BF Garage: 4 Years with the BMW 1M

It's hard to argue with that stance.

Four years ago this fall I took delivery of my BMW 1M. I had been on the list for one at my local dealer (creating it in fact) ever since I came home from the 135i launch in the winter of 2008. My thought was simple: if the 135i is this enjoyable in standard series form, imagine what The M division could do with it.

Through four years and 13,000 miles the 1M has more than loved up to that promise. A few of us at BF (mostly me admittedly) have waxed poetically about the car over the years probably more than enough for some. But with the hindsight of four years and a successor on the horizon with the M2, it’s a good time to look back.

1M_M3_M4_Launch_01599

The 1M was meant to be both a product to fill a gap (between in the aging E9x M3 and its successors) and return M to its roots. It was a bold plan not in its technical achievements but in its speed to market and plan to raid the parts bin of M range (specifically the M3). In the 60’s, the muscle car formula often was simply dropping a big engine in a small car. That’s the basic formula BMW M employees with the 1M. As any old hot-ridders know, it tends to work like a charm. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it did just that with the 1M.

Owning and living with a 1M is an exercise in restraint. While I haven’t minded putting miles on it, my philosophy has been to always make them quality miles. So that means not a lot of mindless highway travel and rarely using it for daily commutes. The by product is that every time the engine fires (about once every week or two) it feels special. And it sounds special too. With the M exhaust and M software tune the engine starts up in a cold state much louder and purposeful than any other N54 based BMW I’ve ever owned or driven. Following in the tradition of most M engines, the cold start is a not-so-subtle reminder that there’s something powerful lurking under the hood.

1M_b

The other by product of this restraint is low miles. Not a particularly bad thing on a car that has appreciated anywhere from 10-20% depending on where you look.

That brings up the next question. When to sell? Do you sell? After four years the question I ask myself is, why would I sell? The 1M is a special car. Flawed in all the right ways and severely limited in quantity, it’s an equation that is rare to find from a major auto company (especially these days). I was tempted by the Cayman GT4 (and even the on the list) but the lack of back seats and decent storage space would have meant it would have been used in an even more limited fashion. Totally fine but that doesn’t match how I would want to use it. The same temptation applies for the 997 GT3 but with similar drawbacks I’ve never seriously considered pulling the trigger. As much as I’ve looked over the past few years, it typically just takes a quick blast in the 1M to erase all ideas of selling.

Of course there’s another car on the horizon that would seem like more direct competition for the 1M. The M2 takes many of those ingredients that made the 1M so special and turns the power and chassis sophistication up a notch. While we haven’t driven the car yet (that will come in early February) we know the results include a car that is faster and more capable on the track. It sounds tempting but magic of the 1M isn’t necessarily speed – it’s feel. Whether the M2 will deliver the experience the 1M does in spades remains to be seen. But the idea of spending money on a car that is (likely) more money with less rarity following a similar recipe (this time with EPS) doesn’t seem that compelling to me. Yet.

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Exiting the fourth year of ownership means that BMW’s fantastic warranty has expired. Before that fateful day I spent some time going over the car making sure there was nothing I would consider a fault. I had my dealer Knauz BMW replace the iDrive screen (it had gotten slightly dim) and flush the differential fluid. Otherwise they performed the standard service and gave the car a clean bill of health. Being out of warranty seems strange given how new the car feels and even smells.

Tires are another matter. The rear Michelin PS2s that came on the car had become wonderfully worn to the point that drifting the car could happen in any gear and any time. Fun but ultimately not ideal in the rain. Replacing them however was slightly problematic as the PS2s have recently been replaced by Michelin with the new Super Sports (as found on the M3 and M4)21`. Better tires in every way, they were hard to pass up. But the idea of mixing tires (even if they were the same company and category) was a little worrisome to me. So I asked the experts at Tirerack and BMWNA. Both gave me the thumbs up telling me that the Super Sports had better dry and wet weather grip, better tread life, faster steering response and even tended to be slightly lighter. And since they were so similar in design mixing the set wouldn’t have any noticeable affects.

1M Road american DSC01640b

When I ordered my 1M the expectation was that I would keep it forever. Yet in the back of my mind I knew that was a long shot. Admittedly I get bored easily with cars and often make a switch 2-3 years into ownership. But with the 1M that hasn’t been the case. Every time I get behind the wheel Im reminded of everything I imagined it would be in 2008. The 1M’s personality is much less serious than any modern M car and its limits are more accessible. The combination of the two endow it with something the so many modern BMWs have shied away from; fun. Will it hold up in the years ahead? And how will it compare with the M2? Stay tuned.

1m

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  • syedH1

    Great post! my VO 1M has 77,000+ miles on it. I use it as my daily driver (120 miles a day for my commute), my weekend getaway-mobile, my baby carrier (we have a 6 month old baby), my only car, and WHAT A CAR it is. I have had NO issues at all with the car past warranty. It still looks new inside, has had aggressive maintenance done to it all the time, and puts a smile on my face every single day. For me the most important thing about owning a car is driving it……and that’s why i bought my 1M is to drive it. The Cayman GT4 is a great car i’m sure but can it transport my baby and stroller? NO. The M2 will be a fine car, but does it have the insane looking 1M styling, the amazing mythology and story, and the raw hooliganism this car has? No i doubt it. I will be keeping my 1M for the long haul…..i’d like to be that old guy in his 60s or 70s one day who pulls a bright orange 1M from underneath a cover and draws a crowd of kids around it admiring it for the rare piece of machinery it is——the 1M is a car which transcends its price and status; it’s one of those rare automobiles that goes down in history as an automotive adventure.

    • Well said. And awesome on those miles. I bet you have a ton of stories in those 77,000 miles.

      • Rich Rausser

        Nice write up Gabe – I picked up my 2014 M235i in March of 2014 via BMW’s ED program. Although I knew that I’d like this car based on everything that I had read prior to ordering it, little did I know that I would truly love this car. So much so, that I’ve driven over 31,000 miles in the 20 months that I’ve had the car. Unlike you, I cannot resist getting behind the wheel of this car – not only for my daily commute, but for track days too. I’ve done over two dozen track days in this car and all I can say is that it truly fits me like a glove. The power, handling, comfort and convenience, not to mention to the plain day-to-day utility of this car is amazing. Now, when I consider looking at the upcoming M2, I’m not sure that I need or want to pull that trigger. I’ve read a lot about the upcoming M2, and although I’m excited by what’s to come, I’m not sure that it will be materially better than what I am driving today. Sure, a 7:58 Nurburgring lap time is outstanding and impressive, but do I really gain that much in terms of day to day and track to track abilities? Not sure exactly what I’ll do, but at this point I’m happy with the 235i.

        • syedH1

          I realize you’re replying to Gabe but I’d like to chime in. I had a 135 before I got my 1M and the difference between the 135 and 1M in terms of driving dynamics, fun, and satisfaction was massively significant. The 135, like the M235, had m performance stuff and some m inspiration but wasn’t a real M car. The feel of a car totally changes when the full blown M components are installed as they are in the 1M and as they will be on the M2. I too was very very happy with my 135 until I drove a 1M and was totally blown away…..if you love your M235i I promise you that you will be mega mega in love with an M2. The M2 is following the 1M template so it will be good….

          • Couldn’t have said it better. The M235i is a great car. However based on my experience with the 135i, M235i and the 1M I’m confident that the //M will take the 2 Series platform to a level we haven’t seen before.

  • EvanHVYWGHT

    Never sell. The 1M is an unbelievably special car. I really enjoyed this update.

    Right now I’m debating about getting on the list for an M2. I love my E91 however when I got it 3.5yrs ago, we were balancing a lot of needs with kids and other drivers so we got an auto- which I fully regret. My Cooper is manual and my wife’s F30 is a manual. And I miss it. The E9x chassis is just so sublime though… I drove the M235i the other day and it is an amazing car. I’m thinking adding the full M touch will only make it better. I’m just afraid about regretting getting rid of my wagon- RWD, sport package with amazing steering feel and handling. I thought about getting an 1M on the second hand market- they’re just going up in price or have been modded so that won’t work.

    To M2 or not to M2. That is the question….

  • hemisedan

    I’m also adding my expectations for my replacement for my r59 JCW that’s lease ends the 1st of April. Going away from the MINI this time. Why? One the dealers won’t deal and for about $15 a month more on a lease, I can get, Lowely optioned as I want, the m235i. I only drove a 228i automatic and well, it felt nice. But I’m getting is S close to the M2 as I can get without being one. Ok, shouldn’t I just wait for the M2? Sounds about right except BMW won’t be shipping the M2 until late 2016 and I need a car this Spring. Here’s what I built:

    m235i Mineral Grey Manual transmission Moonroof delete Cold Weather Package (gotta love the heated steering wheel in Iowa) Orbit grey mixed wheels & tires That’s all my options from the factory

    Port Install option Limited Slip Differential M Performance owl stars and carbon fibre interior trim

    I’ve also ordered after market Mineral Grey pained grille either the BMW M colors. Carbon fibre mirror, shark finn, key lock and side marker lights in Mineral Grey painted. And for wheels, I’ll use the stock wheels for Winter tires next year. Apex aero 7 wheels in 8″ for the front and 9″ for the rear and replace the rear tires with 245 X 40 X 18. Big and littles, in other words.

    That’s the build. And it’s waiting at port to come here by for a March 9th PCD in Spartanburg. That should be fun, I’d love to do s EU delivery, but timing just isn’t the best. This should be a fun, interesting car, my kind next to an M car. As close as I’ll ever get to one. Babes talking about these BMW cars us what set me to looking in this direction, and I thank you. It may not be a real M2, but it’s pretty close.

    • hemisedan

      Just received notice, my Lil Grey Ghost is now on the water heading for the Port of Charleston on January 15, 2016. The Galveston Highway is the ship he’s on.

    • syedH1

      i’d get a lease extension and wait….OR just buy something to drive for 6 months or something until an M2 arrives. the M2 will be a much, MUCH better car than the M235. The M235 is ok…but doesn’t feel like an M car in any way, IMO.

      • hemisedan

        A little late for that, plus there won’t be much dealing on the M2’s for a year or more. Also the way that I’ve optioned my little m235 out, it’ll be just what I’m looking for. A true M? No, but pretty darn close considering how I’ve optioned, or should say, not optioned it out. It’ll work for me, there’s not a real track within 300 or more miles from where I live, so I won’t worry about track days. Thanks for your suggestion though.

        Also, it’s on it’s way here as I speak, on the Galveston Highway import at Southampton for a New Year’s Eve rest.

        • You’ll love it.

          • hemisedan

            Thanks Gabe, that means a lot to me. A Happy and Prosperous New Year to you and your family.

            C’Novem Godem as they would say in Russia this evening over a bit of Stoli!

  • CSem

    Congratulations to the responder below for actually owning a 1M and having actually “driven it” for 77,000 miles.This is in stark contrast to the many responders on this BF Garage article, not unlike the author of the article above, who seems to have lost some amount (not alot) of perspective on why we as readers of this site love to login and immerse ourselves in “driving” as opposed to “collecting” the 1M for to use his words “10-20 percent” appreciation. How can 1M owners who revel in boasting about the low mileage on their cars and what they hope to sell them for expect to be heard as having legitimate driving opinions on the 1M if they prefer – not to drive it? I would much prefer to read a review on the 1M from the responder who put 77k miles on his car rather than the author who prefers to tell us readers about how little he drives his car. …and another thing…Let’s face it, the M235i is an amazingly fun car to drive. If BMW reported that they were discontinuing the M235i tomorrow, all of you folks below who claim it cannot compare to the 1M or the upcoming fast and furious M2 would fall over each other and blindly run out and buy one tomorrow for a 10-20 percent mark-up. Wait, hold on, I just saw on Hemmings that a low mileage 1M recently sold for $1.2 mln….haha, caught you looking!