BF Garage: One Year in the 1M – The Last Analog M Car?

The process of pining for and then purchasing the 1M has been well documented on these pages. For me it was a very personal undertaking that was over three decades in the making, beginning with memories of my dad ‘s 2002. That was the time when BMW represented thinking differently about driving. Owning a car with a roundel was an experience that wasn ‘t about status but about defining you as a certain kind of automotive enthusiast. And ever since I could buy crappy used BMWs I ‘ve been searching for that magic answer for myself— a modern day version of that car.

After 6,500 miles in a 1M I ‘m not sure I ‘ve found it. The truth is that the 1M isn ‘t a successor to the 2002 or even the E30 M3. It ‘s very much its own car within the current M range and the annals of BMW. A torque monster with a short wheelbase and a propensity to oversteer like a drift car. Yet a year and a bunch of miles have proven speed doesn’t make it crucially different than any other M car for sale. Yes it gets out of its own way with authority. 0-60 times have been clocked in the low 4s by some. But thank God it doesn ‘t end there.

I ‘ve been thinking a lot about this over the past few months. Having spent plenty of time behind the current M3, M5 and M6, the 1M feels totally different. Yet those cars are quantifiably more “M ” with bespoke parts making up as much as 80% of the car. The 1M clocks in well under that with a “series ” derived engine and transmission and lacking all the electronic goodies of a modern M badged car. Yet those 6,500 miles have taught me that none of that matters. The 1M has a soul that is analog where most other modern performance cars are digital.

There are no electronic dampers or multi-stage launch controls. This is a car that relies on the driver for ultimate speed. And if you get it wrong you give it another go. Driving the 1M fast is a learning process as rewarding as anything I ‘ve ever experienced in a car.

Typically the reward zone on a modern M car doesn ‘t start until you ‘re near the limit or triple digits. It ‘s not a bad thing but just a reality with cars as incredibly competent and digitally enhanced. The 1M, like the E30 or even the E36 M3s, doesn ‘t need outright speed to reward the driver. Commuting or running a quick errand is as grin inducing as it is in a MINI.

One year and a bunch miles have produced zero faults and zero rattles. So no downsides then? Well the fuel tank is clearly made for chassis that wasn ‘t meant to average 15 mpg in the city. Yes I ‘ve got a lead foot and the massaged N54 isn ‘t the most efficient six cylinder mill out there. The other issue (of sorts) was having to add a half quart of oil at around 5,500 miles.

Other than that the biggest complaint I continue to have is a seating position that is about 3/4 of an inch too high for my 6 ’2 ” frame. This isn ‘t an issue with the standard manual seats but as someone who loaded their 1M, I had no choice when it came to electronic controls. Note to BMW, M products attract your biggest fans and these people are particular. Let them order what they want. They will pay for it, trust me.

BimmerFile BMW 1M

Speaking of paying for it, as much as I love my Alpine White 1M I still hold that BMW missed a lucrative market by not offering BMW Individual colors on the 1M. If I had a choice, I would have happily (maybe foolishly) ponied up for Laguna Seca Blue.

Tire wear is shockingly not as bad as I expected given my continued addiction to opposite lock. Similar brakes are looking good. Yet my 1M is still a track virgin. One of the benefits of running BimmerFile and MotoringFile are plenty of track days in cars that aren ‘t mine. So I ‘m going to let my 1M sit out as long as I can before melting tires and brakes at the track. But rest assured, it will be at a track before long.

Values of 1Ms are finally starting to dip slightly. A quick look at the classified show prices of cars with 5-10k getting closer to the original MSRP. From my quick research I ‘m seeing cars anywhere from 53k to 60k with miles as high as 10,000. That ‘s a healthy change from 8-10 months ago when those cars where going for 70-75k in the hottest markets.

BimmerFile BMW 1M

Isn’t a 1M priced like a used 996 GT3 insane? And how in the world is the 1M holding its value better than an M3? Apples to oranges of course. But the three are very different cars. All great in their own right but the 1M has a secret weapon when it comes to the heart-strings of enthusiasts. A magic combination of scarcity, simplicity, everyday usability and fun.

Where will values go? Unquestionably down. I expect them to slip as the F80 M3 is introduced, then more as the M235i comes out and more still with the new M4. And if BMW decided to build the M2 in 3-4 years they will certainly dip well below 40k. Where they will ultimately settle is anyone ‘s guess. However, not unlike the S54 equipped Z3 M Coupe and of course the E30 M3 before it, I wouldn ‘t be surprised to see them to start to settle and then slowly rise by the end of this decade.

But I didn ‘t buy my 1M to sell it. It ‘s in my garage to be driven and enjoyed. And in that sense it ‘s succeeded on all levels.

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  • Remonster

    As far as I know the 1M does have electronic dampers, they’re the same dampers that go onto the M3 but the driver can’t change their harshness. They’re just always on the middle setting, just like an E9x M3 if you don’t get the EDC option.

    I could be wrong. Also, as someone who ordered a 135i and received it just 3 weeks before the 1M was announced…I’m very jealous!

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      They’re not electric but basically the same fixed non-electric and non-adjustable versions on the current M3. That said there are a number of aftermarket electrically adjustable dampers available.

  • Amit

    Nice review Gabe. I feel the same about mine. The more I drive it the better it gets. The fact that I hardly took out my e30 M3 this summer is a tell tale sign that the 1M tickles all the senses perfectly. This is going to be one of those cars that 10 years from now will make you all nostalgic when you go out for a Sunday backroad blast. I’m 6’2″ as well and happy I went for a stripper, the seating position is so right that I’ve been working all summer to get my e30′s position the exact same. No rattles, no problems, just the same oil top off after a track day run. Sadly summer is over so “Q” is about to get tucked away for the long winter.

  • Dylan

    My 1M also required an engine oil top up after a track day. Also, my breaks make a slight humming noise since taking it on the track. I’m not an experienced track driver, but put this down to normal wear and will probably get the breaks looked at during the next service.

    I absolutely love my 1M and have done 18,000 kms now, and my E30 has barely had a look in. No regrets what-so-ever. Like Gabe, I’ve had no rattles or problems at all. The car seems very well put together. So much love!

  • Evan

    Great review and update. Thank you Gabe. I’d love a 1M. Maybe in four years I’ll have enough spare cash and the prices will have fallen a bit to get one. Any car that makes you smile no matter how quickly you’re going is a fabulous car. That’s why I’ll hold onto my base 2004 Cooper- ultimate speed may be slow but it knows how to have a good time!

  • Bob Hayhurst

    I saw a 1M yesterday in Northern Virginia. It was maybe fifty yards away but no mistaking that wonderful sound. It sounded absolutely magnificent…

  • http://twitter.com/sparoz Stephen Young

    Nice review Gabe, and I am still loving my 1M, but I found myself driving the X3 more and more with the family as the 1M seats on the trickle charger.

    I haven’t checked my seats as I am a mere 5’10, but there were at least two 1Ms in Australia where the Driver’s seat seems to be ridiculously high. When compared with the passenger’s seat they found that you can lower the passenger seats further than the driver’s side. May be worth checking your passenger’s seat to see if you have the same problem. For those two 1Ms, a trip to the dealer had fixed the problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/frank.granados.733 Frank Granados

    I can never warm up to the front end design of the current 1 series. But the 1M is the best looking rendition of this car, yet.

  • Win

    Great review. I feel the same. Perfectly put – ANALOG.

    STFU with feature creep people. If you haven’t owned one, you DON’T KNOW no matter how much you spend ONLINE.