Opinion: Motor Trend 1M Best Drivers Car

I ‘ve known about this comparo for a few weeks now and have had some time to let it gel in my brain a bit. I learned of these results at a recent event where one of Motor Trend ‘s regulars was in attendance (great guy). This nameless individual was discussing how both Pobst and Bell came away unhappy with the 1M on the track. He continued on that they BOTH said the brakes in the 1M were horrible and how they warped the rotors. They also BOTH said the car was understeering enormously and wouldn ‘t turn in. Me being me, I called this out as this differed significantly from my experiences, I tend to express my take on things and opinion quite often (for better or worse).

As I talked with this individual it became very very obvious to me that I couldn ‘t honestly look at this comparison as something I would put much weight behind in any way.From the description I was presented, in my opinion they didn ‘t warp the rotors, they glazed them with burned/melted stock pads which happens when you are brake happy. The brakes in the 1M are one of it ‘s best traits in my opinion, but if tracking regularly you obviously should use better pads. While the 1M is not as neutral as the M3, Pobst also complained the M3 understeered which is hard to understand, it can easily be adapted to by throttle steering and then it is a fly by the seat of your pants beast. Those two points alone didn ‘t add up- especially the apparent issue with the brakes.

I also learned these guys were mic ‘d during their testing. After Pobst went through his paces the possibility Bell had heard everything already, including his debrief is a strong possibility (which another journalist in our group also called foul on). It is just tough to digest two people getting into a car and coming away with the same exact view if the vast majority of auto journalists came away with a completely different view. Check out Tiff ‘s review over at 5th Gear for one and what the vast majority in the industry feel is accurate (below). Bell also seemed to be in the position of getting, for lack of a better term, sloppy seconds. Pobst pushed these cars quite hard out on the track and after he was done with his take it was Bell ‘s turn- not a great spot to be in when you are getting what ‘s left in a car and tough to make an accurate review on.

I recently learned a few interesting factoids about Motor Trend in General. These guys are paid by Motor Trend to come in under testing comparisons only and they are prepped on the cars by staff members in cars prepared by staff members, what happens to them prior is the driver ‘s guess. Motor Trend relies heavily on advertisers to support their enterprise (as do most auto entities including us here) and you will now learn that BMW does not currently advertise in Motor Trend, while many others in the shootout that did well do. Does that impact reviews and comparisons? We have no idea but we ‘d hope not, so let ‘s just say it plays no role but the fact that BMW is not an advertiser is still a fact that needs to be out there.

There is some history with BMW not doing as well as others in these sort of comparisons. The most recent time BMW didn ‘t do as well as they could have was not that long ago. If you look back at the August issue where the X5M lost out to the Cayenne Turbo you ‘ll see that the performance was similar but the X5M is $28K cheaper. Seems like a better pick to me as with $28K you could buy a boat load of other stuff (E46 Race car?) and still have a beast of vehicle that performs just as well as the Porsche equivalent. What was the reason for this- exhaust note?

I may be wrong, but to me some things are just not adding up. I am not trying to be a BMW apologist or defame these guys or the magazine at all, that ‘s not my point. In fact I ‘d go so as to say they ‘re great in their own right as drivers and I read the magazine regularly. The issue I really had was that I am not in agreement when it comes to their general views with the car, who wins and loses I couldn ‘t care less about. I don ‘t understand what is going on with this comparison and I have a personal issue with knowing my view differs on a car so significantly when compared to the big names in the industry.

I ‘ve driven the 1M a fair amount and I can ‘t seem to put my finger on what may have happened to get such differing views. Like in my other profession I take pride in what I do. I need to be sure I am as accurate as possible and that I am doing things the best I can. Sometimes things like this happen and I do some investigating to make sure I was not in the wrong (learning should never stop). I ‘m not so sure what happened here, but one thing I do know is that we at BimmerFile do not agree with their take on the 1M and stand by our original take on the car. What your opinion on the Motor Trend article is and what to take from it is entirely up to you.

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  • Sackboy

    Michael- great article you wrote! Sometimes you just have to work harder, dig a little deeper, and then- you do get there!  The 1 M  that I drive- is much MORE like Tiff`s!  FUN, Fun, fun!  sackboy

    • Jeanrabelais

      I read the whole review and watched all the videos and I appreciated the comparisons and the frank discussion and criticisms. The videos actually shows what the article argues. The 1m actually seems to not want to turn and almost plows. Honestly,  I wish the car wasn’t so hyped and only produced in limited numbers for a just one year because I was interested in the car but dealer mark ups and the almost fanatical cowtowing by all those that bought into the car at msrp or higher really turned me off. I love BMW but hype and fanaticism turn me off. 

  • Dave

    I completely agree with this. Understeer? The Tog Gear comment of The Stig looking where he’s going might dispute this.

    This is the second time Motor Trend bashed the 1M…but I have to admit, other than their review of the 1M, I never paid much attention to what Motor Trend had to say anyway….I feel like the try too hard.

  • mb

    Don’t sweat it.  The entire press community doesn’t have to be in agreement.  To me, no investigation needed.  They didn’t like the car.  Good for them.  I like it, and if I’d had the funds at the time, I’d own one.  One day!

  • I was so astonished by the comment left by Motor Trend and the evaluation marked for a car as good as the BMW 1M Coupe. Such a car has spent enormous experimental and theoritical tests to be throned as one of the best M cars ever built by BMW M GmbH.

    I believe justice is now done to the BMW 1M Coupe.

  • Dr Obnxs

    I think many are missing the point. The 1M was said to be a lot of fun on the street, but on the track it was more work than others. Gabe’s point about using power to get steering is right on the money, but sadly thats not the fastest way around a track. one other point in the article that I didn’t bring up that is worth mentioning were the comments that it’s too bad this is a limited production run car. With a year or two of improvements available, if BMW were to choose to continue, the refinedments offered could significantly improve the car. But that is not to be, and the car is what it is.

    It is true that these types of articles have to amplify the differences, otherwise they would be content free. But I do think that some denial must be going on if one has to sign up to the fact that the article was fundimentally biased in some major way. The car that was slammed the most for little things was the Corvette. They downgraded it a lot because it had “cheater” tires, yet all the manufacturers could have put whatever tires they wanted to on a car, and 3-4 other cars had tires that had even lower tread wear (60) that the Corvettes (80).

    I can’t really sign on to Probst being biased here. He says he really likes the M3, but he doesn’t like the 1M. That’s pretty balanced and shows no hint of any anti BMW slant. It’s also OK to feel that way. Personally, I’m not happy in 1 series cars. Every time I get one out on a track, I find I can’t really get to my most comfortable seating position, cause I like to sit upright, and all the 1s in the US have sunroofs that steal a couple inches of headroom! (On the street this isn’t a problem for me at all, and I, like pretty much everyone else, have a blast.) To be fair, I haven’t had seat time in the 1M though. That there are those that really like the car and sing it’s praises is OK by me, not everyone has to agree.

    But keep in mind, these types of articles are mostly to give us mear mortals a taste of what we might experience if we were able to drive cars like these. Most will never get seat time in any of them at all, even as a passenger! So it’s a virtual taste of what we all would want to do, if given the chance. What does it really matter? When it comes down to it, if one wants and LFA, and has the money, one is going to get one! And be pretty stoked about it. I’m not thinking that a F458 is getting cross-shopped with a Boss 302…. But to have cars as vastly different on the track at one time remindes me of the Historic races with the cars from the 60s running. Minis, Lotus 7s, Shelby Mustangs, Corvettes, Jags, Cobras and Ferraris all running around at the same time! It’s a pleasure to see, even if something like that just doesn’t happen in the modern day. Take it for what it’s worth, and then have fun with the rest of your day.

    • Tan Cruz 85

      This! They were fair on their calls IMO and they complained about another car having bad understeer too- the mid engine audi r8 gt.

    • Jeanrabelais

      Well said. It was a pleasure to read the article and watch all the videos and imagine oneself driving all these fantastic cars side by side in Sunny California. 

  • Maxo318

    Great write up Michel! Those two guys are doing the review with some money under the table..is obvious!They are biassed. For long time MT was trashing BMW image and reputation… See what Tiff Needle-5th gear-,Jeremy Clarkson-Top gear- and Chris Harris-EVO- said about the 1M…for me is good enough. Motor Trend is good for wipe your butt…and sometimes the paper is too rough.

    • Jeanrabelais

      Really, I felt that the problem actually might be that MONEY DIDN’T PASS UNDER THE TABLE.  I guess if you don’t like the message you can always try to kill the messenger. 

  • Anonymous

    The way a car behaves at 8/10ths or 9/10ths could be vastly different in how it behaves at 10/10ths or even 11/10ths (beyond the limit).  Pro drivers are much faster and much more aggressive than track instructors, in my experience.  They are in another category by themselves.  I’ve had many track days under my belt at 5 different tracks in CA and NV.  I’ve also gone on instructor rides.  But nothing compared to a ride I got in a pro driver’s car.  It was nothing short of mind-blowing.

    Fading brakes could be a result of how hard they were driving.  You and I could drive on the track in what we consider an aggressive manner, but pros take it to a whole other level.

    Understeer upon initial turn-in and corner entry is also different than understeering under power.  The fastest way around a corner is to turn in well, and then be able to apply power on exit without oversteering.  Using oversteer to correct understeer is not ideal, and if the 1M can’t turn well unless it’s under power, and it turns too much under power, then that’s the problem they are describing.

    With its short wheelbase and plentiful low-down torque, it is way too easy to induce a power slide in a 1M.  There are tons of 1M videos that show this trait.  The M3 with its longer wheelbase and low-torque high-rpm engine doesn’t exhibit the same behavior.  Is the tail-happy nature of the 1M fun?  Sure.  Is it the fastest way around a racetrack?  No.  Is it the most benign response expected from a driver?  No.

    Many of the recent M cars understeer to some extent, compared to the old.  The most neutral would probably be the E30 M3, and the 1995 E36 M3, and probably because they had equal size tires front and rear, and didn’t have to resort to fat tires in the rear because they had too much power to lay down.  The 1996-1999 E36 M3 understeered a bit due to switching to a staggered setup.  The E46 was known to understeer badly in its stock form, probably because the staggered setup was so extreme.  The E90/E92/E93 corrected this problem somewhat by reducing the difference between the front and rear tire widths, so that the end result was more neutral.  And the 135i understeers a lot, so it’s not surprising that the 1M doesn’t turn in well.

    All in all, the 1M can be fun on the road, fun at the track, but not the most effective at the track.  It can be a hoot to drive, but also scary too.  Look at the Stig mostly driving sideways, having to control the power oversteer.  I think the 1M would make a great drift car.  The M3 is more composed on the road and the track, and therefore, it is more effective at the track.  Does it mean the M3 is less fun just because it behaves better?  That’s subjective and depends on who is driving.

    • Maxo318

      I own a 88′ e30 M3,a 08′ e90 M3 and 11′ e82 1M…I do a lot of track days during the year and I could tell you that the 1M run in circles around the e90 M3.Period.I love all 3 of course but I want to be fair with the little M.. Just for comparing,see the Stig lap times and the 1M did an impressive results…wet tarmac included;-)

    • Jeanrabelais

      Well said. I love these even handed comments. 

  • I said it in the previous article on this and I’ll say it again. I’ve driven a 1M for many laps at Laguna (and elsewhere) so I read this with a fair amount of knowledge on the subject. Yes the 1M isn’t as neutral as the M3. And when pushed (as we reported in our track review) it will initially understeer. But Probst’s generalities such as “I hate this car. It won’t turn” feel like they’re there for shock value as much as anything else. 

    Then there’s this one: “I just didn’t like what happened with the handling as I turned the wheel, there was just not enough response entering the corner. And braking hard made it worse.” I can sorta get a little what what Randy is saying but again it feels like he’s going to the extreme when trying to describe what’s happening. The 1M does indeed turn in and can be controlled wonderfully with the throttle (easier than the M3 in some respects).

    Braking is also interesting as they mentioned that the rotors warped after a few laps. Again having done the same track in what is likely the same car I’m a little shocked by this. The brakes faded (as almost any street pad with stock fluid will do) but didn’t come close to anything beyond that. In fact they were noticably better than the M3 after the same amount of laps. 

    In short I have to come away a surprised at the comments he makes. A few points have some high level validity but a lot of it left me scratching my head based on my experience in  the same car at the same track. Maybe BMW didn’t look after the car as they should of before handing it over? Or maybe they had their minds made up before they got in the car?