2011 BMW 1 Series M Review

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4-wheel BMW M vacuum-assisted ventilated, cross-drilled compound disc brakes with floating brake rotors

Value/ Who should buy it?
As I’ve discussed before, the choices in this market segment often come down to Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. Honestly, the competition is tight and it often comes down to test driving these more than once, side by side. These market leaders are all making such good quality cars, it makes the final decision that much more difficult. And even consider that you can get equal or better performance out of less expensive Japanese counter parts these days, although those typically require a little massaging of the chassis and motor to truly compare. But nevertheless, they should be considered when looking for a performance sedan.

2011 BMW 1-Series M

But as I also mentioned, BMW M Sport is an icon. The heritage is unmistakable. I believe in their design and technology principles and I have faith in the brand’s history. I am an enthusiast who can honestly say that I love cars and the emotional experience of driving, whether that is a purely utilitarian SUV to a bahn storming European hot sedan. I love it. If you’re an enthusiast, a driver, you will love it too.

RATING 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 4.0 4.0 4.7/A-

2011 BMW 1 Series M:

  • Engine: 3.0 Liter All Aluminum Twin Turbo Inline 6
  • Power: 335HP at 5900RPM
  • Torque: 332 foot pounds at 1500 to 4500RPM (Additional 37 ft pounds available with the M Sport button)
  • Transmission: 6 speed manual
  • MPG: 19 City / 26 Highway
  • Price: $46,135 / $50,460 as tested

Pros (explained)

  • M heritage – It’s hard to argue with the pure bloodlines that flow through this car. M has become one of the most significant and recognizable letters in the automotive industry. Anything from BMW with the M moniker should be taken seriously.
  • The 3.0 liter Twinpower Turbo inline 6 – For not being a “specially” built M motor, this powerplant is fantastic. It’s smooth, yet has a deep purr, just like a sports car should. It’s amazingly willing to run as hard, as high, and as fast as you want it to. Out of the box, it’s simply impressive.
  • Styling – It’s unmistakingly different than any other 1 series car on the road. From the bumper back through the beautiful widebody metal work, the car has an aggressive edge to it that makes this 1M special. The 1M is supposed to be the true successor to the E30 M3, and I think it’s done a great job in bringing excitement to the M line of cars.

Cons (explained)

  • Rubbery shifter – Okay, so obviously I’m reaching just a bit. But really, the shifter is one of the direct connections to the motor itself, and the tangible feel through the shift gates matters to me. I prefer a precise, short throw, short height shifter. The 1M covers everything well except the rubbery feel which diminishes that precise feel.
  • A little exhaust drone – Don’t get me wrong. I love the exhaust note of this car. It’s got an amazing sound for an inline 6. However, for those who would have to drive this as a daily driver, and those daily drives included a boring highway commute, I felt the 65 mile an hour drone would have been a bit intrusive for some.
  • Body aesthetic details – I hate to nitpick, but I’ve never liked the curved lower side skirt line of the 1 series. That’s the one detail that takes just a tiny bit of its aggression away. I’ve always liked M cars for their unique and more aggressive styling, but I was disappointed to see the curvy detail remain as part of the M package. I also don’t care for the pointed corner detail of the headlights. Again, these are simple personal preferences that are far overshadowed by the sheer, awesome performance of this car. So when trying to find some cons, it’s not easy…

* Of late, I’ve been playing around with the Audi RS4 and more recently a nicely modified Subaru WRX STI. Neither of these cars are slouches. The RS4 was mated with the stellar 420hp V8 that it also shared with the early R8’s; the STI was built for the street with a nicely tuned 360hp boxer flat four cylinder. Both were very different cars, despite both having a healthy bit of power and torque. The RS4 was a complete package: a deep, powerful, buttery smooth V8 motor and all the bells and whistles inside to pamper the most discerning luxury sports car enthusiast, though it suffered when the roads turned twisty. The STI was a bit more raw. It had a snarling, burbly flat four cylinder motor with a lot of upside. In stock form its 300hp was plenty, but built right with a tweaked suspension and some smart tuning, the 360hp package was also a pure pleasure to drive. However inside, the spartan STI didn’t pamper you with the creature comforts of the Audi. Of course, there is a clear price point differential between the $75k RS4 and the $35k STI, but the interior features were not remotely close.

** The base trim of the 1 Series M comes in at $46,135. Offering a simple palette of only three colors, only white is the no charge option. Valencia Orange and Black Sapphire Metallic are both $550 options. A fully spec’d black or orange 1 Series M with the Convenience Package including navigation, heated seats, the Premium Package, and the upgraded Harman Kardon sound system will boost the MSRP up to $54,194.

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