Road Test: BMW gives power to its 1M

The 2011 BMW 1M coupe is driven on The 2011 BMW 1M coupe is driven on a track at Monticello Motor Club in Monticello last year. Prices for the 2011 1M start at $46,135. (May 11, 2011) Photo Credit: Bloomberg

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The BMW 1M adds power and performance to the Bavarian automaker's smallest model, but at a daunting price.

The 1M is part of BMW's renowned M line, which produces the sportiest versions of many of the brand's models.

The new 1M coupe is a clever exercise in life-cycle management, and a good, but not great, car.

The 1M's increase in power and performance is relatively modest. A cost-conscious shopper should seriously consider the slightly less powerful BMW 135i, or a less-expensive small sporty model from mainstream brands. The Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo or Subaru WRX STi may not match BMW's prestige, but how much is the blue and white BMW roundel worth to you?

The attractive 1M is fast and marvelously responsive. Its interior offers some welcome upgrades from the mainline 1-series. Overall, though, the improvements are relatively mild for an M vehicle.

Since 1972, BMW's M division has boosted the performance of the automaker's vehicles by increasing their power and reducing their weight. In addition to producing some tremendously exciting cars, this serves several purposes:

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It reinforces the idea that BMWs are the ultimate driving machines.

It gives the most performance-oriented BMW owners something special to enjoy and brag about.

It pads the bottom line.

It injects new life into vehicles that are about to be replaced by new, presumably better, models.

BMW's entertaining subcompact 1-series is a perfect candidate for an M makeover. A new version is on the horizon. (The new 1-series hatchback is already on sale in Europe. A U.S.-bound coupe and convertible can't be far behind.)

The 2011 1M is faster, lighter and more powerful than the admirable 135i that's one price rung lower in BMW's smallest car line, but not enough to justify the extra cost. The 1M also lacks some features -- voice-recognition, standard Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls -- a $46,000-plus subcompact should have.

Prices for the 2011 1M start at $46,135. The 1M I tested had a hands-free phone system, power front seats, memory, an iPod adapter and a few other options. It cost $49,035.

The 1M is marvelously enjoyable to drive. The steering is as precise as a hunting scope. The chassis holds rock-steady through fast curves.

The 1M delivers some sizzle for the last year or so of the current 1-series' life, but other small sporty cars offer a better combination of value and performance.

 

BMW 1M coupe

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Base price: $46,135

Price as tested: $49,035 (excluding destination charge)

Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo DOHC variable-timing 24-valve straight-six

Power: 335 horsepower at 5,800 rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual

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EPA fuel economy rating: 19 mpg city/26 highway/21 combined.

Wheelbase: 104.7 inches

Length: 172.2 inches

Width: 71.0 inches

Height: 55.9 inches

Curb weight: 3,296 pounds

Bottom line: Power has its price, but is it worth it?

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