From the M1 and E28 M5 of the 1980’s to the E30 and E92 M3s of later decades, the M badge has graced some of the most capable driver’s cars ever to leave Munich. As auto consumers move toward downsizing, however, many purists bemoan the loss of the large-displacement, free-revving engines that sat under the hoods of the past’s M cars. Enthusiasts, too, decry the sumptuous luxury and massive curb weights of modern Ms, claiming that their tossable, bare-bones driving experience has been lost. To those critics, however, BMW responded with the 2011 BMW 1-series M, replicating the Ms of the past with its organic, high-revving driving experience. It’s this very capability that makes the 1-series M already a proven modern collectible.
Sharing many of its components with the previous generation M3, the 1-series M is a tour-de-force of acceleration and handling. Its 3.0-liter turbocharged N54 inline-six, derived from the supremely capable inline-six in the 335is, develops 340 horsepower and 332 lb.-ft. of torque available from just 1,500 RPM. Through an upgraded ECU and exhaust enhancements, the M division raised boost pressure from 8.7 psi to 11.6 psi over the standard N54 straight-six, also adding an overboost function that can temporarily raise torque to 369 lb.-ft. In addition, the 1-series M weighs in at just 3,346 pounds — all of these impressive figures lead to a 0-60 time of around 4.5 seconds and a 107 mph quarter-mile of around 13.0 seconds. Astonishing.
To stay true to its purist clientele, the 1-series M is equipped with only one transmission option–a close ratio Getrag Type K 6-speed manual with a dry sump lubrication system. In addition, power is channeled to the rear wheels through an infinitely lockable M sport differential, which can automatically engage as soon as any wheel-speed difference is detected in the rear axle. And of course, there is a prominent “M” button on the steering wheel that will adjust throttle sensitivity for a sportier experience.
The 1-series M’s suspension and steering mechanisms, too, help it to establish its place as a world-class sports coupe. Utilizing MacPherson struts for the front axles and a multi-link setup in the rear, the 1-series M borrows front control arms, its front anti-roll bar, a front strut lower brace, and its hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering system directly from the E90/92/93 M3. The car also features fenders that are flared two inches over the standard E82 1-series, while a blacked-out rear diffuser concealing quad chrome exhaust tips hints at the car’s sporting character.
The 1-series M was never intended to be a mass-production vehicle for BMW. Production only took place from March of 2011 until December of 2011 for US-bound models, and European-spec production continued only until June of 2012. Unbelievably, a worldwide total of only 6,342 units ever rolled off of the assembly line, and only 983 of those 1-series Ms ever made it to the North American market. Despite the limited market for RHD vehicles, their production still surpassed production for North America, with 1,204 RHD units built during the short production stint. This limited production also limited consumers’ choice in buying their new 1-series M — the car’s exterior was only available in classic Alpine white, Black Sapphire metallic, and Valencia Orange, while the interior only came in Black Boston leather with orange contrast stitching. By far the rarest color is the Black Sapphire metallic, with only 222 of the 983 North American examples and 1,414 of the European examples wearing the hue. For collectors, it’s these Black Sapphire examples that will continue to be the most sought-after.
Autophiles have already realized the appeal of the 1-series M, as many second-hand models are now selling for well over their original price tag. Autoblog.com found that the average asking price for a used 2011 1-series M was $61,670 with an average mileage of 11,600, eclipsing the car’s average new MSRP of $46,135. Prices will continue to rise as low-mileage examples become more difficult to find–anyone pondering purchasing a 1-series M should act quickly.
The 1-series M is certainly the last of a dying breed for the BMW brand, and the automaker knows it. It’s rare that any new sports car can deliver such an organic, analog driving experience as does the 1-series M, and it encapsulates perfectly the very enthusiasm and spirit that is so characteristic of the M badge. Though an M2 is likely to surface within the next few years, it surely won’t be able to live up to the allure of the famed 1-series M, making this sports coupes one of the ultimate modern collectibles available on today’s market.
Please enjoy this TFLcar.com video review documenting the debut of the newest M generation, the M3/M4.
Frank caught automotive fever early in life. Hailing from a long line of car fanatics, he was able to recite the year and model of every car that passed him by age five. His passion and love for the automobile have only grown since then. When not thinking about cars, he is reading, writing, learning, or dreaming about them. His area of expertise is in the realm of German and Italian cars, of which Porsche is a favorite. Frank currently resides in the heart of NASCAR country in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his family. He enjoys driving exotic cars in the beautiful Carolina weather.