" is much too docile for the description of this great and fun car....I think the phrase "bad-ass" comes to mind!!!

Oh, and in case you were wondering about lap times, I ran the 1M, Competition M3 w/ DCT, and X5 M on the Willow Springs track for some timed runs which produced the following results:

Willow Springs
M3 ZCP DCT1:37.7*
1M1:38.8
X5 M1:40.5
* Can take away 0.5 seconds from the M3 time as I had a little bobble in the uphill section of T4
** DSC was off in all cars
*** I looked at the lap records at Willow. The SCCA has a couple of "stock" classes they call showroom stock. The class "T1" includes Vipers and Corvettes. The lap record for this class is in the 37's. With R compound tires, we would have been right there.



And finally, some bonus footage of the 1M on the Willow Springs track (compiled from multiple runs, driven by BMW track instructors):



Photo credits: Jeff Yip and Motoryard.com
Video by Bill Conger

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      05-23-2011, 10:50 AM   #2
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Finally a real review. Thank you.
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      05-23-2011, 10:55 AM   #3
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very cool. thanks
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      05-23-2011, 11:07 AM   #4
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"One thing's for sure though... that we can even compare so closely the 1M to the M3 on so many levels is a telling sign that the M engineers have brought us exactly what they set out to make - an M-badge-worthy car at a lower price point to attract younger (and more) M drivers."

If the 1M is intended to bring in younger and more M drivers, then one would think that the 1M would live on beyond it's limited edition-type availability.
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      05-23-2011, 11:12 AM   #5
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Great review!

How did the stock brake pads hold up to the extended track time?
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      05-23-2011, 11:16 AM   #6
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Fantastic write-up!!
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      05-23-2011, 11:16 AM   #7
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Great review!

How did the stock brake pads hold up to the extended track time?
Thanks!

They held up great. Same brakes as the M3, but stopping less overall weight, so they performed awesome. We mostly did 3 laps + 1 cooldown lap on each run, and there wasn't much if any brake fade.

After the runs I asked Donnie if he felt any brake fade and he also did not.
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      05-23-2011, 11:20 AM   #8
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In comparison, a nicely modified(both handling and power) 135i on street tires can lap WSR in the low 1:30's range. Aero and R-comps will get the car into high 1:20's.

Last edited by HP Autosport; 05-23-2011 at 11:27 AM.
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      05-23-2011, 11:35 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason View Post
Thanks!

They held up great. Same brakes as the M3, but stopping less overall weight, so they performed awesome. We mostly did 3 laps + 1 cooldown lap on each run, and there wasn't much if any brake fade.

After the runs I asked Donnie if he felt any brake fade and he also did not.
Did you notice any heatsoak on the track or the 2 hour canyon drive?
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      05-23-2011, 11:41 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuned1 View Post
Did you notice any heatsoak on the track or the 2 hour canyon drive?
None whatsoever. The 1M's oil temperature barely budged in the cars I was in once it got to operating temperature - both on the track and during the canyon driving.

I asked the same question to Sean Lobosco of BMWNA, who traveled with the BMW team to both the east coast drives at Monticello and the drive at Willow Springs. He confirmed that they had not seen any of the 6 test cars exhibit any heat soak or significant temperature variation in any of the cars.
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      05-23-2011, 11:43 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HP Autowerks View Post
In comparison, a nicely modified(both handling and power) 135i on street tires can lap WSR in the low 1:30's range. Aero and R-comps will get the car into high 1:20's.
very true, I passed on the 1M when my arrived. After driving it hard and putting it truth its paces I passed up my car and went for an M3. Great, great car but my 135i, Dinan'd out was much, much quicker and much more fun to drive. In the end, the 1M felt a lot like what I already had, just slower for the past couple of years...

Now I am happy E90 owner and loving ever minute of it...
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      05-23-2011, 12:11 PM   #12
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I wish they compared against a M3 manual gearbox.

And is the video available without the music?
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      05-23-2011, 12:12 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason View Post
None whatsoever. The 1M's oil temperature barely budged in the cars I was in once it got to operating temperature - both on the track and during the canyon driving.

I asked the same question to Sean Lobosco of BMWNA, who traveled with the BMW team to both the east coast drives at Monticello and the drive at Willow Springs. He confirmed that they had not seen any of the 6 test cars exhibit any heat soak or significant temperature variation in any of the cars.
That's great to hear, this is a nice review.
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      05-23-2011, 12:13 PM   #14
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Fantastic review, thanks for sharing!
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      05-23-2011, 12:34 PM   #15
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Good review but terrible driving in the video !!! ;-)
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      05-23-2011, 12:47 PM   #16
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Quote:
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.....unlike the M3, the 1M is not available with the variable-suspension setting EDC option. To those familiar with the M3's EDC settings, I would compare the 1M's suspension to the "normal" setting on an M3. .....
This makes me not really miss the EDC. I don't think I would be using anything but the 'normal' setting anyway(99% of the time). Even at the M Performance School in Spartanburg we had it in the normal setting most of the time.
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      05-23-2011, 01:04 PM   #17
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I like Metalica but would have preferred to hear the sound of the car as it went through the course.
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      05-23-2011, 01:05 PM   #18
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Wow it looks so menacing from that video angle. Amazing!
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      05-23-2011, 01:18 PM   #19
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How's the EDC at Sport+ setting comparing with standard 1M/M3 suspension?
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      05-23-2011, 01:28 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HP Autowerks View Post
In comparison, a nicely modified(both handling and power) 135i on street tires can lap WSR in the low 1:30's range. Aero and R-comps will get the car into high 1:20's.
Does that comparison take into account the driver / familiarity with WSIR? I know nothing about the driver of the 1M, but would he be able to do a low 1:30's in the modded 135i? Just trying to get an apples to apples comparison. Would have thought a stock M3 could do mid-1:30's out of the box, but maybe I'm wrong.
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      05-23-2011, 01:39 PM   #21
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Video made me realize something. The 1M has two stage break-lights. Am I seeing this correctly?
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      05-23-2011, 02:40 PM   #22
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Flame out the exhaust at 0:15
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