OP-ED: 2011 The Year of the 1M

With the craziness of the Holidays behind me, I sit here and write my first opinion piece of the New Year. What 2011 will bring in terms of the World markets and what wars will be started for reasons that make little sense to us ants marching in the day to day grind is anyones guess. However, what BMW has in store for us we have a pretty good idea about one vehicle in particular.

While 2010 saw us depicting (accurately I might add) what BMW and ///M would be giving us enthusiasts in 2011 as the 1M Coupe; the new year means the car will soon be brought to market. A Frankenstein of sorts- the 1M has been hyped as the drivers car, the nimble fun loving and menacing car that people clamor over. In some peoples minds it is the car that some where along the line BMW lost sight of while it designed cars for niches that have no real reason to be exploited.

BMW has always blurred the lines of sporty and luxury, but it is the latter that some people misconstrue. BMW is a premium brand with sporting intentions and in no way should it be considered luxury, premium yes- luxury no (unless one is discussing the 760 LI or Alpina offerings). Luxury should be left for cars like the Rolls Royce Ghost in which the steering wheel is not even offered with heating because nobody cares if the driver ‘s hands are cold when you are sitting it the back with hand stitched seats and personalized wood trim that matches the bottle of Dom you have chilling for later.

The 1M is a car that, while built to be sporty, it was also tweaked in little ways to make it feel more premium- covering the cheap hard plastics with alcantara is a good way to step things up a bit. The 1M gives people that want something premium and track worthy an option that previously did not exist outside larger and more costly offerings from BMW.

The only cars that come to mind as somewhat comparable from other manufacturers are the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Suburu STi, Audi TT RS, and the Porsche Cayman. The 1M is a huge step up from the EVO and STi in terms of premium build. The Audi is premium but will not offer as much sport (even in RS trim) and with the Porsche you sacrifice functionality of rear seats, so in the end the 1M is in its own class (premium 4 passenger coupe under $50k). Thus it continues to follow BMWs latest plan of building vehicles for niche markets.

The 1M will not be built in large numbers so it may be viewed by collectors like the original E30 ///M3 is currently. Where they differ is that the E30 went decades before being sought after and the 1M appears to have already reached cult status on the internet and in the rapid pace of pre-orders dealers are seeing.

The 1M is a game changer for ///M in many ways. It is a test offering to see if buyers want feel and driving thrill over ultra premium materials and techno-gagetry. /// M could charge the same premium for all that feel but just offer less in terms of added stuff. Apparently, that stuff is not wanted by most of us as evidenced by the huge outcry we saw in our inbox and comments section about the manner in which the 1M was initially packaged on day one of ordering.

If successful it is easy to see ///M building cars more along the lines of the 1M. Making cars for drivers wanting premium and performance rather than the most expensive option ladened model in a specific series line. This could open the door to the US market for Alpina to bring offerings with more luxury (true luxury) and slightly less sport. In my mind, the writing is on the wall for a 5 Series and 3 Series from Alpina to hit the US if the 1M beta test is a success. I am all for Alpina coming stateside in more models as what they are able to do is amazing in terms of individuality and performance. Alpina in the US could also allow ///M to get back to its roots.

In the end 2011 will bring a lot of change and fresh ideas to BMW and the 1M is only the surface. Stay tuned for our coverage of all BMW has in store for the new year.

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  • Gabe

    It’s an interesting idea but one that makes a lot of sense. Make M slightly more performance oriented (especially in the 1, 3, Z4 and maybe 5 models while bringing Alpina over to take the premium sport segment. The only problem is the power of the brand or lack there of for Alpina in the US. I hope that’s not a deal-breaker because I love the thought if seeing B3s on US roads.

  • JonPD

    Still eager to lay hands on the 1M, I do have to say though that the one car by a long shot I would do anything to own would be a E89 M preferably built more sport and less luxury. I would love to see a Z4 M GT3 celebration car (one of the most beautiful designs off all time to my eye).

  • CCBiggs

    I still don’t fully understand the logic of the 1M. A brand new 135i (with manual transmission) and minimal options is a great driver’s car and has just 35 less horsepower, but costs $10-15k less money, right?

    • CC- While the 135i is a great car it is not an M. That is like comparing the 335i to the M3. Different leagues. The ‘Ring times between the 135 and 1M are significant.

      The 135i has had issues on the track, while improved from earlier models it still has significant understeer, brakes bushing issues and relatively vague steering when compared to an M. There are many out there that resorted to running the wider wheels up front to lessen the understeer and that only helped so much- granted the 2011 suspension changes helped as well.

      You really could not do the mods M did for any cheaper on your own. It is not a car for everyone, the 135 is fine for the majority of people just like the 335 is, but there is a niche for higher performance offerings- the M3 is a prime example.

      Personally, as long as finances allow it I will have an M. The differences are night and day. Like going from an Audi to a BMW with sport, an M is a whole different animal.

      -M

  • rj

    I would have liked to see the previous-gen Alpina Z4 (built in Plant Spartanburg and finished by Alpina) sold in the US….that was one very cool looking Z4.

  • Avery

    Not exactly sure why you think the TTRS offers less sport than the 1M. The RS has slightly mor HP, less weight, and (not that it is important to me) a faster Nurburgring time.

  • I would like to add the presence of a limited slip rear end as another major advantage over the 135i. To me that probably providers single most significant boost to the ring times between the two.

  • goat

    Few thoughts: 1. The 1M should be head-and-shoulders above a 135i in driving experience… forget the HP gain… it’s the handling that will be fully “sorted” (LSD is vital in these cars, as is a wider track and properly sport-tuned suspension using the M3 bits)… coupled with a better engine/exhaust note. The value is definitely there over a 135i and by the time you mod a 135i to get comparable handling/power delivery/sound you will be well on your way to 1M pricing only without the OEM warranty and rarity.

    1. I too vote for the TTRS not to be discounted so quickly… the TT feels and looks more “special” outside and most importantly sitting in it.

    2. Michael I love the idea of Alpina coming over to Canada/USA. I remember reading about Alpina’s as a kid and thinking they looked lovely and were a great alternative to M cars. And if it could allow BMW to skew the M line more towards “lightweight performance” since Alpina could offer the more “well rounded luxury performance” then I am all for that!

  • Gabe

    Few thoughts: 1. The 1M should be head-and-shoulders above a 135i in driving experience… forget the HP gain… it’s the handling that will be fully “sorted” (LSD is vital in these cars, as is a wider track and properly sport-tuned suspension using the M3 bits)… coupled with a better engine/exhaust note. The value is definitely there over a 135i and by the time you mod a 135i to get comparable handling/power delivery/sound you will be well on your way to 1M pricing only without the OEM warranty and rarity.

    Could not agree more.

    Regarding the TTRS – haven’t driven it and reviews are mixed. Hoping the fact that the 1M early reviews aren’t means it is head and shoulder above it from an enthusiasts POV.

  • Dylan

    Michael – will you buy one? Gabe – will you do Euro delivery? Looking forward to your detailed review!

  • Gabe

    Gabe – will you do Euro delivery? Looking forward to your detailed review!

    I’m planning on it unless something with the car changes my mind.