2011 BMW 1 Series M Review

BMW Expert Reviews Feature Articles

2011 BMW 1-Series M
By Ming Tan


  • M heritage
  • Powerful and smooth revving 3.0 liter Twinpower Turbo inline 6
  • Unmistakable styling with an aggressive edge


  • Rubbery shifter diminishes that precise feel of the car
  • Minor exhaust drone
  • Some minor body aesthetic details

I love BMW M cars. I’ve fancied all the generations of M3’s over the years, of course starting with the E30 back in the late 80’s. I love the uniqueness that these special cars bring to the table. I love the double take that I often have to give to these cars when they drive by. And admittedly, I love the hype that builds every time a new M car is due to be released. It’s always interesting to experience the launching of a new BMW. But for car enthusiasts, we always wait to see when the M version will be coming.

BMW has been the undisputed market leader in the European sports and luxury segment here in the US. Over the years, they’ve had Audi closely tailgating behind waiting for the opportune time to pass, but that opportunity has never come up. As long as BMW keeps pushing innovation with cars like the 1 Series M, it will be tough for the Audi brand to supplant that position.

Bring in the 1 Series M. Conveniently, a nicely spec’d 1 Series M will run you about $55k. Right smack dab in between the $35,000 WRX STI and $75,000 Audi RS4 (*). And impressively, you’ll find potentially perfect middle ground with this rev happy 335HP, twin turbo inline six.

2011 BMW 1-Series M

Our test car came in at $50,460. This is virtually considered the base spec here in the US: Premium Package, heated seats, Xenon headlights, and automatic climate control. Our test car came covered in the unique Valencia Orange paint (**).

Driving Impressions
Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I remember the initial launch of this car and all the hype that came with it. I always had a thing for the M cars, so getting the keys to this car for a few days was a bit surreal.

Sliding into the driver’s seat, the first thing you notice is the layout of the cockpit. It’s clean and simple. You begin to get the hint of how BMW is the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” It’s pure.

Information is laid out in a clear manner, transmitting the information that you need to drive this car hard. The tach is on the right and the speedometer on the left. Vital statistics are low and center, but always visible.

Details such as the fat M Sport steering wheel help to make a strong connection between driver and machine. It’s tangible. It’s the right diameter and angle. It feels perfect.

M-design instrument cluster with white backlit instrument dials and red needles3-spoke, leather-wrapped multi-function M sport steering wheel

The leather dash and Alcantara gauge shroud are soft touches that showcase the quality level of this car. There are no hard plastic details and no potentially rattle prone components that may show wear over time. There is no mistaking this interior as a BMW M. And don’t forget the seats. The seats have nice upper support with decent side bolstering, covered with a very supple Boston leather covering which brings nice and elegant to the touch.

I referenced the exhaust note earlier. Upon start up, you can tell that this car is not just a sporty 1 Series. For a six, this car just sounds sweet.

I was a little cautious during my first outing with the car, but this 1 Series M has a way of making you want to drive it harder and harder; and faster. It wasn’t too far into the drive that you discover just how willing this car is to rev higher and higher. You feel like you need to drive this car to redline at every opportunity. The motor is so responsive to driver input and control. It’s a visceral experience that I recommend everyone to experience at least once with this car. In short, it’s an utter blast to drive!

This car encourages you to drive it at the higher range of its limits. Sure, the über-balanced suspension, the M Variable diff lock, the M Dynamic stability control, and the rev happy motor make this car “easier” to drive. But the adrenaline rush that comes along with it is, frankly, addicting.


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